Celebrities packed Joan Rivers’ memorial service in Manhattan for a poignant and sometimes ribald tribute to the comedian who once wrote that she wanted her funeral to be a “huge showbiz affair.”
After opening prayers, Howard Stern spoke, recalling Rivers’ own bawdy remarks about her body on her most recent appearance on his radio show.
“Life isn’t fair without Joan Rivers in our world,” he said in a service that included a lot of brash humor, earthy remarks and the occasional obscenity, all reminiscent of Rivers’ comedy style.
Speakers also included columnist Cindy Adams, Rivers’ good friend Margie Stern and “Inside Edition” anchor Deborah Norville, who told reporters afterward that “I said in honor of Joan, let’s all go out and wear something that makes us look ridiculous. And then post it on Facebook and have the Joan Rivers challenge.”
“What you see is what you got with Joan,” Norville said as she looked out at the hundreds of fans who watched from across the street. “She would love this.”
Comedian Jeffrey Ross, who had tears in his eyes, said afterward that the service was beautiful.
“The songs and speeches were moving,” he said, citing singer Hugh Jackman’s poignant rendition of “Smile.”
“I’m going to miss that lady,” said Ross, who recalled Rivers’ Comedy Central roast: “It was the only roast where the roastee was the funniest person in the show . . . She could dish as good as she got.”
Bagpipes played “Give My Regards to Broadway” as celebrities streamed out of Temple Emanu-El. Kathy Griffin, Rosie O’Donnell, Billy Bush, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Lee Gifford, producer Michael Gelman, Hoda Kotb, Diane Sawyer, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Barbara Walters and Dr. Mehmet Oz were among the guests in attendance.
The comedian said in her 2012 book “I Hate Everyone … Starting With Me” that she wanted her funeral to be “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.”
The actual funeral service was private, however. Her daughter, Melissa Rivers, entered the temple via a side entrance on 66th Street, her arm around her son, Cooper, after arriving in a limo.
Police presence was strong as fans stood along barricades that lined Fifth Avenue for several blocks, with the media kept in a restricted area near the temple.
Cara Wallace, 33, took an 8 a.m. train into Manhattan from her home in Bohemia on Long Island. She was wearing a black dress, hoping she could get inside.
“They were very nice but they turned me down. I didn’t have the correct paperwork,” she said.
“Joan is such an iconic comedian with a positive outlook on life. With her it was OK to be single, OK to be strong and independent. These are truly the things I learned from Joan,” Wallace said.
Mary K. Hayden of San Francisco came with a bouquet of roses. She was visiting New York on vacation this week.
“I adored Joan Rivers. It was her amazing bravery and her hilarious humor. Nothing was sacred for her. She was a ground breaker,” Hayden said.
“I’m still reeling from Robin Williams’ passing. I just happened to be in New York this week and it feels like a sucker punch,” she said.
Of the fan presence, Hayden said: “She would be moved. I think it would be the only thing that would make her speechless.”
Alana Egenberg, a speech pathologist from Manhattan, came with her daughter Melynda to pay her respects to Rivers. Egenberg, who declined to give her age, said she’s been a fan for years and had tickets to see her in November.
“She was the best. She took all the stress away with a laugh,” she said. “She said what was on her mind and didn’t care what you thought. I loved it.”
Mary Springer, 54, a nurse from Brooklyn, said she was a fan of Rivers hosting on the QVC shopping network. “I wouldn’t miss it,” she said of the funeral. “She always dressed beautifully . . . I just loved how she sold the jewelry.”
Rivers died Thursday at the age of 81. She had been hospitalized since Aug. 28, when she went into cardiac arrest during a surgical procedure at an outpatient clinic.
The New York State Department of Health is investigating the circumstances that led to her death.
With Maria Alvarez