INXS Leader's Funeral Celebrates 'Life Of Michael'

500 purple irises adorned Michael Hutchence's casket.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIAThe afternoon sun shone through the enormous

stained glass windows of the majestic St. Andrews Cathedral as the

forty-member Cathedral Choir entered the church, in full white and

purple robes, and took their places in pews flanking both sides of INXS

leader Michael Hutchence's coffin to the strains of the INXS song "By My

Side."

The church itself, located on George Street in Sydney, Australia, was

sparsely decorated, with the center of attention

being the single casket adorned with 500 purple irises and a single

yellow Tiger Lily, the flower after which the singer named his

16-month-old daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily.

Most mourners attending the Wednesday (Thursday in Australia, which is

18 hours ahead of the U. S.) service, which began at 2:30 p.m. (local

time) honored Hutchence's parents' wishes that, in lieu of flowers,

donations be sent to UNICEF and the Starlight Foundation. One notable

exception was a large white wreath to the left of the coffin, sent from

U2 singer, Bono, and his wife, Ali. The arrangement was in the shape of

a Claddagh Ring, an Irish symbol of love, loyalty, and friendship

represented by a heart shape that is clasped by hands and topped with a

crown.

(At U2's PopMart show Sunday night in San Antonio, Bono, a

friend of Hutchence's, had dedicated a song to his departed mate,

saying,

"This is for Michael Hutchence, a great singer and a great friend.

We'll

miss him.")

It was a fittingly beautiful day for the service, intended to be a

celebration of life rather than a mourning of death, or as his family

explained in their funeral notice, "A Thanksgiving for the life of

Michael."

Those inside the 800-capacity cathedral included Hutchence's long-time

partner, Paula Yates, and their daughter, Heavenly Hiraani

Tiger Lily. His family members, father Kelland "Kel" Hutchence, mother

Patricia

Galssop, younger brother Rhett Hutchence, and sister Tina Hutchence

Schorr, were in attendance. Also present were the remaining members of

INXS: bassist Garry Gary

Beers, guitarist/saxophone player Kirk Pengilly and brothers guitarist

Andrew Farriss, drummer John Farriss and guitarist Tim Farriss.

Other music industry luminaries at the service included Australian

singer-songwriter Nick Cave, who performed a touching solo-piano version

of his song "Into My Arms" as part of the service, former Crowded House

bassist Nick

Seymour, and renowned singer Tom Jones, in town to perform at the

opening of the new Star City Casino.

There was also a multitude of local music industry personalities and

observers, including journalist Ian "Molly" Meldrum, music historian

Glen A. Baker, singer Jimmy Barnes, and one-time MTV Australia VJ

Richard Wilkins, who gave a short eulogy on behalf of Hutchence's fans.

Conducted by the Anglican Dean of Sydney, The Very Reverend Boak

Jobbins, the hour-long service was relatively traditional, with the St.

Andrews

Cathedral Choir singing a number of Psalms and one 19th Century

spiritual "Deep River." These were interspersed with eulogies from

Hutchence's

sister, Tina, and brother, Rhett,

Wilkins, and former band mate and songwriting partner, Andrew Farriss,

who gave the most touching tribute in honor of his "friend and former

work mate." Between them, the pair co-authored hundreds of songs,

including many of the band's biggest hits, and the closeness of their

relationship was evident as Andrew Farriss closed his statements on

behalf of the

band with, "We will remember him with love and affection. We all miss

you, Michael,"

before turning to the casket to say farewell to his friend with a

final,

"God bless you."

The only break from the traditional nature of the service came with

Cave's stark reading of "Into My Arms," off his latest album

The Boatman's Call, part way through the service, and the playing

of the

two INXS songs -- "By My Side" as the choir and priests entered the

cathedral, and "Never Tear Us Apart" as the singer's brother and five

band mates lifted his casket onto their shoulders and carried it outside

to a

waiting hearse.

And then, as if the whole service had been choreographed on some cosmic

level, as the

coffin was carefully loaded into the back of the hearse, storm clouds

moved in and darkened the previously clear skies, and it started to

rain.

Everyone from Australia's Prime Minister John Howard on down has

commented on the singer's tragic death. There have been statements from

record company personnel, industry observers,

ex-managers; even the waitress at The Taste of India restaurant, where

Hutchence ate his last meal, has been widely quoted. Tributes have been

made by all of the major Australian music industry personalities

including Meldrum ("one of the greats") and Baker ("the

consummate rock star").

Less, perhaps, has been heard from the fans. It was the INXS fans who

made Hutchence and his INXS band mates stars. Several thousand of them

crowded outside the church,

watching the service on hastily installed television monitors;

hundreds of others had placed candles, letters, and flowers at the

entrance to the

Ritz-Carlton hotel, forming a makeshift shrine just hours after the

singer's body had been identified.

Others are still desperate for mementos of their idol; a large number

of

local record stores confirmed a dramatic increase in sales of INXS

products since news of the singer's death broke.

As the service was about to begin, a dozen or so fans gathered at

Melbourne's Hard Rock Cafe to watch

the funeral on television; as the ceremony started, a noticeable

quiet drifted over the usually hectic restaurant. No one was sobbing

uncontrollably or was visibly distraught. It was just a diverse group of

fans from different walks of life: Bankers and accountants in suits and

ties,

a couple of university students in torn jeans and Converse sneakers, all

quietly united in their mourning of a great talent. "It's pretty much a

scenario where we're leaving people to grieve in their own way, and not

cash in on it," said Nicole Bailey, public relations manager

for the Hard Rock Cafe Melbourne. "We're playing it quite low-key".

On the Web, hundreds of fans have e-mailed local mailing lists

and sites dedicated to the band to express heartfelt tributes to the

singer. Touching sentiments from fans such as Sherrianne Kozak, who

posted

to the Australian online music guide iZINE. "I will not say

good-bye to

Hutch," she wrote. "He's not gone. He's in every song he ever wrote,

he's

part of

every note INXS ever played.

"Maybe in death he can find what it was he was 'Searching' for," she

continued. "And

through our love, he will live in each one of us." Chris Nelson

[Thurs., Nov. 27, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]