Sunday, September 7, 2014 9:36 pm
Fashion and film stars joined family Sunday to say goodbye to comedy legend Joan Rivers at a New York funeral that fulfilled her last wish for a showbiz send-off.
Whoopi Goldberg and Sarah Jessica Parker led the celebrity line-up for the hour-long, private service at Temple Emanu-El on 5th Avenue, with Rivers’ daughter Melissa and grandson Cooper also among the mourners.
Prominent too were comedian Kathy Griffin, who has paid tribute to Rivers for blazing a trail for women comics, tycoon Donald Trump, TV legend Barbara Walters and Rivers’ co-host on TV show “Fashion Police,” Kelly Osbourne.
Actor Hugh Jackman sang — reportedly “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage” from the musical The Boy From Oz. Broadway actress Audra McDonald also performed.
Rivers died on Thursday in hospital aged 81, a week after she stopped breathing during a medical procedure on her vocal cords at a private clinic.
Police on Sunday shut down the sidewalk outside one of America’s oldest reform synagogues and PR women armed with clipboards checked guests’ IDs and invitations.
A huge scrum of paparazzi and TV cameras camped out across the street, shouting at trucks and buses when they obscured the view to the synagogue entrance.
A crowd estimated by police at about 1,500, some dressed in their Sunday best, lined the street five or six deep behind metal railings to watch guests arrive and snap pictures with their phones.
In her 2012 book “I Hate Everyone… Starting with Me,” Rivers said she wanted “a huge showbiz” funeral “with lights, camera, action” — the paragraph of which was re-produced on the inside of the funeral program.
“I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way,” she wrote.
– Bagpipe send-off –
The service opened with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and closed with the bagpipe band of the New York City Police Department.
Tributes came from daughter Melissa, friend Margie Stern and gossip columnist Cindy Adams.
Melissa, wearing a black dress and large black sunglasses, was cheered by Rivers’ fans as she pulled away in a black limo after the service.
The bagpipe players were given a roar of applause as they played “New York, New York” and then again as they departed the synagogue, closing off a portion of 5th Avenue as the mourners streamed out.
“We’ve enjoyed all of her comedy and everything that she means to New York and to everybody,” said fan Sharon Carroll.
“She’s always been to the point, told exactly how she felt and a lot of people I think really admired that.”
In the crowd there were complaints that a huge screen was not erected outside to broadcast the funeral — but shrieks of delight when they spotted someone famous.
Rabbi Joshua Davidson led opening prayers. “We mourn with her family, friends and all those millions to whom she brought laughter and joy,” he said last week.
No specific cause of Rivers’ death has been made public and New York State Health Department said it was investigating the circumstances that surrounded her reported cardiac arrest at Yorkville Endoscopy Center.
– Cutting one-liners –
Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn, she graduated from New York’s Barnard College and worked in the fashion industry, before starting out in stand-up under the stage name Joan Rivers.
She spared no one her razor-sharp wit and was considered one of the best at delivering a cutting one-liner, working right up until falling ill last week.
She took aim at celebrities and public figures, joking about modern America’s obsession with image and neuroses.
Her first husband, producer Edgar Rosenberg, died in 1987.
In later years, Rivers became well-known for her love of plastic surgery and reinvented herself as the host of “Fashion Police,” a show that offered running critiques of the red-carpet attire worn by the glitterati at A-list events.