Star-studded send-off for Joan Rivers

Cooper Endicott and Melissa Rivers depart the Joan Rivers memorial service in New York City. Picture: Getty
Cooper Endicott and Melissa Rivers depart the Joan Rivers memorial service in New York City. Picture: Getty
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A HOST of stars attended the funeral of American comedian Joan Rivers, giving her the send-off she had asked for.

The 81-year-old died on 4 September and had written in her 2012 book I Hate Everyone . . . Starting With Me, that she wanted her funeral to be “a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action”.

Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah Jessica Parker, Donald Trump, Kathy Griffin and Kelly Osbourne were among the famous faces at the ceremony at Temple Emanu-El in New York.

Crowds of fans were also seen outside the Manhattan synagogue as the star’s friends and family said their final goodbye.

In an appropriately star-studded send-off, Howard Stern delivered the eulogy and Broadway singer Audra McDonald sang Smile, before tributes were delivered by television journalist Deborah Norville, close friend Margie Stern, columnist Cindy Adams and Rivers’ only daughter, Melissa.

The funeral programme included a page with three classic Rivers’ lines printed out: “Can we talk?” “Who are you wearing?” and “Because I’m a funny person.”

Bagpipers from the New York City Police Department gathered to play New York, New York on the streets of Fifth Avenue as mourners filed out from the service.

In her book, Rivers said that she wanted to be buried in a Valentino gown, with a service that was “Hollywood all the way”.

She went on to joke that dying of natural causes was “boring”, writing: “It’s the grand finale, act three, the 11 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.”

In her final interview, Rivers revealed she had been preparing her daughter for her death, including giving instructions on who would be permitted to attend her funeral.

She added: “It’s like, I’m in my 80s. Nobody, when I die, is going to say, ‘How young?’ They’re going to say she had a great ride.”

Rivers had been on life support at the Mount Sinai Hospital since suffering a cardiac arrest while having a medical procedure on her vocal cords on 28 August.

The New York state health department is still investigating the exact circumstances of her death.

Despite Rivers’ typically outspoken wishes, yesterday’s service remained exclusively private. In the hours before the funeral, barricades lined Fifth Avenue as a crowd of fans and media stood across the street.

Mourners lined up outside the synagogue and waited for their names to be checked against a list before entering.

Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn in 1933, Rivers was a pioneer for generations of female comics.

Tributes from celebrities and fellow comics have poured in for Rivers, including the Prince of Wales, whose wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles she attended in 2005.

Paying tribute, he said: “Joan Rivers was an extraordinary woman with an original and indefatigable spirit, an unstoppable sense of humour and an enormous zest for life. She will be hugely missed and utterly irreplaceable.”

Kelly Osbourne, who appeared with Rivers on her E! celebrity TV show Fashion Police, said: “She was my teacher, therapist, closest friend, inspiration and the only grandmother I ever knew.”

Senior Rabbi Joshua M Davidson, who conducted yesterday’s service, said in a statement: “We mourn with her family, friends and all those millions to whom she brought laughter and joy.”

In lieu of flowers, donations were made to charities including God’s Love We Deliver, Our House and Guide Dogs for the Blind.