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Crowds gather ahead of New York funeral of comedian Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers' plans for an elaborate, over-the-top funeral may not be exactly what she will get, but it may be close.

The comedian detailed in her 2012 book I Hate Everyone ... Starting With Me that she hoped for "a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action" and "Hollywood all the way".

Instead of a rabbi talking, Rivers asked for "Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents" and "a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyonce's."

The actual event today may be slightly more muted.

Funeral services at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan will be private and neither the temple nor Rivers' personal publicist would give further details or divulge a guest list.

It was not even known what time the funeral would start. But cameras and a media presence was very likely.

In the hours before the funeral, barricades lined several blocks of Fifth Avenue and a crowd of fans and media stood watching across the street.

Rivers, who died on Thursday at 81, was a trailblazer for all comics, but especially for women.

The raspy-voiced blonde with the brash New York accent was a TV talk show host, actress, a fashion critic, and she sold a line of jewellery.

The cause of death is being investigated. Rivers had been hospitalised since August 28 when she went into cardiac arrest during a routine procedure at a doctor's office.

The New York state health department is investigating the circumstances.

In her book, Rivers joked that dying of natural causes was boring. "It's the grand finale, act three, the eleven o'clock number - make it count. If you're going to die, die interesting! Is there anything worse than a boring death? I think not."

Her publicist said that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to God's Love, We Deliver; Guide Dogs for the Blind; or Our House.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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