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Taking a business call in the bathtub??

Joan Rivers Life Lessons…

I wish I had a twin, so I could know what I’d look like without plastic surgery

Joan Rivers? humour was not for the faint of heart, or the thin-skinned. The sometimes ruthless comedienne,?took no prisoners when it came to put-down comedy; even a breezy stroll down the red carpet had the potential to become a roast when she was around. She was as hard working a performer as Hollywood has seen, and her success — at least in her view — never matched her ambitions. She didn?t necessarily struggle for money, but she needed to work constantly in order to maintain a lavish lifestyle, which included a palace-like apartment in Manhattan.

?I live very well,? she said in the 2010 documentary ?Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.? ?I enjoy my creature comforts, and I know I have to work for it.?

?Nothing has ever come easily for me,? Rivers once?said ?My whole career has just been hard, hurting, little steps. ?

I don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.

– Joan Rivers

?Can we talk?? In the minds of millions of Americans, this common phrase conjures up the image of Joan Rivers, the woman who realized in the mid-1960s that ?the country was ready for something new?a woman comedian talking about life from a woman?s point of view?

In revues, nightclub acts, and concert halls (in the early 1960s), and to a vast new audience via television in the 1970s and 1980s, Rivers popularized and perfected a genre of comedy that challenged reigning social conventions. Her willingness to ?say what is really on everyone?s mind? was coupled with an ing?nue quality. This made her a less-than-threatening figure and enabled her to popularize the type of monologue that had previously been the domain of male comedians: Their acts combined social criticism with sharp wit, and Rivers was soon to join them.

Joan Rivers was obsessed with death. When Melissa was young, she?d eat breakfast with her parents in the mornings. Her father would read every section of the newspaper. Her mother read only one part?the obituaries?and then she and her daughter would play the Joan Rivers version of ?if you eat your vegetables, I?ll put a piece of candy in your lunchbox.? In their case, Joan would read part of an obituary, and Melissa would have to guess facts about the deceased. For every fact she got right, Melissa would get a Kit Kat or a gummy bear.

I don?t think you can do that with phones these days!?

Classic Mom ??flipping the bird on Watch What Happens Live (with her good friend Andy Cohen)? Photo: Melissa Rivers

Born in Brooklyn, New York, as Joan Alexandra Molinsky on June 8, 1933, Rivers was the youngest daughter of Beatrice (Grushman) and Meyer Molinsky, a doctor. Both of her parents were Russian Jewish immigrants from the Odessa area. Despite the geographical proximity of their origins, Rivers?s parents came from vastly different socioeconomic circumstances. Meyer Molinsky?s family had been poverty-stricken in Russia, and they remained poor in their early years in America. Molinsky?s entry into the medical profession propelled the family into the emergent Jewish middle class of Brooklyn.

Beatrice Molinsky?s family had been very wealthy merchants in Odessa but left everything behind in the Old Country. That loss of status forever haunted Beatrice Molinsky, and she continually pushed her husband?a struggling general practitioner in the heavily Jewish Brownsville section of Brooklyn?to earn more money. The conflict between her parents (?My mother wanted M.D. to stand for Make Dollars?) was the inspiration for many of Rivers?s early routines. The constant arguments in the family about money left her with a permanent sense of insecurity that she mined for its comedic value. The epilogue to?Enter Talking?concludes in this way: ?She lives the life her mother longed to have?but still believes that next week everything will disappear.?

From earliest childhood, Rivers wanted to be an actor. Her mother wanted her youngest daughter to prepare herself for marriage and entry into polite society. The tension between these aspirations deeply influenced the young woman?s life and craft. Educated in Brooklyn?s Ethical Culture School and Adelphi Academy, Rivers was an enthusiastic participant in the school drama and writing programs. At Adelphi, she founded the school newspaper. At Connecticut College and later at Barnard, she read widely in the classics and took courses in the history of the theater. Though she was later to project a scatterbrain image, the key to her craft lies in her classical education and her ability to turn out witty monologues and dialogues. In 1954, Rivers graduated from Barnard College with a degree in English literature and was awarded membership in Phi Beta Kappa. After college, she took an entry-level job at a firm in the New York fashion industry. She soon gave it up for a short-lived (and disastrous) marriage to the boss?s son.

