How Joan Rivers Knocked ’em Dead In Her Final Act

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You’ve probably heard about the over-the-top funeral that comedienne Joan Rivers described as her ideal funeral in her 2012 book, I Hate Everyone…Starting with Me. She wrote:

I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action … I want Craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way. I don’t want some rabbi rambling on; I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents. I don’t want a eulogy; I want Bobby Vinton to pick up my head and sing ‘Mr. Lonely.’ I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive. I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag. And I want a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyonce’s.

Photo attribute: !efatima / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

And she wasn’t kidding. So how did her real service on Sept. 7 at Temple Emanu-El on the Upper East Side of New York City stack up against her fantasy funeral?

Pretty well, actually. One attendee told USA Today, “It was like a Broadway show with tons of humor, lots of tears, and ended with a standing ovation.” The celebrity guest list included Howard Stern, who gave the eulogy, Donald Trump, Sarah Jessica Parker, Whoopi Goldberg and Diane Sawyer, to name just a few. Hugh Jackman, Audra McDonald and the New York City Gay Men’s Choir sang during the service. At its conclusion, bagpipers burst out of the temple playing songs for hundreds of fans who yearned to be included in the ceremony in some small way.

Granted, Joan Rivers was not an ordinary person. Nonetheless, how many ordinary people wondered why they’ve never attended a funeral that made them laugh and cry in ways that perfectly reflected the person being honored? The answer is too many. According to research studies, most consumers don’t believe the average funeral director has the skills to arrange funerals beyond the traditional scripture-eulogy-hymns-prayer variety.

Fortunately, OGR members are a progressive lot. Many realized long ago that cookie-cutter funerals will drive people to one of two types of providers: A) those who offer fresh and meaningful ceremonies; or, B) those who offer easy options at rock bottom prices. Professionals at many Golden Rule Funeral Homes understand that today’s successful funerals are as much about creating vivid memories of the deceased’s life as they are about helping families cope with loss.

The predictable line that once marked a “dignified funeral” has not only shifted, it’s now in a different spot for each and every person that walks through your funeral home’s front door. Baby Boomers, especially, need assurance that funeral professionals will set aside preconceived notions of what constitutes a “suitable” funeral and pinpoint where their lines are so their families can acknowledge their grief and honor their loved ones’ lives. And they must do it in ways that are a little less gloomy, a little more spirited, and a lot more memorable than other funerals they’ve experienced. If their local funeral director can’t provide such an experience, they’ll find someone who can.

After all, shouldn’t everyone be the star of their own funeral?


 by Mark Allen, Executive Director, OGR

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