UPDATE: Howard Stern delivered the eulogy, Broadway singer-actress Audra McDonald sang “Smile” and bagpipers played “New York, New York” at Joan Rivers’ funeral Sunday, a star-studded send-off that — like late comedian herself — brought together the worlds of Hollywood, theater, fashion and media.
At a funeral befitting a superstar, the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus sang Broadway hits before six-time Tony Award-winner McDonald sang her tribute to Rivers, a champion of theater for decades. Tributes and reminiscences were delivered by TV anchor Deborah Norville, close friend Margie Stern, columnist Cindy Adams and Rivers’ daughter, Melissa.
Hugh Jackman sang at the end and bagpipers from the New York City Police Department played on the streets as mourners filed out of Temple Emanu-El, many dabbing their eyes.
The funeral program included a page with three classic Rivers’ lines printed out: “Can we talk?” ”Who are you wearing?” and “Because I’m a funny person.”
A legion of notables turned out to remember Rivers, who died Thursday at 81: comedians Kathy Griffin and Whoopi Goldberg; colleague and friend Kelly Osbourne; Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick; and celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.
Theater stars Bernadette Peters, Alan Cumming and Tommy Tune were there. Record producer Clive Davis was, too. Fashion designers Carolina Herrera and Michael Kors were in attendance. Stars from TV such as Barbara Walters, Geraldo Rivera, Diane Sawyer, Kathie Lee, Hoda Kotb and Andy Cohen. Late night band leader Paul Shaffer. And moguls Barry Diller, Donald Trump and Steve Forbes.
NEW YORK (AP) — Joan Rivers’ plans for an elaborate, over-the-top funeral may not be exactly what she will get, but it may be close.
— New Day (@NewDay) September 7, 2014
The comedian detailed in her 2012 book “I Hate Everyone … Starting With Me” that she hoped for “a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action” and “Hollywood all the way.” Instead of a rabbi talking, Rivers asked for “Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents” and “a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyonce’s.”
The actual event Sunday may be slightly more muted. Funeral services at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan will be private and neither the temple nor Rivers’ personal publicist would give further details or divulge a guest list. It was not even known what time the funeral would start. But cameras and a media presence was very likely.
Guests arrive for Joan Rivers' funeral. pic.twitter.com/Of7hGu87bF
— Ivan Pereira (@IvanPer4) September 7, 2014
In the hours before the funeral, barricades lined several blocks of 5th Avenue and a crowd of fans and media stood watch across the street.
Huge crowd of media/spectators outside Temple Emanu-el in New York City for Joan Rivers memorial service. pic.twitter.com/OBTcsYf38j
— Ron Mott (@RonMott) September 7, 2014
Rivers, who died Thursday at 81, was a trailblazer for all comics, but especially for women. The raspy-voiced blonde with the brash New York accent was a TV talk show host, actress, a fashion critic, and she sold a line of jewelry.
The cause of death was being investigated. Rivers had been hospitalized since Aug. 28 when she went into cardiac arrest during a routine procedure at a doctor’s office. The New York state health department is investigating the circumstances.
In her book, Rivers joked that dying of natural causes was boring. “It’s the grand finale, act three, the eleven o’clock number — make it count. If you’re going to die, die interesting! Is there anything worse than a boring death? I think not.”
Her publicist said that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to God’s Love, We Deliver; Guide Dogs for the Blind; or Our House.
This story has been updated.