Rivers married James Sanger, the son of a Bond Clothing Stores manager, in 1955. When she found out that he was not interested in having children, she got the marriage annulled in six months.

?Our marriage license turned out to be a learner?s permit?

Determined to succeed in the theatre, Rivers did temporary office work while auditioning for roles in Off- and Off-Off-Broadway plays. In 1960, she developed comedy routines that gained some attention and in 1961 got her first big break when she joined the Second City Comedy troupe of Chicago. Her improvisational and writing skills shone at Second City. Within a few years, she was a regular at New York City comedy clubs, foremost among them the Duplex and the Bitter End. In her act, she joked about sex in a way that was both shocking and endearing. Women comedians had not spoken with such frankness before. ?I knew nothing about sex. All my mother told me was that the man gets on top and the woman gets on the bottom. I bought bunk beds?. It was from these clubs that Rivers was catapulted to fame by her appearances on national television. Throughout the first decade of her career she continued to write, perform in clubs, and appear on television.

Joan serving up old Hollywood glamour at the Rita Hayworth Alzheimer?s Benefit.?

An inside view of Joan Rivers home

The rooms include a music room, salon and full ballroom

In?the mid-60s, Rivers was covering new terrain as an entertainer: giving voice to women?s experiences, bravely pushing the boundaries of taste, and drawing grudging respect from her fellow stand-up comics for pummeling her way into their largely male preserve. Even so, nightclub managers were quick to fire her after dicey performances. Audiences sometimes found her grating. And her parents continued to regard their coarse, strident daughter as a failure?childless, divorced, and unable to find steady work in a respectable profession.

After years of knocking on doors, Rivers was still getting regular snubs from club owners. Johnny Carson?s booker, Shelly Schultz, had seen her in a three-person comedy act?Jim, Jake and Joan?but after she auditioned for?The Tonight Show, he told her, ?We just don?t think you?d work on TV.? Rivers finally persuaded an agent named Roy Silver to come see her perform at The Duplex, a haunt in the West Village where Woody Allen, Bob Dylan, and Barbra Streisand had caught early breaks. Silver, impressed, called a friend at the William Morris Agency to ask why Rivers couldn?t get an agent. The answer: ?Because everyone has seen her. She?s been on the [Jack] Paar show twice, and there?s absolutely no interest in her anywhere.? At that point Rivers had been struggling to make it for nearly a decade, and that view was widely shared. After talent agent Irvin Arthur saw her perform at The Duplex, she pestered him to tell her what he thought until he finally said, ?What can I tell you? You?re too old. Everybody?s seen you. If you were going to make it, you would have done it by now.? Rivers was crushed, but as he turned to leave the club, Arthur added, ?Hey, I could be wrong. I told the same thing to Peter, Paul and Mary.?

To pay the bills, Rivers offered her services as a comedy writer. Getting hired by ABC?s?The Phyllis Diller Show?seemed like a coup. Then Diller dropped out of the show, which was cancelled. Rivers soon landed another gig, with Allen Funt?s?Candid Camera.

And then one day Roy Silver called to tell her that Shelly Schultz had agreed to put her on with Carson. After years of banging her head against a very hard wall?and after auditioning and being rejected by?The Tonight Show?seven or eight times?Rivers finally got the shot that turned her into an overnight success on February 17, 1965. For comedians then, and for decades to come,?The Tonight Show?was the Holy Grail. When Carson began his 30-year run as host, in 1962, the show quickly became a launching pad for aspiring talent as well as the template for a new kind of television programming. As the?USA Today obit put it when Carson died in 2005, ?He made stand-up comics? careers with a mere gesture, a ?nice stuff? compliment that spoke volumes, or an invitation to come sit and chat. Jerry Seinfeld, Roseanne Barr, David Letterman, and Carson?s successor, Jay Leno, among many others, vaulted to stardom by warming his couch.?

