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Joan Rivers’ Funeral Held in New York City: Star-Studded Performances, Speeches, Fanfare

Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers' funeral was held on Sunday, Sept. 7 at New York City's Temple Emanu-El. 

Joan Rivers was laid to rest on Sunday, Sept. 7 at a funeral service in NYC’s Temple Emanu-El on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The beloved comedienne, author, TV personality, and critic died at age 81 on Thursday, Sept. 4, after suffering complications from a minor throat surgery. She was cremated on Saturday.

PHOTOS: Stars pay tribute to Joan Rivers

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In her personalized funeral requests from her 2012 memoir I Hate Everyone…Starting With Me, the funnywoman had asked for the event to be a “showbiz affair with lights, cameras, and action.” The service would not have disappointed her. 

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Dozens of A-listers came out in droves to pay their respects to the comedy legend. Those in attendance included Kelly Osbourne, Giuliana and Bill Rancic, Howard Stern, Kathy Griffin, Rosie O’Donnell, Mario Cantone, Kristin Chenoweth, Sally Jesse Raphael, Chuck Scarborough, Hota Kotb, Kathie Lee Gifford, Andy Cohen, Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jeff Ross, Donald and Melania Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Judge Judy Sheindlin, Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera, Geraldo Rivera, Alicia Quarles, Barbara Walters, Rachael Ray, Billy Bush, and Dr. Oz.

Another famous face who attended the funeral was Rolling Stone‘s longtime film critic Peter Travers. Travers reflected on the ceremony via Instagram, in a lengthy caption to a photo of himself with Rivers and the program from her funeral. Read stars’ heartfelt memories of Joan.

“Just left a unique private memorial service for Joan Rivers at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan,” Travers wrote. “Joan’s daughter Melissa and grandson Cooper made sure Joan had the ‘big showbiz affair’ she wanted.”

The Emerald Society performs at the Joan Rivers memorial service at Temple Emanu-El on September 7, 2014 in New York City.

“While barricaded fans cheered outside and the paparazzi took aim at Whoopi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael Kors, Kathy Griffin and Donald Trump, those of us invited inside were treated to what must have been the bawdiest funeral service in maybe ever,” Travers continued. “Special thanks to an on-fire Howard Stern who managed to evoke Joan’s ‘dry vagina’ and her aborted dance on Johnny Carson’s grave in ways both hilarious and heartfelt. You had to be there. And if you were, you’d have heard her friends, from names like TV anchor Deborah Norville and columnist Cindi Adams to her bff Margie Stern and even her accountant evoke the woman they loved in language that necessitated frequent apologies to Rabbi Joshua Davidson. Joan didn’t want sob stories. And she didn’t get them, not even from daughter Melissa. We all cried anyway.”

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According to the New York Times, Stern’s speech heralded Rivers for her groundbreaking career and strength in her personal life. “She did everything on her own terms,” the fellow comic said, NYT reports. “She fought the stereotypes that women can’t be funny, they should stay in their place, stay home. Courageously, she fought to save her family after her husband’s suicide; she fought to rebuild her career after Johnny banned her from The Tonight Show and the Fox show was canceled.”

Many guests wore black with colorful accents, and an eyewitness tells Us Weekly, “It really was reminiscent of a red carpet affair — plenty of lights and cameras. There were fans everywhere and people in taxis passing by shouting ‘We love Joan!'”

Most guests had arrived by 11 a.m. and the ceremony let out around 12:15 p.m. A bagpipe player performed a medley of tunes as guests exited the temple, including Frank Sinatra‘s “New York, New York.” The New York Times reports the temple was decorated with white gardenias, which were Rivers’ favorite flowers. 

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Travers went on to add that the opening act of the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus hit “every resonant note” in Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday,” noting, “and a gorgeous Sunday it was.” There were also performances by multiple Tony winner Audra McDonald, who sang “Smile,” and Hugh Jackman, who performed Peter Allen’s “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage,” which the late star had requested he sing before her death. 

“As Jackman hit the lyrics ‘Stand for the ovation / And give her one last celebration,’ every guest in the Temple did just that,” Travers wrote. “While the applause continued, the Pipes & Drums of the Emerald Society played Joan out with ‘Give My Regards To Broadway.’ Joan, a lifelong theater-loving New Yorker, would have loved it. Heck, she planned it. Farewell, old friend.”

Rivers’ longtime friend Cindy Adams also gave insight into her funeral arrangements, writing in Page Six, “it starts with the Gay Men’s choir show tunes, the rabbi’s opening prayer, Audra McDonald singing, Debra Norville reminiscing. Then me, Melissa, Hugh Jackman. A closing prayer then an NYPD cadre and four horseback riders who, I was told, did not come cheap.”

The Fashion Police star leaves behind her daughter Melissa Rivers and grandson Cooper

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