NEVER DIE . . ."
It was news when Eddie Cantor died, but not big news. He had been retired for too long in an era before TV interviews were common, and at least five years before the "nostalgia" craze of 1969-72. News of Cantor's death was lost in the barrage of publicity surrounding the Beatles.
The New York Times reported his death on its front page, but the tributes were indeed few; Jackie Gleason announced that "a great man died the other day" and asked for a moment of silence. Most of the news items mentioned Cantor's efforts on behalf of humanitarian causes and noted that his passing marked the third recent death of a celebrated comedian from the "Golden Age of Show Business " -- first Gracie Allen, then Harpo Marx, now Eddie Cantor.
The family was informed of his passing in quick order. Natalie telephoned Edna and then Marilyn and Janet in New York. When Janet told her nine-year-old, Amanda, that grandpa had died, she screamed and cried hysterically. Amanda, like her brother, Brian, and their cousins, Mike and Judy, had truly and wholeheartedly loved Grandpa.
Cantor was laid out at the funeral home. "The funeral director asked us if we wanted to view the body," recalled Janet. "None of us did; we didn't want to remember him that way. But Maurice did the kindest thing. He looked in to make sure that Daddy's tie was on straight."
It marked his final task for Eddie.
George Jessel, still the "Toastmaster General of the United States," had naturally wanted to deliver Eddie's eulogy. But Cantor had expressly said that he wanted a private funeral -- something Natalie and Edna were only too willing to have-and all four daughters knew that Jessel, "though he loved our father," would have relished and enjoyed his task a bit too much