Joan Rivers gets showbiz send-off with New York funeral
(CNN) — Joan Rivers is getting the “Hollywood” funeral she wanted, “a huge showbiz affair with lights, camera and action.”
Kathy Griffin, Sarah Jessica Parker, Whoopi Goldberg, Donald Trump, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters and Joy Behar were among the A-list to D-list celebrity friends seen arriving for the private service inside Manhattan’s Temple Emanu-El Sunday.
The highlight was Howard Stern’s vagina joke, Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera told CNN afterward.
“It was exactly the show Joan wanted — hilarious, irreverent,” Rivera said.
Rivers, 81, died Thursday in New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, a week after she suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest during a medical procedure at a clinic.
She talked about her mortality and what she wanted at her “showbiz” funeral in her 2013 book, “I Hate Everyone … Starting With Me.”
She called for paparazzi and publicists “making a scene” outside the funeral, which she said should “be Hollywood all the way.” In fact, Fifth Avenue was lined with more television crews, live reporters and fans than would gather for most Hollywood premieres.
Inside the temple, Rivers wanted entertainment. “I don’t want some rabbi rambling on; I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents. I don’t want a eulogy; I want Bobby Vinton to pick up my head and sing ‘Mr. Lonely.’ ”
Instead of Vinton singing his 1964 hit, she had the New York Gay Men’s Chorus and a song list including show tunes such as “That’s Entertainment,” “Nothing Like a Dame” and “What a Wonderful World.” They closed with “Big Spender.”
Speakers included New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a longtime friend of Rivers, and “Inside Edition” host Deborah Norville.
“It was Joan all the way,” with orchids filling the 2,000-seat sanctuary, Norville said after the funeral. “You can’t see the alter because there were so many flowers.”
A rabbi offered an opening prayer after the show tunes, followed by a songs from Broadway star Audra McDonald. People magazine reported that McDonald sang “Smile,” a favorite of Rivers. The song’s lyrics captured the feel of the service: “Smile, though your heart is aching. Smile, even though it’s breaking.”
Actor Hugh Jackman sang “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage,” People reported.
Rivers’ daughter, Melissa, read a letter she wrote in which she pretended to be her mother’s landlord. She said her mother was late on the rent and had torn down a wall without permission because she wanted more space.
The service ended with the New York Police Department’s bagpipe band leading the procession out of the temple to the tunes of “New York, New York,” and “Give My Regards to Broadway.”
Rivers wrote in her book that she wanted to “look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive,” dressed in a Valentino gown and with a Harry Winston-designed toe tag.
“And I want a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyonce’s,” she wrote.
The raspy-voiced comedian was a household name. Brash and sassy, she poked fun at herself and the world in sometimes vicious, but witty, zingers.
She was as quick-witted as she was sharp-tongued, saying things everyone may have been thinking, but few were brave enough to voice.
“My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh,” her daughter said last week.
“Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”
Rivers had been on life support at Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital, where she was transported after she stopped breathing at the Yorkville Endoscopy clinic on August 28.
Rivers was undergoing an apparently minor elective procedure at the clinic when she suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest, according to the New York Fire Department.
Paramedics took her by ambulance to Mount Sinai Hospital, about a mile from the clinic, where she was initially listed in critical condition.
The state health department is investigating whether there was any malpractice by the doctors or staff at Yorkville Endoscopy, according to New York law enforcement officials.
No criminal investigations are currently under way in Rivers’ death, the officials said. The clinic has not responded to repeated calls from CNN about the state’s investigation.
CNN’s David Shortell contributed to this report.
By Alan Duke