Home sold: 1 East 62nd Street, was relisted by Joan herself many times

Rivers had been working assiduously on her own routines and became a skillful crafter of comedic scripts for herself and others. Among her early writing credits are routines for the?Phyllis Diller Show,?episodes of?Candid Camera, and material for Johnny Carson?s?Tonight Show.?It was on the?Tonight Show,?in 1965, that Rivers got her big national break. Introduced as one of the writers for the show, she and Carson engaged in a hilariously funny dialogue. As Rivers remembered it, ?At the end of the show he was wiping his eyes. He said, right on the air, ?God you?re funny. You?re going to be a star??

By the next day, she was. ?Rivers Stay Near Our Door? was the headline in an effusive column by Jack O?Brian in the New York?Journal-American. ?Johnny Carson struck gleeful gold again last night with Joan Rivers, another comedy writer who was an absolute delight,? O?Brian wrote. ?Her seemingly offhand anecdotal clowning was a heady and bubbly proof of her lightly superb comic acting; she?s a gem.? And in a flash the endless struggle was finished. A lifetime of battling against the people who told her no, who said she couldn?t do it, who thought she wasn?t good enough or a has-been?all the rejections and hardships had been magically wiped away. ?Ten minutes on television, and it was all over,? Rivers said. That single appearance produced what she would term a ?miraculous, instantaneous career turnaround.? And her auspicious debut launched an enduring relationship with?The Tonight Show, which served, for many years, as the foundation for her burgeoning career.

Rivers invited Carson to join her when she appearing in a little club one night, where their easy banter proved that their comedic chemistry wasn?t confined to the television studio. He had been drinking, and he went up and they did a few bits onstage, and it was terrific, There was some sexual innuendo: she said, ?I?m using the coil now.? Johnny says, ?A coil?? She says, ?It?s the new birth-control device.? He says, ?Does it work?? She says, ?Yes, but every time Edgar and I have sex, the garage door opens.? That was the early Joan. It?s not the nasty Joan. She was almost happy.?

But if Carson was generous about his proteg??s growing success, other members of the boys? club failed to rejoice at her sudden ascent. They were hostile because they didn?t want competition. A chick like Joan Rivers comes on, gets on Johnny Carson, and explodes. These guys who?ve been banging around for 15 years are really pissed off. ?That ain?t funny! What?s funny about that?? It?s funny because it?s coming from a young woman, and she?s delivering it, but it?s a very hostile environment. Notwithstanding the jealous naysayers, Rivers was riding high in the late 1960s. She had finally gotten married, and she and her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, lived in an apartment on Fifth Avenue.

During her rise from stand-up comic to television personality, Rivers had married producer Edgar Rosenberg. He became her de facto manager, and together they embarked on a number of entertainment ventures, including the ill-fated?The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.?Their marriage, was inextricably linked to both of their careers. They had one child, Melissa Rosenberg, born January 20, 1968.

Rivers had a monthly slot on?The Tonight Show. She hired Rodney Dangerfield to write jokes for her. Edgar fancied himself a film producer, and she relished her status as the producer?s wife, meeting people like David Niven and Rudolf Nureyev and going to parties on Sam Spiegel?s yacht in Monaco. In return, Edgar drove her to gigs in the Catskills and hung out at the Stage Deli after her performances, sharing sandwiches at 4 A.M. with Dangerfield, Dick Cavett, George Carlin, Dom DeLuise, and Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara. Rivers played the casino circuit in Las Vegas, Reno, and Tahoe. She was on?Hollywood Squares. She performed on Fire Island and expanded her fan base to include many followers in the gay community.

Her only problem was that her new and improved life deprived her of the usual fount of material about frustration and disappointment. Domestic chores were a reliable source of shtick, but that wasn?t enough to sustain a career. ?My act is complaining about my life, and in those years I was content,? Rivers said. ?There was no humour in being happy and having a terrific husband.?

Much of Rivers? comedy, from the very first, had its root in sex: sexual relations, gender battles, and women squaring off against each other. Indeed, she had made her name as a sexually liberated single woman. During the early 60s, her stand-up routine often closed with the punch line: ?I?m Joan Rivers, and I put out!??a shocking claim at a time when the sexual revolution was just beginning to gather steam and hypocrisy remained the requisite posture for young women who were supposed to remain virgins until their wedding day.

