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    Celebrities Flood Milan Mass for Versace

    police raid houseboat
    British model Naomi Campbell arrives at Versace's home in downtown Milan.(AP)
    Associated Press
    Wednesday, July 23, 1997; Page C02

    MILAN, July 22A mournful rendition of the 23rd Psalm, "The Lord Is My Shepherd," performed by Sting and Elton John brought celebrities and other mourners to tears today at a memorial Mass for Gianni Versace.

    More than 2,000 people gathered in Milan's Gothic cathedral to honor the fashion designer, who was gunned down July 15 in front of his mansion in Miami Beach.

    The celebrity-filled service might have resembled a night at the Oscars except there was no glitz, only grief. Many wept openly.

    The mourners included Princess Diana, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, models Naomi Campbell and Eva Herzigova, designers Giorgio Armani and Valentino, choreographer Maurice Bejart and Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue America.

    "We are gathered here this evening not for a show, but for an act of faith," said the Rev. Angelo Majo, chief priest of the cathedral.

    police raid houseboat
    Gianni Versace.(AP)
    Perhaps one of the greatest tributes to Versace was the turnout of so many of his fashion colleagues despite past rivalries on and off the runway.

    Carla Fendi, Karl Lagerfeld, Gianfranco Ferre, Valentino, the Missonis and archrival Armani sat in a row behind the family. They were united in mourning the loss of one of the main contributors to the success of the "Made in Italy" label.

    "He was the most talented, and we all knew it," Ferre had said the day of the slaying.

    All of Versace's followers, many of whom loved to flaunt his bright colors and sequined fabrics, wore black.

    Several women, including Versace's sister, Donatella, and his two nieces, covered their heads with black veils, as did Naomi Campbell, the designer's favorite model. Diana's black dress was set off by a single string of pearls.

    The men closest to the designer -- his brother Santo, companion Antonio D'Amico, Sting and Elton John -- all wore black crew-necks under dark jackets. Versace designed wild ties for others but rarely wore one himself.

    The sea of black contrasted with a simple white altar adorned with white roses.

    During his homily, Majo noted that the respectful participation of so many friends would help the family to "feel less alone . . . as they take up their difficult inheritance."

    He also asked that God grant Versace's killer "the grace of repentance and conversion."

    The only celebrity to speak during the Mass was Bejart, the Belgian choreographer who only a month ago had put on a gala event with Versace in the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Bejart read from the Old Testament.

    Both Donatella and Santo Versace had said earlier that they were too upset to read at their brother's service.

    Earlier, many paid their respects in the courtyard garden of the designer's downtown palazzo, where the urn containing Versace's ashes sat on a simple altar.

    Elton John stood in silence for 15 minutes. Then he burst into tears and had to be coaxed away by Gianni's brother.

    A few blocks from the cathedral, shops in the heart of Milan's fashion district closed during the service in tribute to the slain designer.

    © Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

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