Week in review: 9/1 - 9/5
"Would there be a Sandra Bernhard or a Roseanne or a Rosie O'Donnell or a Kathy Griffin or a Sarah Silverman, without Joan Rivers?" asks Jonathan Van Meter in his 2010 profile of the groundbreaking comedienne, which New York magazine re-posted after Rivers passed away on Thursday. The performer, talk-show host, comic, author, reality star, fashion pundit, fashion and jewelry designer, Grammy nominee, and Emmy winner stopped breathing while undergoing throat surgery, and was briefly placed in a medically induced coma and on life support. She was 81.
Rivers was born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in 1933. Her mainstream break came courtesy of a guest appearance on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson, a program from which she was later banned for having launched her own late-night show on rival network Fox. Though this series, "The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers," was short-lived, Rivers would later win an Emmy for her talk show "The Joan Rivers Show" in 1990. It was an honor she received three years after personal tragedy struck: Her husband of 23 years, Edgar Rosenberg, committed suicide in 1987. The couple had one child, Melissa, who would become her mother's frequent counterpart on such shows as E!'s "Fashion Police," WE tv's "Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best," and, most famously, during E!'s pre-awards-show coverage, during which mother and daughter would interview celebs on the red carpet.
Rivers' lengthy list of accomplishments also includes 12 books; an album (What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most?, for which she won a Grammy); a fashion and jewelry line that remains a top-seller on QVC; appearances on numerous TV shows, including cult favorite "Nip/Tuck," "Saturday Night Live," "The Carol Burnett Show," "The Ed Sullivan Show," and "The Celebrity Apprentice" (a reality competition show, which she won); starring as the subject of the documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work; and directing what would be her first and only film, 1978's The Rabbit Test, starring Billy Crystal in his feature-film debut as, naturally, a pregnant man.
Though often maligned for her brash style and provocative barbs, not to mention mocked (by herself as much as by others) for her numerous plastic surgeries, Rivers is nothing short of an icon. In the same New York profile, the inimitable comic offers an insight into her style. “ 'When I am onstage, I am every woman’s outrage about where they put us,' ” she says to me one day. “ 'We have no control. And that’s why I am screaming onstage. We have no control! I am furious about everything. All that anger and madness comes out onstage.' ” (One is left to imagine which choice words Rivers would have chosen to share regarding this week's hacking scandal, in which nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton leaked online. Her brand of anger and madness would be welcome, and will be missed.)
Joan Rivers is survived by her daughter Melissa and her grandson Cooper.