All three of Ben Ali‘s sons plan to speak at the memorial service set for Friday at the Lincoln Theatre, right next door to the greasy spoon he made famous. Mayor Adrian Fenty may speak, too, but as of this afternoon, no other people, famous or otherwise, are scheduled to honor the founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl, who died last week at age 82.
And that’s just fine with Nizam Ali, the youngest of Ben Ali’s sons, who says his father wouldn’t have wanted any fuss. The “Celebration of Life,” scheduled for noon Friday at the theater, “is going to be like a family thing that we’re going to open to the public,” Nizam Ali tells Y&H this afternoon.
The memorial is free and open to the public. All you have to do is show up at the theater and grab one of the 1,225 seats available — well, minus however many seats the Ali clan needs, which, Nizam Ali thinks, might run as high as 200.
The family is going to show a short video that it put together for Ben Ali’s 80th birthday as well as some other clips about the founder’s life and the restaurant he created. The speakers for the afternoon will include Ben Ali’s sons — Nizam, Kamal, and Sage — and possibly Fenty, although the mayor hasn’t confirmed yet.
So will Bill Cosby or President Obama or any celebrities who have made the pilgrimage to Ben’s speak at the service?
“I don’t think so,” Nizam Ali says. “We didn’t ask or seek anyone.”
The family, however, is seeking your thoughts. They will have microphones around the theater for you to share your memories about Ben’s and its founder.
As for after-service snacks, Nizam Ali says no final plans are set. The family is considering having chili dogs at the theater. But if not, people can always walk next door to Ben’s and enjoy chili dogs in the very place that made Ben Ali a local legend. Well, some people can at least.
“With 1,200 [potential people in the theater], it’s not going to be possible” to serve everyone, Nizam Ali says.