Howard Stern delivered the eulogy and Broadway singer-actress Audra McDonald sang “Smile” at Joan Rivers’ funeral Sunday, a star-studded send-off that brought together the worlds of Hollywood, theater, fashion and media.
A men’s choir singing Broadway hits kicked off the 10 a.m. ceremony before six-time Tony Award-winner McDonald sang her tribute to Rivers, a champion of theater for decades. Hugh Jackman was expected to sing at the end, according to someone who was in attendance but did not want to give their name due to the sensitivity of the situation.
They were among the legion of notables who turned out at New York’s Temple Emanu-El to remember Rivers, who died Thursday at 81: Kathy Griffin, whose edgy, biting comedy career was largely made possible by Rivers; colleague and friend Kelly Osbourne; Sarah Jessica Parker and Whoopi Goldberg; Howard Stern 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 there. 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 blonde with the brash New York accent was a TV talk show host, 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.
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.