Column: Can we talk?
Call me crazy but I think comedian Joan Rivers is a hoot. She may be brash, brassy and sometimes, downright vulgar, but I admire her. The stuff that would make another person give up and take to their bed just makes her stronger. More determined. Over and over, she reinvents herself and keeps going.
Rivers caught my attention when she first appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Her perfectly-timed self-deprecating shtick was laugh-out-loud funny. Carson told her she was going to be a star. I agreed. When Rivers got her own late night show on another network, Carson turned his back on her. I took her side. The nerve of that guy. Hadn't Rivers entertained his viewers again and again whenever he asked her to be a guest? And stepped in as substitute host when he took time off? Why be-grudge her success?
When I saw that a documentary about her, Joan Rivers, a Piece of Work, would be shown on television, I asked my husband to watch it with me. He rolled his eyes, slumped his shoulders, jammed his hands into his pants pockets and said half-heartedly, "If it will make you happy, sure."
Happy? I was over the top with glee. That night, just as we do with any other big television event -- the Oscars, Emmys or the season opener of a favorite show -- I put together a meal of our favorite foods. Mini quiches, smoked salmon, goat cheese and crackers. Some nice wine, too.
Until I watched the special, I thought I knew everything about the nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn. That her husband killed himself and left her wondering how to go on. That she orchestrated her daughter's over-the-top Dr. Zhivago-themed wedding that cost millions of dollars. And, of course, that Rivers has spent a lot of money on plastic surgery. (Hence, the play on words of the film's title.)
Rivers, who was edging towards her 75th birthday, agreed to be the subject of the no-holds barred documentary when one of the producers, the daughter of a friend, asked her. For over a year, starting in 2008, a film crew followed her around. At one point, in some tacky venue, she tells the audience she is back performing in the exact kind of dump in which she began her career. They laughed. In another scene, Rivers holds up a day planner with blank squares and says this is what fear looks like to her.
I won't give away any more of the film. But I will tell you: After watching it, my husband said he had no idea Rivers was such a go-getter and hard worker. He was amazed at the number of people who depend on her for their livelihood. That she pays for private school for the children of her staff. My hubby, a hard worker, himself, thanked me for asking him to watch it. See what you think. You may have to put your hands over your ears once in awhile because of Rivers' potty mouth (which explains the R-rating). Even so, I give it an A-plus.