What a fucking funeral! It was everything she could have imagined and wanted, but oh, so much more. They closed down Fifth Avenue. Joan would have loved that!
I was invited. As we walked into Joan’s beloved Temple Emanu-El, the NYC Gay Men’s Chorus — a bunch of boys who have a way with a showtune — welcomed everyone with a rousing “Big Spender.” And I mean everyone, from Cindy Adams to best pal Margie Stern (no relation to Howard) to Diane Sawyer and Dr. Oz. The comics were there in full force: Whoopi Goldberg, Howard Stern, Kathy Griffin, Jeff Ross, Judy Gold, Larry Amoros, Joy Behar, Mario Cantone, Margaret Cho. I walked in with Rachael Ray — who was lovely, by the way –- and found a seat next to my old pal Mario Buatta, the Prince of Chintz, who promptly told me, “I think I’m the oldest person here.” No, I thought, that would be Cindy Adams (no relation to John).
As the service started, Rabbi Joshua Davidson, promising “not to ramble on,” brought up the breathtaking Audra McDonald, who killed us with “Smile.” Just as we began to tear up, Howard Stern, who was a surprise to all of us, opened his eulogy with:
Joan Rivers had a dry vagina.
…and we were off:
She said that her vagina was so dry that when she took a bath there was a whoosh and all the water got sucked in. …She said that if Whitney Houston had a dry vagina…
…well, you know how that ended. Stern was brilliant, funny and touching. His love and respect for Joan was boundless, as were his tales of her. He called her “the best friend in the world, a big sister, the crazy aunt at the Bar Mitzvah.” His parting shot — “I’d like to think of her chasing Johnny Carson with a baseball bat” — brought the house down.
Close friend and Inside Edition host Deborah Norville spoke of dressing as French aristocrats at an event in Europe, complete with Walter Cronkite in judge’s robes and a pair of tighty-whities, and she praised Melissa for keeping everyone and everything together during the past week. Joan’s long-time bestie, Margie, with chains around her neck (and I mean chains), talked about trying to one-up Joan and never getting in the last laugh. Cindy Adams talked of Joan going on a girls’ weekend with she and Judge Judy and Joan being dressed to the nines, complete with full hair and makeup, jewelry, furs, scarves and a boa, while she and Judy were in jeans. “I said, Joanie, we’re in Colonial Williamsburg!”
Nothing was sacred, from the New York Post having Joan as a front page afterthought to Jay Leno and Elizabeth Taylor.
But the brightest star of the funeral was Melissa, who was funny and warm, reading a letter she wrote to her mother as part of a book about daughters with famous mothers:
I was so touched that you slipped a personal letter under my door. Imagine my surprise as I read: ‘Dear Landlord…’
Yup, she’s got her mother’s sense of humor and way with a word. She handled everything with style and grace, being strong for Joan’s friends and family, her son Cooper by her side. After all, she is her mother’s daughter and Joan would have been so proud of her.
Closing the show – and it was a show – was Hugh Jackman, who sang Peter Allen’s “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage.” When he did the lyric “Put your hands together, help her along. All that’s left of the singer’s all that’s left of the song. Stand, stand for the ovation. Yes give her one last celebration,”
So put your hands together, help her along,
All that’s left of the singers, all that’s left of the song.
Stand for the ovation,
And give her one last celebration.
…we did just that. We all stood and gave Joan one last, well-deserved, weepy, standing ovation, cut short by the pipe and drums of the Emerald Society playing “Amazing Grace.” The profanity of the day didn’t kill Rabbi Davidson, but the bagpipers playing “Amazing Grace” in his shul nearly finished him off. Only Joan could have planned that!
Many of us shed our tears inside Temple Emanu-El, but outside after the service was the real show. Kelly Osbourne looked like the Widow Rivers, complete with a blue Mohawk, held up on both sides by friends, weeping away. Rosie O’Donnell blubbered like she’d lost another mother. Geraldo Rivera received more attention than he has in the last decade. (I forgot how short he is until I stood next to him.) Tommy Tune is still tall, sort of. (We’re all shrinking.) Donald Trump and his hair showed up late and made an entrance — never one to miss a photo op! And the paparazzi, along with the fans, were six deep across the street, trying not to go nuts each time a passing bus obscured their view.
Then it was over. We said our goodbyes, hugged and kissed and went our separate ways.
I knew Joan for almost 30 years and got to know who she really was: a warm, kind, generous woman who loved and cared for her friends and family. If you complimented her jewelry, she’d take off the piece and give it to you. My mother, who had met Joan on several occasions over the years, loved her. On the day of my mother’s funeral, I was supposed to see her show and everyone said, “You’re not going?” I replied, “You bet your ass I am.”
When I saw Joan after the show, I told her “we buried Clarice today.” And she said, “What are you doing here?” I responded, “You’re the only person who can get me out of this dark place that I’m in.”
And she did.
I still can’t wrap my head around it: a world with no Joan Rivers.