Rivers usually made herself the butt of such jokes, but Edgar was occasionally relegated to the role of sucker. ?When the rabbi said, ?Do you take this man,? 14 guys said, ?She has,?? Rivers claimed. ?My husband bought the horseback-riding story, thank God.?

By 1983 she was named permanent guest host whenever Carson took a night off, which was often. This was when her?shtick?grew increasingly outrageous, and the public would tune in just to hear her generally tasteless yet usually hilarious attacks on the high and the mighty.

Rivers held nothing and nobody sacred, be it?the Queen of England?(?If you own England, Ireland, Scotland and Canada ? shave your legs!?),?Elizabeth Taylor?s increasingly expansive waistline (?She puts mayonnaise on aspirin?) or her own cosmetic surgical improvements (?I was the ugliest child ever born in Larchmont, New York. Oh, please! The doctor looked at me and slapped my mother?).

Nine months after Melissa was born, Joan Rivers and husband, Edgar Rosenberg, dressed up their baby in her finest clothes and had their nanny deliver her to Johnny Carson as a birthday gift. They attached a note that read: ?We wanted to thank you for everything you?ve done for us, so we?ve sent you our most prized possession, our daughter, Melissa. FYI, she doesn?t like Brussels sprouts; they make her windy.? Johnny cradled the infant for a while?and then returned her to her parents.

Tall order: It’s got 20-foot high ceilings

With the newfound popularity she went onto make guest appearances in many talk shows and released chart-topping comedy albums. In 1986, she became the first woman to host a late night network television show called ‘The Late Show with Joan Rivers’. The show’s timings clashed with the timings of Carson’s show which embittered her former mentor who never spoke to her again.

When Rivers learned she was not in the running to replace Carson when he planned to retire, she accepted a $3 million offer and a three-year contract from Rupert Murdoch?s then-fledgling Fox network to host her own late-night program, to run opposite the?Tonight Show.

Reportedly, when Rivers rang Carson to tell him the news, which he had already heard, he refused her call.

?I?m the only woman in the history of the world who left Johnny Carson and didn?t ask him for money,? Rivers quipped about the much-married TV star. As for her relationship with NBC, she remained banished from?Tonight?all through the?Jay Leno?era, until Jimmy Fallon?would?invite her back in March 2014, after an absence of 26 years.

The Fox show did not succeed, and its failure, as well as Rosenberg?s recent heart attack, plunged Rivers?s husband into a depression.

Her second husband, Edgar Rosenberg, father to daughter Melissa Rivers, was?found dead by suicide in a Philadelphia hotel room in 1987, shocking his family who never saw it coming.

Rosenberg was winding up four days of routine financial meetings in Philadelphia and had told his administrative assistant to confirm his return flight to Los Angeles. He had just finished reading Allan Bloom’s “The Closing of the American Mind” and was looking for another good book. He was trying to figure out when he could reschedule dinner with actor Vincent Price. And, as he always did whenever he went out of town, Edgar Rosenberg kept in close telephone contact with his wife.

“I spoke to him the day before,” comedienne Joan Rivers said, her voice filled with disbelief and anguish. “He said he had finished his business and was coming home.

“He was, indeed. On?final?business.”

No one had any warning when the 62-year-old producer swallowed a fatal overdose of Valium in Room 425 of the downtown Four Seasons Hotel. Hotel security officers found his body sprawled on the bedroom floor of his $450 suite the morning after they were alerted by business partner Thomas Pileggi, who became worried when Rosenberg didn’t answer the telephone. On the day he was to return to Los Angeles, Rosenberg was officially pronounced dead at 11:45 a.m.

In death, as he had been in life, Rosenberg put his family first, meticulous down to the last detail. So there would be no suspicion of foul play, no possibility of any misunderstanding, no chance of dying without saying goodbye, he recorded three cassette tapes–one for his wife, one for their 19-year-old daughter Melissa and one for Pileggi.

