Sunday thousands of music fans descended on Forest Lawn Sunday to pay tribute to legendary popular musician Ronnie James Dio in a tasteful memorial service which featured the singer/songwriter’s opuses set to guitar and flute and broadcast in wide screen to the overflow crowds seated peacefully on the lawn outside the appropriately named Liberty Hall.

Dio, a major cultural innovator, also popularized the the use of a specific hand gesture and brought it to signify a vast array of meanings.

Along with the thousands of fans, who cut a wide swath through Southern California’s many cultures, three members of the Westboro Baptist Church came–not to praise Dio, but to mock him. They were met by 30 counter protesters carrying signs parodying the notoriously fame-hungry Phelps. Not to mention the metal horde.

Society milliner Satanica Batcakes attended with celebrity corseteer Sue Nice and director Julien Nitzberg. Says Mme Batcakes:

It was heavy metal parking lot. The overflow were seated on the lawn watching the screens. Dio’s son, his best friend from high school, and his long time crew members spoke of his love animals and of metal especially modern pop metal.¬† His best friend threw a great devil’s horn and there were all the little kids in the crowd who threw great horns too.

She referred to the Phelps as

zombies not worth arguing with

while Julien had a different take:

They were really nice and gladly posed for pictures. The are genius, the best performance artists. This is a major piece, the finale of which may not be revealed for maybe ten years. The Phelps hold¬† a mirror up Pat Robertson and other right wing conservatives, saying what those people can’t, but are really thinking.

However, aside a paucity of merchandising–the Jews Killed Jesus tee-shirts were not for sale–the noted creator of stage and screen felt the Phelps had long term potential. Perhaps they will become the aristocrats of religious street theater.

In addition to the musical arrangements

As a Dio fan, I don’t think acoustic guitar and flute are a good idea

Nitzberg was saddened by one crucial omission form the afternoon’s program.

Sadly the Reverend Al Sharpton was not there to preach.

But the LAPD was.

(photos Satanica Batcakes and Sue Nice)