Tribute: Joan Rivers

Posted on September 4, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Joan Rivers has died at age 81. More abrasive than her trademark raspy voice, Rivers wanted to be an actress but became famous as a comedian, in an era when comedy was almost completely all-male.

She did act, appearing on Broadway in Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs. But mostly she did whatever anyone would pay her to do that would keep her in front of audiences, and that mostly included stand-up comedy, selling her jewelry line on television, and trashing celebrities and their red carpet fashion choices with the intense focus usually reserved for geopolitical battles. She was fierce. She was unstoppable. As she said, she had nothing to lose that had not already been taken from her. She had been fired. She had been bankrupt. Her husband committed suicide. If anyone had a reason to find solace by putting the punch into punchlines, it was Joan Rivers. She was tough on everyone, but tougher on herself.

She was a pioneer who opened doors for women in comedy. She wrote the movie “The Girl Most Likely.” She wrote books, including the memoir Enter Talking, the sequel Still Talking, and, released just two months ago, Diary of a Mad Diva.

Joan Rivers was the first and still-only woman to host a late-night talk show. She wrote and directed Rabbit Test, with Billy Crystal as the first pregnant man.

And she never, ever gave up. She was an icon of re-invention. I loved Nell Scovell’s tribute in Vanity Fair:

She was a warrior. She rose up fighting and she went down fighting. Either way, she kept fighting.

May her memory be a blessing.

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Actors Tribute

Upcoming Show Business Memoirs

Posted on July 8, 2014 at 8:00 am

oprah coverMashable has a very intriguing list of upcoming show business memoirs, by everyone from Oprah Winfrey (What I Know For Sure) to rapper Ja Rule (Unruly: The Highs and Lows of Becoming a Man). I’m particularly looking forward to Yes Please, by Amy Poehler (more a series of essays than a memoir), and Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir, by Alan Cumming of “The Good Wife” and Broadway’s “Cabaret.” I’m not a fan of “Girls,” but I respect Lena Dunham and would like to read her upcoming Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”. I think I’ll skip Joan Rivers’ Diary of a Mad Diva, though. I read and enjoyed her earlier memoir, but even before last week’s distasteful controversy, it seems to me she had become more sad than funny.

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