If the irrepressible energy of a midsummer storm could be transformed into a person, it might resemble Joan Rivers—a tempestuous force of nature!
To describe Rivers’ career as a roller coaster would be an understatement. She has climbed the highest peaks, hosting her own syndicated talk show for Tribune Entertainment and a pre-show for the Academy Awards on E! since 1995. She’s also struggled with her share of lows: dealing with such personal turmoil as the cancellation of her Late Show in 1987 and the suicide of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, after he lost his job as a television producer for Fox Broadcasting Network.
The ageless Rivers (born Joan Alexandra Molinsky) has always used razor-sharp repartee as a way to combat life’s difficulties. Her story began in Brooklyn, where she grew up as the daughter of Russian immigrants. She began to show an interest in writing (and, simultaneously, in “retail”) while studying English at Barnard College. After graduating, she worked as a fashion coordinator for Bond Clothing Stores. (She married James Sanger, heir to the Bond Stores, in 1957. The marriage was annulled the following year.) She became a publicist for Lord & Taylor well before she ever dreamed of being known as the “Chief of Fashion Police” and a mouthpiece for Tinseltown fashion gone awry.
Rivers’ humble comedic beginnings weren’t exactly glamorous. She’d intended to be a “serious” actress, but instead was attracted to the raw spontaneity of stand-up comedy. In the late ’50s, she started performing in a few sleazy New York clubs and low-end cabarets, already showing a remarkable persistence in the face of adversity. The seedy dives she played for nearly a decade were a far cry from the bejeweled, red carpet venues she now inhabits!
A stint in 1965 on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was her ticket out of anonymity. She soon became one of America’s hottest comedians. In 1968, her first attempt at hosting a talk show (That Show With Joan Rivers) failed. Nevertheless, she continued her stand-up comedy acts, becoming a regular Las Vegas headliner, and even substituting for Carson. By the late ’80s, Rivers had her own talk show, and won a Daytime Emmy in 1990 for Best Host.
Joan and daughter Melissa have become a mother-daughter fashionista duo. Since 1995, they’ve hosted the pre-show for the Academy Awards and a post-show follow-up. Mother Rivers is infamous for her Best and Worst Dressed Lists and her off-the-cuff barbs—panning and praising movie stars as they confront the paparazzi on Awards night.
Rivers has also created an industry with her huge presence on QVC, touting her own line of skincare products and costume jewelry.
Joan sat down for a most entertaining heart to heart—no holds barred—chat with—of course—The Sheet!