By Carol Lipton
A month before her death, Joan Rivers was in London and on fine form, discussing her favourite Jewish charms and planning Rosh Hashanah, happy at “doing nothing” yet still endearing interest.
The Rosh Hashanah guest list would likely have included many of the same people who attended her funeral on Sunday.
And the comedian certainly got the send-off she had always hoped for at Manhattan’s Temple Emanu-El.
In her book, I Hate Everyone….Starting With Me, she joked that she wanted her funeral to feature Meryl Streep crying in five different accents and a wind machine blowing her hair like Beyonce’s.
As it turned out, the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus singing There Is Nothing Like A Dame would not have disappointed her.
Alongside her daughter, Melissa, 46, and her grandson Cooper, 14, were the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and Donald Trump.
Controversial DJ Howard Stern gave a “hero” eulogy that made the resident Reform rabbi blush, Les Misérables star Hugh Jackman sang, and the NYPD bag-pipers concluded with Give My Regards To Broadway.
For a woman who couldn’t remember where her star was on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was certainly some do.
“I think it’s somewhere in front of the old Roosevelt Hotel in LA and every tourist who stays there has to step on it,” said the 81-year-old, in between a transatlantic commute, on her way to LA to film Fashion Police for the E! Network, and planning the material for her UK tour – Before the Lid Closes – which was due to start in October.
“The only other person to do a weekly bi-coastal commute like that was Sir David Frost,” she said, revealing how her airtime was filled with reading.
“I’m a big non-fiction reader and just love historical biographies. What’s going on in the world, what went on in the world – it’s much more interesting than the made-up stuff.”
If not made-up, the content of her last book – Diary of a Mad Diva – was at least embellished.
It was during the book’s promotional tour that she was at her most outspoken, accusing the Palestinians of being “stupid”.
“I just kept saying if they were lobbing missiles at us in Manhattan from New Jersey we would bomb the hell out of them,” she said.
Having survived everything from bankruptcy to the suicide of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, in 1987, it was telling Rivers’ biggest fear was a booking-free calendar.
And although she had never been more in-demand, she still wore two amulets for good luck.
“One is an old bracelet with Jewish charms,” she says. “The other is an evil eye bracelet I got in Israel.”
Judaism was a huge part of her life and she said she loved hosting festival dinners in her Manhattan home.
“I like to get out all the glasses and silver and put down the flowers. I’ve already done the new year guest list.
Fingers crossed there won’t be too much arguing about the Middle East, but once I get started…”
She surrounded herself with women who were just as strong and opinionated as she was, including her friend Judy Sheindlin (TV’s Judge Judy).
Rivers was known for her kindness and philanthropy, and she made a point of never snubbing a fan.
“When I was a little girl I approached three different celebrities who were all really nice to me,” she recalled.
“So now I am always nice to people as I know it takes a little bit of guts to approach somebody and ask for a quick picture.”
In fact, fame itself had become a mystery to her, admitting that “the mechanics of fame are so different now,” but was still cheered by it.
“If you can get people interested in you for doing nothing, good for you,” she joked.
Judging by the reaction to her death, it’s safe to say people were interested in her and she will indeed be greatly missed.