It seemed as though the entire auditorium at Paramount Studios was in tears at Miguel Ferrer’s memorial ceremony on Saturday. The NCIS: Los Angeles actor died January 19 of cancer at age 61.
“There’s nothing natural about Miguel’s death,” Ferrer’s cousin George Clooney said during the memorial. “He was not an old man and he never was. He was an 8-year-old artist showing his pictures at a gallery in Beverly Hills. He was a long-haired beanpole playing drums for Keith Moon’s solo album. … Or he was doing the heart-attack dance at Club Lingerie on a Thursday night to Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. Or he was this explosive, dangerous young actor standing onstage. … He was talented. He was funny. What he was not, was old. The concept of growing up never really took hold with Miggy.”
Those also in attendance included Les Moonves, Julie Chen, Robert Patrick, Robert Forster, Kathryn Hahn, Ernie Hudson, Ed Begley Jr., Joe Walsh, Linda Hunt, Daniela Ruah, Eric Christian Olsen, Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J.
Ferrer was perhaps best known for his performances in the iconic original incarnations of Robocop and Twin Peaks, and he worked steadily almost until his death, with NCIS adjusting his role so that he need not use his failing voice. “The NCIS: LA cast and crew meant the world to him,” said Ferrer’s widow Lori Weintraub Ferrer. “He was on that show for so many years and they were his other family who he adored. I really don’t have the words that are sufficient to thank Scott Gemmill, who is the showrunner of NCIS: LA, and Les Moonves for allowing Miguel to work right up until the point he could barely walk and he could no longer speak. That he was able to work to the very end meant everything to Miguel. It’s what kept him going even as his body was failing him.” His son Rafi added that he and his father shared “a friendship so strong and so true that I realize now most are lucky to find that in a lifetime.”
Gemmill choked up as he recalled Ferrer’s determination to work, saying that toward the end, the actor insistently showed up to table reads for episodes in which he wasn’t even set to perform. “I finally convinced him to take off one episode,” he said, “and the only reason I think that happened was his voice was just too sore to argue with me. So you can imagine my surprise when we go to the read-through a few days later and guess who’s sitting at the table? He didn’t have any lines. He wasn’t even in the damn episode. But he showed up, not for him, but for us.”
Attendees laughed and cried as Ferrer’s childhood friend Gavin DeBecker recalled hilarious teenage antics in Las Vegas, where the boys would use Ferrer’s mother Rosemary Clooney’s name for entry to the best shows and dinners in town. When their cover was eventually blown, Ferrer took the blame. To close the ceremony, the Eagles’ Joe Walsh performed a song he wrote about his enduring friendship with Ferrer, followed by a song with T Bone Burnett.
Despite the sadness of the occasion, the memorial was full of fond celebration and happy memories. As Clooney said, “For the record, Miguel spent his last night out to dinner with Gavin [DeBecker] and Morgan [Mason]. They laughed, they told stories. They talked about the future. Then, the next morning he was gone. I think Miguel would call that a fair shake, in a time when so much seems unfair and shaken. He came in like a comet, he rocketed through life and he got out. It’s not so bad.”