Rivers acknowledged in an interview with the Los Angeles Times days after his death that he had become increasingly depressed since having a massive heart attack three years prior, but nothing could have prepared her for losing him. At the time, Rivers? secretary noted that ?there was never a joke that was a put-down of Edgar? in any of Rivers? routines.

Still, once some time had passed, that tragedy too become fodder for jokes, proving that truly nothing was off-limits for the pioneering comedienne.

Rivers?s reaction was feisty and characteristic: ?The best therapy for me would have been to go right from the mortuary to the stage, but my advisers agreed it would have been unseemly.?

In May 1987 the First Lady of Comedy was fired from her job, and publicly humiliated. Her husband, Edgar ? unable to bear his own failure as her manager and producer?killed himself. Their daughter, Melissa, blamed her mother for his death.

Reeling with grief and rage, Rivers then discovered she was broke. She had earned millions of dollars and lived a life of baroque luxury, but her husband had squandered her wealth on bad investments. She was $37 million in debt, and her opportunities for making more money had vanished.

At the Bel-Air mansion where five telephone lines once buzzed relentlessly, the phone never rang. Nobody wanted to hire her as an entertainer. Suicide wasn?t funny, and her husband?s tragic death turned her into a professional pariah. Even her social life evaporated. No one invited her to anything. As her 55th birthday approached, she couldn?t see any reason to keep on living. It was hard enough for young women to succeed in show business, but for an aging has-been, the prospect of resurrecting a ruined career looked hopeless.

And then her Yorkshire terrier, Spike, jumped onto her lap and sat on the gun. Rivers knew her way around firearms; she often packed a pistol, and she felt no hesitation about using it. Maybe that was the answer now.

But suddenly a terrible thought occurred to her: if she killed herself, what would happen to Spike? The diminutive Yorkie was very cute, but he was also mean and cantankerous. He didn?t like anybody but his mistress, and he was ridiculously spoiled; his favorite food was a rare roast beef sandwich, no mayo or mustard. Her daughter referred to him as ?a tall rat.?

Without Joan, who would protect and pamper the tiny dog she loved so much?

?Nobody will take care of him!? Rivers realized, aghast. As she sat on her bed, staring down at the gun, no odds-maker would have bet on Rivers? future. But Rivers didn?t shoot herself, and she refused to give up and slink into oblivion. Written off as a lost cause, she started over, invented new opportunities for herself, and went on to achieve the impossible. Working with maniacal fervor through her 60s and 70s and into her 80s, Rivers recreated herself as a cultural icon, a vastly influential trailblazer, and a business powerhouse who built a billion-dollar company.

Joan Rivers and Johnny Carson, on The Tonight Show? a real turning point in her career.?

In time, mother and daughter patched up their relationship, and Rivers revived her career.

Seven years later, in 1994, Rivers dealt with this tragedy and its aftermath in her NBC movie?Tears and Laughter.?In this film, Rivers and her daughter Melissa play themselves and demonstrate, as the sunny conviction that the saga of their cruel lives will serve as a morality tale…. It also manages to convey a message about the capacity for survival. In that same year, Rivers wrote and produced a Broadway play,?Sally Marr and Her Escorts.?Based on the life of Lenny Bruce?s mother, it too deals with the cruel price that celebrity and talent exact from those blessed and cursed with its gifts.

They then began a prolific ? and profitable ? association with the E! cable network, where they rubbed shoulders with the stars and then, behinds their backs, dished the dirt on what they were wearing.

Quotable character: Joan said: “Everybody says a woman’s bedroom should look like a bordello”

On?stage, Rivers was candid about having had pre-marital sex, but it wasn?t until long after Edgar died that she admitted to having been unfaithful during her marriage?a revelation she shared with Howard Stern on his radio show. In a 2012 interview, Rivers confessed that she had several extramarital affairs while she was married to Edgar?including what she claimed was a one-night stand with Robert Mitchum after an appearance together on The Tonight Show?in the 60s, when she was a relatively new bride. Rivers also told Stern that she?d had an extended affair with actor Gabriel Dell during the out-of-town and Broadway productions of her play?Fun City, in 1971, and that, for several weeks, she ?left Edgar over? the affair, a report corroborated by others.

