WASHINGTON - Katharine Graham used to say she liked to "turn out the town" when she threw one of her fabulous parties at her Georgetown mansion.
Yesterday's monumental funeral for the publishing legend, who died last week at age 84, turned out not only the town - her town - but many of those who have powered the nation for the last half-century.
Among the more than 3,000 people who filled Washington National Cathedral were luminaries from the media, politics and government, business, the arts - glittering testimony to the rarefied circles in which Mrs. Graham traveled and the vast, worldwide network of friends she built along the way.
Most of those who attended, including hundreds of employees from her newspaper, The Washington Post, waited in the sweltering heat for the doors to open, forming lines that snaked around the cathedral grounds. It was evidence of Mrs. Graham's towering reputation as a journalistic institution, widow-turned-businesswoman and role model to generations of women.
"She would have loved this funeral," her daughter, Newsweek columnist Elizabeth "Lally" Weymouth, said in her tribute to her mother.
At a ceremony that had all the pomp and magnitude of a state funeral, former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, shared a front-row pew with Vice President Dick Cheney and his family, New York Gov. George Pataki and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. They faced a casket draped simply with a white cloth with a cross of red and gold trim in the well of the cavernous, neo-gothic cathedral.
TV journalist Barbara Walters handed out programs along with fellow ushers, financier Warren Buffett, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, producer Mike Nichols and his wife, TV journalist Diane Sawyer.
World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed a selection by Bach, and former Sen. John Danforth, an Episcopal priest, delivered the homily.
The honorary pall bearers - a collection of once and current powerful men such as former secretary of defense Robert McNamara, super lawyer Vernon Jordan and broadcast executive Barry Diller - also underscored the remarkable life of the shy debutante who turned the Post into one of the nation's leading newspapers.
President Clinton said he had not seen such an outpouring of power and celebrity since the funeral of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
"She was a unique figure in the last half of the 20th century," Clinton said, walking up the steps to the cathedral. "I liked her very much. She was genuine - she loved her craft and loved her country."
Scores of limos and Lincolns pulled up to the cathedral, dropping off ambassadors, current and former Cabinet members, Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, media celebrities like Rupert Murdoch, Tom Brokaw, Charlie Rose and Tina Brown, and filmmaker Ken Burns.
Several dozen senators arrived together on a bus. And Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who as reporters in their late 20s broke the Watergate story for the Post but have since gone their separate ways in journalism, walked together after the funeral reminiscing.
In his eulogy, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called Mrs. Graham a "symbol of the permanent Washington."
But like many of those who paid tribute to the woman who led the Post through its pivotal years in the 1970s after taking over from her late husband, Philip Graham, Kissinger highlighted the lesser-known side of his longtime friend.
"Strong and at the same time somewhat shy, appreciative of humor, unobtrusively purposeful, never bitter and always brave, matter-of-factly loyal to her friends and deeply devoted to her family, Kay ennobled all her human relationships," Kissinger said.
He recalled Mrs. Graham, whose newspaper was often severely unsympathetic to the administrations in which he served, once took him to the movies because he seemed weary from dealing with the Vietnam War. "You need to relax," she told him. "Let's go to the movies." She even sent Post movie reviews of possible choices.
Former Post executive editor Ben Bradlee said that, more than anything, he remembered Mrs. Graham's laughter and said she had "a love for news, a love for answers and a love for a piece of the action."
He noted the life of privilege and power, culture and high society that Mrs. Graham knew from the time she grew up (as the daughter of Wall Street millionaire Eugene Meyer, who bought the Post) to the last days of her life:
"What a way to go!," Bradlee said of her final days. "Lunch with Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, bridge with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates the night before, dinner with admiring moguls galore and now Yo-Yo Ma to send you on your storied way. Not bad."
Bradlee recalled how the steely executive once jumped from the shower to take a phone call from President Reagan, who was trying to stop the Post from publishing a story about a secret U.S. program to tap Soviet undersea cables.