NEW YORK, N.Y.—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, theatre, 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 theatre 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.
Mourners lined up outside the Fifth Avenue synagogue and waited for their names to be checked against a list before entering. A crowd of media stood watch across the street, and fans from as far away as Australia and England lined the streets.
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.” Indeed, her wishes were so important they were printed in the funeral program.
Rivers was a trailblazer for all comics, but especially for women. The raspy-voiced blond with the brash New York accent was a TV talk show host, stage, film and TV actress, fashion critic, and she sold a line of jewelry.
The cause of death is being investigated. Rivers was hospitalized on Aug. 28 after she went into cardiac arrest during a routine procedure at a doctor’s office. The New York State Health Department is investigating the circumstances, and the New York City medical examiner said tests to determine the cause of death were inconclusive.