We were “farklempt” when we learned of the untimely passing of Joan Rivers.
Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky on June 8, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants, Joan attended Brooklyn Ethical Culture School and the Adelphi Academy. She later went to Connecticut College for two years, then transferred to Barnard College where she graduated with a BA in literature and anthropology and was a member of Phi Betta Kappa.
Before entering show business she worked at a variety of jobs including tour guide, writer/proofreader and fashion consultant.
Her agent, Tony Rivers, advised her to choose a stage name, so she picked Joan RIvers.
She began her career by appearing in a short run play and performing stand up comedy in various comedy clubs in Greenwich Village in New York City. She did stints in the Catskills. Her breakthrough came in 1961 at The Second City In Chicago where she perfected her comedic style.
Her first TV appearance was as a guest on the “Tonight Show,” hosted by Jack Parr, who agreed to have her appear at the suggestion of Bill Cosby. Parr liked her style and she appeared eight more times on his show.
For a while, she was a gag writer and participant on “Candid Camera.” She continued to appear on the Tonight Show with its new host, Johnny Carson, who became her mentor. She began appearing on various TV comedy and variety shows including “The Ed Sullivan Show”, “Carol Burnett Show” and “Hollywood Squares.” She also worked as the opening act in Las Vegas for such singers as Helen Reddy and Robert Goulet. She released comedy albums, hosted a daytime talk show and wrote and directed movies.
By 1983 she was the regular guest host on the “Tonight Show.” In 1984 she published a best selling humor book, The Life and Times of Heidi Abramowitz.”
In 1986 Fox offered Joan the opportunity to host a late night talk show, which would make her the first female to host such a show on a major network. This show was to air on the same time slot as the “Tonight Show,” putting her in direct competition with Johnny Carson. She accepted. Carson was furious, banned her from appearing on his “Tonight Show” and never spoke to her again.
This “Late Show Starring Joan Rivers,” led to tragedy. Fox decided to fire her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, as the show’s producer. When she challenged that decision, Fox fired both of them. Three months later, after she and Edgar separated, her husband committed suicide. Joan blamed it on his “humiliation: by Fox.
She continued to appear on various TV shows and hosted another daytime talk show, The Joan Rivers Show.” It ran for five years (1989-1993) and resulted in Joan winning a Daytime Emmy in 1990 for Outstanding Talk Show host.
In 1994 she co wrote and starred in a play about Lenny Bruce’s mother, Sally Marr. It ran for 50 performances and Joan was nominated for both a Drama Desk Award and a Tony for her acting.
In 1997 she hosted her own radio show on WOR in New York City.
She continued to appear on various TV shows. She was the winner in Celebrity Apprentice, and was hired by Trump to be the 2009 Celebrity Apprentice. She and her daughter Melissa starred in a reality series on WE tv called, “Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best?”and beginning in 2010 she co-hosted the E! show,”Fashion Police,” commenting on celebrity fashion. She wrote another bestseller, “I Hate Everyone…Starting With Me.” In March 2013 she began a new online talk show on YouTube called “In Bed With Joan,” which she hosted from her bedroom.
Her tough talking brand of satirical humor was both praised and criticized as being too truthful and abrasive and sometimes insensitive. She poked fun at celebrities, and herself, including her many plastic surgeries.
During her 50 plus year career, she wrote 12 books, participated in 27 films, starred in or produced 5 theatrical productions and appeared numerous times on television as both a host and a guest.
She was very philanthropic and supported such causes as help for AIDS patients, suicide prevention, guide dogs for the blind, Jewish charities, etc. Joan was a member of Temple Emanuel a Reform synagogue in New York City. She was very pro Israel.
She was married twice, the first lasting but six months. Her second marriage to Edgar Rosenberg resulted in one child, Melissa, who was very close to her mother. Melissa has one son, Cooper.
On August 28, 2014, during a routine surgical procedure on her vocal cords, she stopped breathing. She was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where she was first put into a medically induced coma and then on life support. She died on September 4. The exact cause of her death is still being investigated.
Her funeral, on September 7, at Temple Emanuel was a private ceremony attended by many in the entertainment business.
We’ll miss you Joan.