Radio personality Howard Stern delivered the eulogy and Broadway singer -actress Audra McDonald sang ‘Smile’. A men’s choir singing Broadway hits kicked off the ceremony before six-time Tony Award -winner McDonald sang her tribute to Rivers, a champion of theatre for decades.
A legion of notables turned out at New York’s Temple Emanu-El to remember Rivers, who died last Thursday, aged 81.
They included Kathy Griffin, whose edgy, biting comedy career was largely made possible by Rivers; colleague and friend Kelly Osbourne; Sarah Jessica Parker and Whoopi Goldberg; Stern and celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.
Theatre stars Bernadette Peters, Alan Cumming and Tommy Tune were there, as were record producer Clive Davis, fashion designers Carolina Herrera and Michael Kors, TV stars Barbara Walters, Geraldo Rivera, Diane Sawyer, Kathie Lee, Hoda Kotb and Andy Cohen, 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.
Barricades lined several blocks of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, and a crowd of fans and media stood watch across the street. Fans from Australia and England were among the crowd, who said they watched Rivers’ show Fashion Police in their native countries.
“She was one of a kind. She was so terrific,” New Yorker Barbara Ness, 75, said about Rivers, who helped pave the road for women in comedy.
“She told it like it is. I loved her honesty, her sense of humour, her love for everyone, her charitable work that she did. She was terrific,” she added.
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.”
In her book, Rivers joked that dying of natural causes was boring: “If you’re going to die, die interesting! Is there anything worse than a boring death? I think not.”