ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The first hint that the service Saturday at Sunset Memorial Park wasn’t a typical funeral came when eulogist Michael Flowers got cheers when he spoke of the dearly departed.
Another giveaway came from the prominent bright colors, T-shirts, sandals and ubiquitous black pork pie hats that broke up the typical formal black.
The funeral for Walter White, the fictional chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin in AMC’s television drama “Breaking Bad,” drew about 200 mourners to the cemetery after a funeral procession that rolled 80 cars deep down Second Street in the North Valley.
Leading the procession were a few Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies, followed by a tan, beat-up RV made famous in the show, a hearse and then around 80 diehard fans. The procession shut down streets and took 10 minutes to pass.
The show recently ended its historic run after five seasons of filming in Albuquerque. White died in the last episode.
The funeral benefited Albuquerque’s Health Care for the Homeless and was to be broadcast to millions of viewers via YouTube. However, YouTube cut the stream 15 minutes before the funeral after Sony and AMC determined it was featuring some copyrighted material, according to an employee working on the live stream.
The lack of eavesdropping YouTube viewers made for an intimate evening at the park near Menaul and Edith, which was cast in golden light just before the sun set.
“We all need closure,” said eulogist and “Breaking Bad” set decorator Michael Flowers to the assembled mourners. “… The show is over – and what the hell are we going to do on Sunday nights?”
Nick Gerlich came to the funeral from Amarillo, Texas, and showed a couple of friends more than 40 sites from the show, culminating in White’s funeral.
He said the funeral gives him “closure, I guess, in a strange kind of way. A way of paying respects to someone you feel like you know really well.”
Other mourners came from as far away as Switzerland, Mexico City and Ireland.
Bryan Whitney came to Albuquerque from Ireland primarily for his brother’s wedding.
“But when we heard this was on,” he said, “we booked a little early.”
Whitney said the show has a huge following in Ireland, and it spread quickly among his group of friends to become a major Sunday affair.
He said he feels lost, at least in terms of television entertainment, now that White is dead.
Vernon’s Steakhouse created an endowment fund to raise money for Albuquerque’s Health Care for the Homeless, and attendees were asked to pay their respects to White through donations ranging from $10 to $10,000.
Tickets for the funeral’s nighttime reception at the speakeasy-style steakhouse were $100 per person, and vendors had everything from chicken-and-waffle-flavored chocolate to the original Albuquerque Journal papers featuring Walter White’s obituary. Every guest received two drinks made with blue ice, and some attendees smoked cigars on plush couches outside in front of a live band. Fans of the show from Boston and Rhode Island attended the reception.
“The show was shocking and twisted and amazing, and it had that psychological connection,” Vicki Kowal of Albuquerque said at the gathering. “Losing him (Walter) and that whole show and those characters is a loss. It felt good and befitting that we had the funeral.”
Bracelets at the funeral were given out for $10, and bidding started at $10,000 for a painting by the steakhouse’s resident artist, Gabriel Ballantine, of the various faces of the deceased protagonist.
Sunset Memorial Park officials agreed to hold the funeral only after being assured that they could remove the memorial, a square tombstone to be installed away from real graves, should it become an attraction.
“We are a cemetery first and foremost. Our allegiance lies with our families that have allowed us to bury their loved ones here,” said general manager Vaughn Hendren. “Being a cemetery, we see families bringing loved ones – kids, if you will – who have died from drug abuse.”
Hendren said the cemetery recently buried one such drug overdose victim.
Journal Staff Writer Nicole Perez contributed to this report.