Thousands of friends, family and fans packed a church in a Vancouver, British Columbia, suburb on Wednesday evening and again Thursday morning to mourn Michael "Q.T." Cuccione, the youngest star of MTV's boy-band parody, "2gether." Cuccione died January 13 after his lungs collapsed following a bout with pneumonia. Treatments during the 16-year-old's past two battles with Hodgkin's disease left him unable to move air properly through his lungs (see "2gether's Michael 'Q.T.' Cuccione Dies"). All four of Cuccione's 2gether bandmates attended the services in Burnaby, British Columbia, including Jerry Farmer (Jerry O'Keefe), Noah Bastian (Chad Linus), Alex Solowitz (Mickey Parke) and a visibly shaken Kevin Farley (Doug Linus).
"Baywatch" actor David Hasselhoff, a close friend of Cuccione's and the man who gave him his first break in acting, delivered a eulogy and a song dedicated to the teen at Wednesday's service. Both events included a 75-member choir from Cuccione's Catholic high school. Among the displays were a picture of Cuccione being blessed by the pope, a giant poster of Cuccione with a teddy bear and masses of wreaths and flowers.
A huge procession of limousines, cars, police escorts and even fire trucks on Thursday accompanied Cuccione's casket through the streets of greater Vancouver, where he had been revered as a personable and gutsy cancer survivor, research activist and fund-raiser, as well as an actor and performer.
According to "2gether" executive producer Brian Gunn, the cast members' grief was genuine. "They really were close friends," Gunn said. The cast and crew had worked together for well over a year. "2gether" had first been shot as an MTV original movie that aired last February, but its popularity led to an album, tour dates and a TV series that debuted in August. According to sources in Vancouver, where both the movie and the series were shot, Cuccione's recent heath problems first surfaced in the fall. The actor missed three episodes that were taped in September and October, and was hospitalized for two of the last six shows taped over November and December. His role in the episodes in which he did appear was reduced to accommodate his lack of stamina.
The "2gether" storyline had Q.T., who suffered from the fictional disease "biliary thrombosis," off promoting his book, "Living With My Liver," for his first hiatus. Sources say the last set of shows taped dealt with the return of the character. At least one other episode dealt with Q.T.'s fictional illness at length.
While most of those episodes are expected to air with the blessings of the Cuccione family, the future of the series beyond those shows remains unknown, sources at MTV said. It's a safe bet the producers will not recast the role of Q.T, though they may be given to adding another bandmember should the show continue, sources said.
"The original plan was to air those episodes, and then take it from there," one source said. "Obviously, the ratings and other factors would have played a part in the final decision, so we were never sure of the future of the series, and that remains the case at this time." According to Gunn, the show's producers remain sensitive to the wishes of the family, and while the family has wholeheartedly endorsed the airing of the episodes taped with Cuccione, it has not commented on the possibility of continuing the show without the young star. Gunn also said plans for a tribute to Cuccione are being discussed.
East Coast fans of the actor are also planning tributes. A benefit for the Michael Cuccione Foundation, which raises money for cancer research, is scheduled for February 18 at the Sunrise Mall in Massapequa, New York, while a memorial service is set for St. Martin of Tours Church in Beth Page, New York, on February 21.