“I knew I was funny and I knew it was powerful,” said Joan Rivers during an interview with AOL’s MAKERS site.
The world has lost yet another source of laughter as comic legend Joan Rivers has passed away a week after suffering cardiac arrest during a medical procedure on her vocal cords at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Surrounded by family and close friends, Rivers died at the age of 81.
Over the years, her fearless opinions struck fear in badly dressed celebs on Hollywood red carpets and her satirical style of humour was often criticised as being hurtful and offensive. Nonetheless, her gossipy culture has shown her dominance in the male-dominated industry of late night talk shows and she eventually became the pioneer of female stand-up comedy.
From her obsession with jewelry to her first film role, here are some of the things you may not have known about our beloved fashion police:
1. Well read and well educated
Believe it or not, Joan Rivers’ witty monologues or dialogues may have resulted from her classical education she has had early in her life. She was born Joan Alexandra Molinsky, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants who wanted her to prepare herself for marriage and entry into polite society. Educated in Brooklyn’s Ethical Culture School and Adelphi Academy, she founded the school newspaper after becoming a participant in the school drama and writing programmes.
In 1954, she graduated as a Phi Beta Kappa (the oldest honour society for the liberal arts and sciences with 283 active chapters in the US) Sorority key holder with degrees in English literature and anthropology from Barnard College. From there, she became an avid fan of Mary Poppins, The Secret Garden, and The Middle Moffat as European history was her favourite literary genre.
2. A magician’s assistant
Rivers briefly worked in the New York fashion industry as a shoe buyer for Lord & Taylor, a department store in New York City. She soon gave it up for a short-lived (6 weeks only) marriage to the boss’s son.
However, her first paying job was as a magician’s assistant for Kuda Bux, the man with the X-Ray eyes. She was “sawed” in half for the magician’s performance but the magician later fired her for making too many jokes during his show.
3. A former stand-up comedienne at a strip club
After discovering her comedic nature, she began her struggles as a stand-up comedienne in a strip club. She was billed as “Pepper January – Comedy with Spice” but the frustrated audience often booed her off the stage as she kept her clothes on while trying to be funny.
Fortunately, her career began to pick up when comedian Bill Cosby introduced her to Johnny Carson, the host for “The Tonight Show” in 1965. From a regular guest to a co-host, she established her signature comic style and often poked fun at the celebrities and even herself. However, Johnny Carson never spoke to her again when she launched a rival programme, “The Late Show”.
4. Author of 12 best-selling memoir and humour books
Joan Rivers may not have been everyone’s favourite, but she has never been the one to shy away from expressing herself. Her outspoken nature allowed her to provide comic material for TV (i.e: “Candid Camera”) and several autobiographies. Earlier in her life, she survived from bulimia and contemplated suicide but with the counselling and the support of her family, she wrote all of them down instead. Thus, she has published candid autobiographies, in which she talks about:
- “Bouncing Back: I’ve Survived Everything… and I Mean Everything… and You Can Too!”
- “Don’t Count the Candles: Just Keep the Fire Lit!”
- “Having a Baby Can Be a Scream”
- “The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abromowitz”
- “Enter Talking”
- “Still Talking”
- “From Mother to Daughter: Thoughts and Advice on Life, Love and Marriage”
- “Murder at the Academy Awards”
- “Men Are Stupid…And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman’s Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery”
- “I Hate Everyone…Starting with Me”
- “Diary of a Mad Diva”
5. Fabergé eggs collector
Her love for Fabergé is evident in her accessories that she even launched her QWC line of jewelry under brand name “The Joan Rivers Collection”.
Both Rivers and her daughter, Melissa Rivers, collected a fair amount of Fabergé items, including the Fabergé eggs and the Fabergé elephants. Before selling most of their Fabergé collection at the Sotheby’s sale in 2001, they held a Fabergé exhibition from Sept. 9, 2000, to Feb. 18, 2001, at the Wilmington Riverfront.
6. Her dream to be an actress
Rivers always wanted to be an actress when she was young. In 1959, she acted in the off-Broadway play “Driftwood” where Rivers played a groundbreaking role as a lesbian with the then unknown star, Barbara Steisand. Both actresses kissed each other for the short play as well.
In 1964, she appeared in “Once Upon a Coffee House” as part of a comedic musical trio, “Jim, Jake, and Joan”. The film only played in Miami, Florida before being shelved. Her journey to become an actress remained relatively unknown until she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a play in 1994 for her performance as Sally Marr in “Sally Marr…and Her Escorts”.
7. Introduced “the world’s first pregnant man”
Speaking of her first movie role, Joan Rivers made her directorial debut through “Rabbit Test”, a comedy film about the first pregnant man in the world. Produced by the late Edgar Rosenberg (Rivers’ husband), the film starred Billy Crystal as the pregnant man and the film’s title is a reference to the Friedman test. a medical procedure used for several decades in the 20th century to determine pregnancy. It was the first and only film directed by Joan Rivers, who made a cameo appearance as a comic nurse in the film.
Notable performers who made cameo appearances in the film are such as:
- Melissa Rivers
- Imogene Coca
- Richard Deacon
- Norman Fell
- Fannie Flagg
- Alice Ghostley
- Roosevelt Grier
- George Gobel
- Paul Lynde
- Roddy McDowall
- Sheree North
- Charles Pierce
- Tom Poston
- Charlotte Rae
- Jimmie Walker
- Michael Keaton
Despite her unapologetic manner, her fearless opinions pushed every boundary and paved a path for every other woman to express themselves. We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Joan Rivers.
May your soul rest in peace, Joan Rivers. You’ll be missed.