Thursday, September 4, 2014

Joan Rivers, Dead at 81

This is the Joan I remember most.
Well, crap. Joan Rivers--love her or hate her (or a little of both)--was something of a force of nature. She was clearly a pioneer, and one of the few unfiltered celebrity voices out there. She's the only woman to ever have hosted a network late-night talk show. She reinvented herself (and, can we talk, her face) countless times. And she arguably got cooler as she got older.

I have been wondering what would happen to some of our aging icons, particularly the ones like Rivers and Joan Collins, women who refused to look or act like little old ladies. And I haven't decided yet whether it's better that Rivers died rather quickly and unexpectedly rather than having to suffer an age-related decline.  No one could say that 81 is "too young to die," but then again, she was so vibrant and vital, it's clear that she would be with us if not for the botched surgical procedure last week. It would have been nice to see her get to Phyllis Diller's age when she died. Can you imagine a 95-year-old Rivers on the red carpet?

Comedy has lost some big, big names.
Image from The Daily Trash.
Joan Rivers had her biggest heyday in the early-to-mid 1980s. Her standup comedy was filling auditoriums, her album What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most was a huge hit, and she became the permanent guest host on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. She then began the very first show on the FOX-TV network, then called FBC. The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers caused a falling out with Carson, and didn't end up becoming a success, though I believe I saw nearly every episode. And she had a bit of a last laugh by having had better ratings than any of the shows that replaced her.

During that program, Rivers had an "anyone can host"-type contest, with video submissions. I helped my Mom, along with my brother, to put together an entry. Though Mom didn't win, she did get a nice letter from Joan that mentioned specific parts of the video, which was nice. If I ever get that VHS tape converted to digital, I may share it in this space.

So, my biggest memories of Joan Rivers are from that FOX/Tonight Show/Heidi Abromowitz era, before her later reinvention as a daytime host, QVC jewelry seller, red carpet fashion reviewer. But I was impressed with her staying power. And it feels very odd to be writing about her demise. RIP, Joanie. I'm not a believer in afterworlds, but if I'm wrong, I hope you're with Edgar and Spike!


Comedian Joan Rivers dead at 81
Joan Rivers, the raucous, acid-tongued comedian who crashed the male-dominated realm of late-night talk shows and turned Hollywood red carpets into danger zones for badly dressed celebrities, died Thursday. She was 81. Rivers was hospitalized last week after she went into cardiac arrest at a Manhattan doctor's office following a routine procedure. Daughter Melissa Rivers said she died at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, surrounded by family and close friends. . .

Read more at: AOL

And now, from the first episode of The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, a must-see with Elton John and surprise guest Cher.


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