The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Washington’s media elite mingle outside of Ben Bradlee’s funeral

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“He would have loved this,” whispered one attendee waiting in line on Wednesday outside the National Cathedral for the funeral of Benjamin C. Bradlee, who died last week at 93.

Just what about his own funeral would the legendary executive editor of The Washington Post have loved? Washington’s version of pomp and circumstance, media elite mingling all in black, the TV cameras set up outside, the imposing Gothic architecture, the fact that the funeral program was embargoed until 10 a.m. All of it.

NBC’s Luke Russert, who stepped onto the national stage at his father Tim Russert’s funeral in 2008, walked in with PBS’s Charlie Rose. A striking example of old media — the kind Bradlee himself defined — literally ushering along the new. Former White House press secretary Jay Carney mingled with the same crowd he once corralled in the briefing room at 1600 Penn. “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams arrived in shades.

A silver-haired Norman Lear, the producer who defined a generation of television with “All in the Family” and “Good Times,” was escorted past the growing line directly to the metal detectors.

The crowd was made up mostly of Bradlee’s generation. As one older gentleman found a friend in line, he remarked, “You never know how many people are left, so it’s good to see someone with gray hair.”

But the mood was far from melancholy. Former Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser debated the merits of the Washington Redskins name as the organ prelude blared in the background. PBS anchor Gwen Ifill and columnist Al Hunt shared a laugh as they settled into the pews. For now, it feels like more of a celebration of an outsized life than a somber send-off. Yet another thing, Bradlee might have loved.

Friends, family bid farewell to legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 29: Ben Williams watches as the crowd filters into the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral of former executive editor of The Washington Post Ben Bradlee where he will play at the end of the ceremony October 29, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)