Joan Rivers gets showbiz send-off with New York funeral

Posted at 6:18 AM, Sep 07, 2014

Joan Rivers is getting the "Hollywood" funeral she wanted, "a huge showbiz affair with lights, camera and action."

Mourners walked a red carpet into a synagogue in Manhattan on Sunday morning, where the New York City Gay Men's Chorus would open the service with song.

Whoopi Goldberg, Donald Trump, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters and Joy Behar were among the A-list to D-list celebrity friends seen arriving for the private service inside Temple Emanu-El.

Rivers, 81, died Thursday in New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, a week after she suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest during a medical procedure at a clinic.

She talked about her mortality and what she wanted at her "showbiz" funeral in her 2013 book, "I Hate Everyone... Starting With Me."

PHOTOS: Decades of laughter with Joan Rivers

She called for paparazzi and publicists "making a scene" outside the funeral, which she said should "be Hollywood all the way." In fact, Fifth Avenue was lined with more television crews, live reporters and fans than would gather for most Hollywood premieres.

Inside the temple, Rivers wanted entertainment. "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.'"

Instead of Vinton singing his 1964 hit, she had the Gay Men's Chorus and a song list including show tunes like "That's Entertainment," "Nothing Like a Dame," "What a Wonderful World" and "Hey Big Spender," according to chorus director Peter Criswell.

The family kept advance details of the service private, but New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a longtime friend of Rivers, described the funeral plan in her Saturday column.

A rabbi would offer an opening prayer after the show tunes, Adams wrote. Then Audra McDonald was to sing, followed by "Inside Edition" host Deborah Norville reminiscing about Rivers. Other speakers were to include Adams, Rivers' daughter, Melissa, and actor Hugh Jackman, Adams wrote.

Rivers wrote in her book that she wanted to "look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive," dressed in a Valentino gown and with a Harry Winston-designed toe tag.

"And I want a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyonce's," she wrote.

The raspy-voiced comedian was a household name. Brash and sassy, she poked fun at herself and the world in sometimes vicious, but witty, zingers.

She was as quick-witted as she was sharp-tongued, saying things everyone may have been thinking, but few were brave enough to voice.

"My mother's greatest joy in life was to make people laugh," her daughter said last week.

"Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon."

Rivers had been on life support at Manhattan's Mount Sinai Hospital, where she was transported after she stopped breathing at the Yorkville Endoscopy clinic on August 28.

Rivers was undergoing an apparently minor elective procedure at the clinic when she suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest, according to the New York Fire Department.

Paramedics took her by ambulance to Mount Sinai Hospital, about a mile from the clinic, where she was initially listed in critical condition.

The state health department is investigating whether there was any malpractice by the doctors or staff at Yorkville Endoscopy, according to New York law enforcement officials.

No criminal investigations are currently under way in Rivers' death, the officials said. The clinic has not responded to repeated calls from CNN about the state's investigation.