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Stern recalled meeting Rivers in 1983 when he was working at NBC Radio, noting it was a big deal to have the permanent guest host of The Tonight Show as a guest back when he was a “pariah” of the entertainment industry.
“She was very, very embracing of the show and what I was doing,” Stern said. “She was a fan of the show and she was a great cheerleader “
At the funeral, Stern said he teared up when Hugh Jackman sang one of Rivers’ favorite songs, “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage” by Peter Allen.
“I was so f—ing moved by this guy’s performance that I had tears. You know me, I’m a big scumbag. I don’t get moved. I appreciated this guy so much,” said Stern.
Then the New York Police Department brought out a bagpipe procession to play “Amazing Grace.”
“I was crying like a baby. I was thinking about Joan, all the appearances she made on the show, being invited to her home,” Stern said.
Stern noted that he never thought of Rivers as an 81-year-old, because she had so much vibrancy to her, and remained current by reinventing herself.
“Joan made it look easy, but she’s one of the few pioneers we had left — not only a pioneer because she was a woman, and when she started, women were told not to be stand-up comics,” Stern said.
Rivers’ funeral took place Sunday at Manhattan’s Temple Emanu-El. It was attended by family and famous friends, including Whoopi Goldberg, Andy Cohen, Sarah Jessica Parker, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Joy Behar, Paul Shaffer, Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee Gifford, Giuliana Rancic, Bernadette Peters, Clive Davis, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Kyle MacLachlan and his wife, Desiree Gruber.
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