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While it’s unclear if Joan Rivers‘ funeral had a wind machine or Harry Winston toe tag, per the instructions left in her 2012 book, the real-life event, held Sunday morning at Manhattan’s Temple Emanu-El, was a star-studded affair with all of the security and paparazzi and fan attention of a premiere or red-carpet event.
Huge crowds of fans, photographers, videographers and members of the media lined Fifth Avenue and 65th Street hoping to catch a glimpse of the action outside of the private, invitation-only ceremony.
There was a large police presence, with officers stationed at the corners of 64th, 65th and 66th streets along Fifth Avenue with additional police at the corner of 65th and Madison Avenue. Police barricades were set up along both sides of Fifth Avenue between 64th and 66th streets and along 65th and 66th streets. Groups of women in black holding clipboards checked in guests at 65th and Madison and 65th and Fifth.
Among the attendees spotted arriving and leaving the funeral was Whoopi Goldberg, who was wearing two different-colored shoes and received big cheers and rounds of applause from the crowd of onlookers at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street both on her way in and out of the service, while Andy Cohen elicited a similar response from fans, including a bit of jumping up and down, as he left the funeral early Sunday afternoon.
Other guests spied by The Hollywood Reporter included 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 and Kyle MacLachlan and his wife, Desiree Gruber.
Fans and onlookers called out to several stars as they walked by and booed every time a truck or bus stopped along 65th Street, blocking their view.
The ceremony itself was filled with laughter and tears, according to various reports from outlets who had access to the proceedings.
White gardenias lined the front of the synagogue, the New York Times reported.
According to the Associated Press, Howard Stern delivered the eulogy; the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus sang “What a Wonderful World,” “There Is Nothing Like a Dame” and “Hey Big Spender,” according to reports, before Broadway star Audra McDonald sang “Smile”; and tributes and remembrances were delivered by Deborah Norville, Rivers’ close friend Margie Stern, New York Post columnist Cindy Adams and Rivers’ daughter, Melissa, who spoke about how she respected her mother and appreciated everyone’s support. Hugh Jackman also performed, according to the AP, singing “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage,” at the end of the ceremony, which lasted a little more than an hour.
Stern’s speech not only praised Rivers but managed to elicit laughter from her friends and family gathered inside the ceremony, People reported. He called Rivers, “the best friend in the world … a big sister … a crazy aunt at a bar mitzvah,” People reported.
“She fought the stereotype that women couldn’t be funny,” Stern added, according to People. “She was responsible for putting the red carpet into primetime.”
Melissa also made the crowd howl with laughter when she read a letter she’d written to her mother while she was still alive, according to People.
The funeral program even included the excerpt from I Hate Everyone … Starting With Me in which Rivers described the star-studded send-off she wanted as well as a page with three of Rivers’ classic lines: “Can we talk?” ”Who are you wearing?” and “Because I’m a funny person,” the AP added.
Other guests in attendance according to the AP included fashion designer Dennis Basso, Kathy Griffin, Rosie O’Donnell, Kelly Osbourne, Matthew Broderick, Alan Cumming, Tommy Tune, Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, Geraldo Rivera, Barry Diller, Donald Trump and Steve Forbes.
At the end of the service, bagpipers from the NYPD led the procession out of the temple, playing “New York, New York” as fans applauded.
Meanwhile, fans outside of Temple Emanu-El shared some of their favorite memories of Rivers.
A young woman on 65th Street was overheard telling another, older woman that she learned from Rivers’ that it was OK to be single. Another couple of women discussed how even if you weren’t into fashion, Rivers could be appreciated for her outrageous humor.
“She was just a strong woman — she made it in a time when women weren’t really doing what she was doing,” said Janine Lavasseur, 28, who was among the crowds of people outside the funeral. And her favorite Rivers quips from Fashion Police? “It’s usually the stuff that they bleep out because it’s inappropriate,” she said with a laugh.
Another longtime fan and lifelong New Yorker, public school teacher Camilla Saly, 55, told THR that she admired Rivers’ honesty.
“When she was on Fashion Police, she created this absolutely hilarious way of taking the, you know, high and mighty out of people, in a way that was just so hilarious and so right on … and I think that we need that. We need that sort of reality check,” said Saly, who was carrying a copy of Rivers’ 1986 book Enter Talking with a piece of paper that said “R.I.P.” taped over the top part of the cover, so it looked like it said “R.I.P. Joan Rivers.” “She’s just brilliant, absolutely brilliant … absolutely a hero for women, I think. A role model … talking about her body and sexuality without fear and saying things that other people would criticize or be reluctant to say. Talking really about everything without fear and being funny but also bringing things to light. That’s what really good comedians do. … I just really admired her and respected her and thought she was hilariously funny. I just wanted to be here to pay my respects, that’s all. I don’t have to see any celebrities. I just want to say, ‘Thank you, Joan’ ”
Fan Bobby Rosenthal recalled how Rivers Instagrammed a photo of him taking a selfie with her at a recent book signing for her latest title, Diary of a Mad Diva.
“My favorite picture of all time with a celebrity,” Rosenthal said of the photo.
As for what he loved about Rivers, Rosenthal explained, “She was extremely bright. I thought she was extremely kind. I thought she was extremely funny, and I was just always amazed at her energy level. … She didn’t look 81 — I mean, I know she had the surgery — she didn’t look 81; she didn’t talk like an 81-year-old; she didn’t walk like an 81-year-old; she didn’t think like an 81-year-old. She was so vibrant. She was a life force. And I thought that was amazing. And I loved her work ethic. She just kept going and going and going. And if she failed, she picked herself up and dusted herself off and kept going. And I think that’s a good philosophy and it’s something I’m always going to remember.”
Rivers’ fans have set up a makeshift memorial outside of her apartment, just a few blocks away from Temple Emanu-El, and her stoop has been almost entirely covered in flowers.
A crowd gathered outside Rivers’ funeral at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 65th Street in Manhattan.
Rivers’ autopsy results failed to determine the cause and manner of her death and both the New York state Department of Health and the NYPD are investigating her death.
Details of Rivers’ funeral, including the exact time of the ceremony and the guest list, were being closely guarded leading up to the event.
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