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Showbiz funeral for Joan Rivers


The funeral for Joan Rivers took place in a private ceremony at Temple Emanu-El in New York

The funeral for Joan Rivers took place in a private ceremony at Temple Emanu-El in New York

The funeral for Joan Rivers took place in a private ceremony at Temple Emanu-El in New York

Howard Stern delivered the eulogy, Broadway singer-actress Audra McDonald sang Smile and bagpipers played New York, New York at Joan Rivers' funeral.

It was 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 including Hey Big Spender 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, who spoke about how she respected her mother and appreciated everyone's support.

"It was uplifting. We were celebrating her life," said fashion designer Dennis Basso.

Hugh Jackman sang Quiet Please, There's A Lady On Stage at the end of the ceremony 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 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".

A legion of famous faces turned out to remember Rivers, who died on Thursday aged 81: comedians Kathy Griffin, Rosie O'Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg; colleague and friend Kelly Osbourne, Sarah Jessica Parker and husband 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 attended, along with late night band leader Paul Shaffer. They were joined by moguls Barry Diller, Donald Trump and Steve Forbes.

Mourners had 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 road, and fans from as far away as Australia and England lined the streets.

Actress Susan Claassen, who met Rivers in London in 2008 when both had one-woman shows, came from Tucson, Arizona, to honour her friend. "I always like to say that in a world of knockoffs, Joan was an original," she said.

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" at her funeral.

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 programme.

Rivers was a trailblazer for all comics, but especially women. The raspy-voiced blonde with the brash New York accent was a TV talk show host, stage, film and TV actress, fashion critic and sold a line of jewellery.

The cause of her death is being investigated. Rivers was taken to hospital on August 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.

Her publicist said that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to God's Love, We Deliver; Guide Dogs For The Blind or Our House.

PA Media