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Gossip & Rumors: Funeral Home To The Stars Celebrating 125

GOSSIP & RUMORS: Funeral home to the stars celebrating 125 years

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They look drop-dead gorgeous.

Funeral home to the stars Frank E. Campbell allows the families of celebrities to bring in their famous loved ones’ own makeup artists, hairdressers and stylists to make A-Listers look their best for their next chapter.

“Any celebrity in New York City, they’re not doing it all themselves . . . so that doesn’t end for that person,” William Villanova, director at the famed Upper East Side institution, told The Post.

“We’re integrating what was important to them in their life here at the funeral home. It may be the person who does their makeup every day or it’s their hairstylist or the person that selected their clothing for them.

Frank E. Campbell, located on the corner of Madison Avenue and 81st Street, has hosted and or arranged the funeral services for many of New York’s elite. Frank E. Campbell

The funeral home at the corner of Madison Avenue and 81st Street — which is celebrating its 125th anniversary — has arranged the funerals for New York’s biggest boldfacers, including John Lennon, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, former Mayor Ed Koch, mobster Frank Costello, Aaliyah, Heath Ledger, Biggie Smalls, Joan Rivers and Ivana Trump.

Villanova, 54, revealed the most expensive casket Frank E. Campbell offers to the rich and famous — the Pharaoh sarcophagus, which goes for over $150,000 and is made of cast bronze.

“It’s one of a kind, never to be made again,” he said.

William Villanova has been the funeral director at Frank E. Campbell for 25 years. J.C. Rice

Founded in 1898 by Frank E. Campbell, the funeral home’s star-studded history dates back to their first buzzed-about viewing, in 1926 for actor Rudolph Valentino.

The services for Valentino, who died suddenly from a ruptured ulcer at age 31, attracted more than 30,000.

“I can’t tell you how many times that we have walked out of the funeral home with a casket and there are just tourists standing there in their shorts. They have no clue who the person is,” said Villanova, who has been at the helm there for 25 years.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ children John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Kennedy follow their mother’s coffin as it leaves St. Ignatius Loyola on the Upper East Side. Getty Images

When Jackie O died in 1994, she was waked at her Fifth Avenue apartment, but a hearse from Frank E. Campbell came to her residence to transport her body to the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on the Upper East Side for her funeral.

The casket of “Dark Knight” actor Heath Ledger, who died in 2008 at 27 in his SoHo apartment from an accidental drug overdose, left the building swarmed by photographers and headed to the airport to be transported to his native Australia.

Frank E. Campbell also arranged the funeral services for Heath Ledger in 2008. WireImage

To protect their high-profile clients, the funeral home hires private jets to transport bodies, creates exclusive guest lists and works with the NYPD to safeguard the building and its surroundings.

“If we know that there’s going to be a head of state that we’re providing funeral services for or a head of state is going to be here in attendance, we’ll work with anti-crime, anti-terrorism, they will come here, sweep the building and we lock down appropriately,” Villanova explained.

“When we go to a church, the building remains in lockdown because for that person, if they have to leave that church, they know that there’s at least one safe space that is clean.”

Frank E. Campbell’s star-studded history dates back to their first buzzed-about service for Rudolph Valentino in 1926. Bettmann Archive
The hearse carrying John Lennon’s body outside of Frank E. Campbell Getty Images

The Port Chester, NY native, who grew up working for his godfather’s funeral home and earned a degree in mortuary science, said they go above and beyond to honor the deceased.

“We’ve had services here where the person loved the beach and we brought sand in,” he said.

“We’ve had families bring their motorcycles into the funeral home. We’ve had classic cars out front. One gentleman loved golf, and we set up a small putting green.”

The four-floor building includes a rooftop terrace and a chapel, which just underwent a $20 million renovation, and even a formal dining room where families can bring in catered meals for their guests.

The four-floor building includes a rooftop terrace, chapel and formal dining room. Frank E. Campbell

Villanova tries to ensure the sanctity of the services and personally intervenes if he sees someone attempt to take photos inside the building.

“We’ve had families say no phones or recording devices should be admitted into a specific area,” he said.

“There’s been many times where I’ve seen people take out their phone out like they’re going to do a selfie in the building or take a photo, so it’s important to say to them quietly, ‘Do we think that this is what the best thing is to do right now?’”

Last year, the business was featured in HBO’s “Succession,” where Villanova was on set as a consultant and even starred as the funeral director in the service for Brian Cox’s character.

He said it was more grueling than a day at the funeral home.

“Every time they said, ‘Reset,’ we had to move this casket again and put it back in the hearse,” he recalled.

“Our team may do one or two funerals a day, but we did over 15 funerals that day.”

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