WASHINGTON, September 7, 2014 — Calling Joan Rivers a “friend to the world,” Howard Stern said “Joan is somewhere chasing Johnny Carson with a baseball bat,” referring to one of the longest running entertainment feuds in history.
Stern was among those who eulogized Joan Rivers at Temple Emanu-El in New York with humor and shared reminiscences, helping friends and family to say goodbye to a woman who has been described as fearless, cutting edge, and funny. The adjectives go on: caustic, brave, bold, honest, strong, kind, loving, giving.
Joan Rivers was a woman whose boundaries where limited only by what she wanted to talk about. With her trademark “Can we talk?” there was little she did not want to talk about.
Rivers spoke openly about her impending death. She told daughter Melissa the day would come and when it did, to remember she lived a good life. She said that no one would say she died too young.
She also wanted a red carpet worthy funeral:
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 huge 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 sing “Mr. Lonely.” I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive. I want to be buried in a Valentine 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.
Daughter Melissa Rivers and grandson Cooper greeted New York and entertainment notables such as Kathy Griffin, whose career was largely made possible by Joan Rivers. Griffin told CNN’s Anderson Cooper “Everything Joan did, she created herself.” She shared one of their private moments, recalling Joan’s advice: “When you are a woman in this business, you have to hold on until your knuckles are white and they chop your fingers off. Then you hold on by your wrist, then you hold on by your elbows and you never let go.”
But it wasn’t just comedians there honoring Joan. Joan always drew a crowd from across popular entertainment, business, theater and finance, and they were her friends. They included New Yorkers like Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Howard Stern and Rosie O’Donnell. Theater stars Hugh Jackman, Audra McDonald, Bernadette Peters, Alan Cumming and Tommy Tune were there. So was record producer Clive Davis. Fashion designers Carolina Herrera and Michael Kors who Joan often skewered on her show “Fashion Police” were there.
There were TV stars, many of who welcomed Joan Rivers onto their sets, like Barbara Walters, Geraldo Rivera, Diane Sawyer, Kathie Lee Gifford, and Hoda Kotb. Financial moguls like Barry Diller, Donald Trump and Steve Forbes came as well.
Joan Rivers was brilliant — as in smart. She won a season of Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” and we learned just how smart she was. She was a savvy investor, and generous, giving her time and money not only to charity, but she also paid for private educations for her employees’ children. Forbes’s Kelly Phillips Erb writes:
Rivers would have probably gotten a kick out of the fact that the expenses associated with her funeral are tax deductible for federal estate tax purposes – though as a smart business woman, I suspect she already knew that. It’s a somewhat appropriate final deduction for a woman who infamously hated paying taxes and has criticized President Obama for imposing higher taxes on the wealthy. I have to think that finally being able to expense some Harry Winstons has to make her happy.
Inside the temple, white gardenias lined the front of the room and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus sang songs like “There Is Nothing Like a Dame,” “Big Spender” and “What a Wonderful World.” Hugh Jackman sang, as Rivers requested before her death, “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage,” and Broadway star Audra McDonald sang “Smile.”
Close friend Deborah Norville, who also spoke during the ceremony, said:
“She would love this. We’ve all said this so many times: The one person who would really think this is the greatest thing ever is the lady who it’s all about and she’s not here.”
Joan Rivers’ death is huge, not merely for the passing but the unexpected nature of her death. She did not die after a long illness, or quietly in the night. Her death grabbed the headlines and the television, radio, cable and blog talk shows have spoke of little else as we all watched, and prayed, that she would recover.
Rivers joked that dying of natural causes was boring. “It’s the grand finale, act three, the eleven o’clock number — make it count. If you’re going to die, die interesting! Is there anything worse than a boring death? I think not.”
Rivers leaves behind an impact on her fans. What is most amazing is how she reinvented herself for every generation, growing and learning with them as they emerged.
The New York Times wrote: “Max Buccini, 30, stood on Fifth Avenue behind a police barricade holding a bouquet of decorative cabbages and white hydrangeas. He had spent $60 on the bouquet. Ms. Rivers, he said, had empowered him.
“Especially as a gay man growing up, thinking it was O.K. to like the fashion,” he said.
His friend Sean McGrath, 22, held a bouquet of pink roses.
For her fans, Joan’s message was laugh at yourself, but be yourself and do it looking fabulous. She said that “Circumstances don’t change, you change.”
Her show with daughter Melissa, E! TV’s “Fashion Police,” transformed the red carpet into entertainment. Changing what was a walk in front of fans and media into a “must-be-seen” event. Getting before Joan’s cameras – for ridicule or praise – was mandatory.
Barricades lined several blocks of 5th Avenue as crowds of fans and media stood watch across the street to say good bye to an icon that crossed generations.
But maybe goodbye is the wrong thing to say. For we will not forget her. She lives on in her books, her jokes, videos, movies and hearts.
Joan Rivers was too much to ever forget.
Rivers, who died on Thursday, September 4 was cremated yesterday. Today’s funeral service has been held at Temple Emanu-El that Rivers attended. Her ashes will be taken back to California for internment at Forest Lawn Cemetary.