The New York Gay Men’s Chorus sang. Hugh Jackman and Audra McDonald brought Broadway sang. Howard Stern told some jokes. At the end, the mourners were led out of Temple Emanuel’s chapel by the New York City Police Department’s Emerald Society Bagpipes Band, playing “New York New York.”
Star-studded, with touches of Broadway, fashionistas and media circus, it was exactly the funeral Joan Rivers would have wanted. But for the cutting edge comic who could cut with her words, it was a tender goodbye, more reflective of the person Joan Rivers truly was – warm, generous.
Among the celebrities who filled Temple Emanuel of New York City on a brilliantly sunny Sunday, September 7, 2014 were: Kathy Griffin, Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Donald Trump, Debra Norville, gossip columnist Cyndi Adams, Dr. Oz, Billy Bush, Rosie O’Donnell, Carolina Herrera,
Some mourners wore “Joan Ranger” badges — pins shaped like the Star of David, like police badges, in honor of the Fashion Police star. (And how appropriate to depart during Fashion Week in New York City).
Rivers died Thursday, Sept. 4, at Mount Sinai Hospital, where she was rushed after going into cardiac arrest during an outpatient procedure on her vocal cords at an endoscopy clinic on Aug. 28. It was recently disclosed that Rivers, who was 81, suffered from heart arrhythmia, but it is not yet known if that factored into her death.
But it was her heart that was most cherished and celebrated during her service, presided over by Rabbi Joshua Davidson.
“This was a service like no other,” said Debra Norville. “When yet another swear word was said, I looked over at the Rabbi and he gave an expression like, ‘Whatever’.”
“It was what she would have wanted.” said Norville. Star of stage and screen Hugh Jackman “had us on our feet.
In addition to Howard Stern, others who spoke included Margie Stern (Joan’s best friend, and no relation to Howard); the gossip columnist Cindy Adams; and Melissa Rivers.
The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus opened the program; Audra McDonald sang; and Hugh Jackman closed it out and had the audience on their feet.
Billy Bush, of Access Hollywood, said “It felt like she was still there. One moment I thought, she’s here” and he half expected her to jump up and say it was all a joke.
Outside, people milled about and were happy to share their memories of Joan.
Nancy Collins said of Rivers, “What you saw wasn’t what you got – Joan was warm and very giving. Her heart always shown through. I’m wearing her perfume.”
Amy Rosenblum, who was the senior producer on the Joan Rivers’ talk show and knew her 26 years, recalled, “I slept in her house in LA – the next morning, she was preparing me blueberries and yogurt for breakfast. So real, so down to earth.
“She was a mensch, funny, and had the biggest heart. She loved to work – it made her feel good. She loved the New York Post – Page 6,” she said to a reporter from the Post.
“There was so much love in that room – tears and laughter. Everything she would want, from beginning to end.” She added that Joan would have been thrilled. “It would have gotten a good rating.”
Penny Landau, a publicist, called Rivers, “A hamischa woman – with diamonds.” Despite her edgy stage persona, “in private, she was one of the warmest, most generous people – nobody could make me laugh. The day of my mother’s funeral, I went to see her, because no one could get me out of the funk I was in. A good soul.
Jeffrey Gurian used to write for her in the 1990s, used to go to the studio with her – saw her recently, came up June 30 for interview with Ron Bennington for “Unmasked” series for the Ron & Fez show. Gurian wrote a book with Chris Rock, “Make ‘Em Laugh,” and he offered to give her a copy, but Rivers refused. “She said, ‘I want to buy a book’. Such a sweet and gracious person.”
The funeral “was everything that Joan wanted and asked for,” said Norville.
In fact, she spelled out exactly what she wanted to her daughter, Melissa, and the words
When I die (and yes, Melissa, that day will come; and yes, Melissa, everything’s in your name), I want my funeral to be a showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action…
I want Craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way.
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 singing “Mr. Lonely.” I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive. I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag.
And I want a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyonce’s.”
Check, check and check.
Temple Emanuel is across the Fifth Avenue from Central Park, which was crowded with runners for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for breast cancer. In my mind, I was trying to think what joke Rivers would have made of that.
Karen Rubin, Eclectic Travel Examiner