But there was at least one more bombshell still to come. In the final year of her life Rivers unexpectedly made one of her most incendiary assertions, that she had had sex with Johnny Carson in the 60s, a ?one-night bounce,? as she put it. No matter that Carson had been dead for a decade. Or that she and Carson had been estranged for more than a quarter century: he never spoke to her after she signed a deal to host a late-night talk show on FOX in a time slot that overlapped his, on NBC.

When Rivers initially appeared on?The Tonight Show, she was 31 and Carson was 39. Already married to his second wife, he was the father of three sons from his first marriage. But his personal life was chronically turbulent and lurid, at least by the standards of the era. When he died in 2005, Carson had been married four times and endured three acrimonious, expensive divorces, accompanied by reports of infidelity.

Even so, the Carson-Rivers?Tonight Show?appearances had always seemed chaste. With avuncular kindliness, he listened to her laments, responding with the sympathy of an older, wiser confidant. In return, she was always flattering, presenting herself as a surrogate daughter, lavishing him with praise and expressing appreciation for everything he had done for her.

And their rapport was apparently limited to these brief sessions of bantering for the benefit of their audiences. ?Our friendship existed entirely on-camera in front of America,? Rivers wrote afterward, ?and even then, during the commercial breaks, when the red light went off, we had nothing to say to each other.?

But a few months before Rivers died, reports of a long-lost Carson sex tape surfaced, and gossip Web sites buzzed with items suggesting that the late talk-show host was ?hung like a horse.? As Rivers headed into the L.A. Airport one night, she was accosted by a TMZ camera crew about the video and asked whether she?d like to see what was in it.

?I?ve seen it,? Rivers said airily. ?How do you think you got on the show??

Joans version of ?pillow talk’?

Joan Rivers attends the Elie Tahari presentation (Photo: Getty Images)

It?s hard to think of another 80-year-old woman who would generate a public sex scandal about herself and her long-deceased professional mentor. But her supposed revelation?which could have been meant as a joke, or as a jibe at the man who?d refused to talk to her for decades?generated a round of breathless headlines, including: ?Johnny Carson?s penis . . . I TOUCHED IT!?

If her claim was true, Carson would hardly be the only powerful man to have exercised that kind of?droit du seigneur. But their friends didn?t believe it. ?It never happened,? said Dorothy Melvin, Rivers? longtime manager. ?Joan would seize any chance, especially in her later years, to get publicity. Johnny was dead, and nobody would refute it. Joan wanted to be talked about, so she said outrageous things.?

Up until she passed away at age of 80 in 2014, Joan Rivers was always working, whether taping TV shows, interviews, and commercials; doing stand-up gigs; or producing her jewellery line. After a lengthy day filled with non-stop activity a couple of years ago, Joan retired to her bedroom in Melissa?s house. Melissa followed her and told her mom that she was quite frankly worried about her: Joan?s schedule was too strenuous and she needed to slow down. As Melissa spoke, Joan was lying?on her bed in her bathrobe, her eyes closed. Melissa, thinking her exhausted mother had dozed off, tapped her and said, ?Mom?? Joan said, ?Melissa, please! I?m practicing visualization techniques, and I?m seeing myself as the face of Depends.?

Rivers didn?t always revel in her status as a groundbreaker. ?In ?A Piece of Work,? she spoke about feeling resentful when younger female comics would gush over the paths she had paved for the next generation of comediennes. Rivers, who worked tirelessly and craved the spotlight until the very end, said that it felt like they were putting a premature expiration date on her.

?If one more comedian comes up and says to me, you opened the doors for me ? you want to say ?go f… ?yourself,?? she said. ?I?m still opening the doors.?

But now that door has closed.

Rivers had several cosmetic surgeries and was a patient of the famous plastic surgeon Steven Hoefflin. Following a minor surgery in August 2014, she had a cardiac arrest and was placed in a medically induced coma. Joan Rivers never woke up from the coma and passed away on September 4, 2014.

Joan Rivers, once said that when it came to her craft, ?Humour doesn?t come out of the good times, it comes out of the anger, pain and sorrow. Always the anger.?

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