Family, friends remember Joan Rivers at a private funeral

Melissa Rivers and her son Cooper depart the funeral of her mother, comedian Joan Rivers, at Temple Emanu-El in New York on Sept 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Melissa Rivers and her son Cooper depart the funeral of her mother, comedian Joan Rivers, at Temple Emanu-El in New York on Sept 7, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Family and friends bid farewell to Joan Rivers, the outspoken comedian who became famous around the world for her acerbic wit and brash style, at a private funeral on Sunday in Manhattan.

Journalists Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer, comedian Whoopi Goldberg, tycoon Donald Trump, actress Sarah Jessica Parker and comedian Kathy Griffin were among the celebrities who attended the service at Temple Emanu-El, a landmark synagogue on New York's Fifth Avenue where Rivers, 81, was a member of the congregation.

As guests exited the service to the sound of bagpipes, and some mingled and hugged, many hundreds of fans, along with dozens of reporters, photographers and television crews waited behind barricades to get a glimpse of Rivers' friends and family, including her only daughter, Melissa.

Lisa Johnson, 45, who drove five hours from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her sister to be there, said she was a life-long fan of the comedian.

"I grew up watching her. And I have always thought she was just the most hilarious, trailblazing pioneer for women's comedy, women in general. I just love her irreverent take-no-prisoners kind of style. She says exactly what she feels, she offends people and owns it," Johnson said.

Max Buccini, 30, held flowers and praised Rivers for her generosity and the impact she had on the gay community.

"She always delivered. She knew her audience. She was a pioneer in the entertainment industry and just a trendsetter,"he said.

The sharp-tongued, Brooklyn-born comedian who jokingly wrote about wanting an elaborate funeral, died on Thursday at the New York hospital to where she had been rushed a week earlier. She had been put on life support after she stopped breathing during an outpatient procedure at a medical clinic.

Rivers' cause of death was still unknown pending further tests, according to New York City Medical Examiner's Office. The State Health Department was investigating the Yorkville Endoscopy Center where Rivers was treated. It is reviewing documents, medical records and interviewing staff and physicians at the clinic which opened in 2013.

During a career that spanned more than 50 years, Rivers was known for her raspy voice, numerous cosmetic procedures and the catchphrase "Can we talk?"

No topic or person was off-limits for Rivers, who joked about marriage and sex and was never apologetic about what she said. She attributed her success to saying what everyone else was thinking.

Her influence reached far beyond her New York roots. Tributes poured in from around the world.

Britain's Prince Charles described Rivers, who attended his 2005 wedding to the Duchess of Cornwall, as "an extraordinary woman with an original and indefatigable spirit."

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that she would be deeply missed.

Rivers originally wanted to be an actress. She started as a comedy writer before doing stand-up. She worked her way up to regular guest host for Johnny Carson on NBC's popular "The Tonight Show". Carson and Rivers had a falling-out when she started her own late-night talk show in 1986 on the rival Fox network.

Her show was cancelled within a year due to low ratings. A few months later, her husband and manager, Edgar Rosenberg, committed suicide.

Later in her career, Rivers and her daughter starred in the reality TV show "Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?", with Rivers living with her grown child.

Most recently, Rivers was the host of cable television channel E!'s "Fashion Police," commenting on the unfortunate red carpet choices of Hollywood celebrities.