The scruffy man approached me on a Manhattan street with a fan of tickets in his hand. “Would you like to see a free show?” he asked.
It was 1989 and when men in the Times Square section of NY asked you that kind of question they invariably meant something tawdry.
“It’s Joan Rivers,” he said.
Well, that was different! I grabbed two tickets and called my then fiancee. “Can you sneak out of work?”
I could hear his shock over the phone. My prim and proper hubby-to-be worked 60 hours a week and never snuck out of anything.
“We get to see Joan River’s brand new TV show being filmed!”
Twenty minutes later we were online at a theater in midtown. You see, we loved Joan. She was fresh, and bratty, and downright funny. We looked for Joan’s guest spots on Carson, because she made Johnny look insipid by comparison. He was California, urbane, smooth, a martini at the 19th hole kind of guy. She was city, New York City. Ethnic, glamorous, sometimes classless, but warm and welcoming. You always had a feeling you could talk to her.
And talk we did.
She warmed up the audience by asking if we had questions. I asked how Melissa was — inordinately proud she was going to my alma mater. Later, I said, I couldn’t see because of all the equipment in the way.
“Would you like me to move the cameras for you?” she said deadpan. And we chuckled together at the idea.
Joan was approachable. She wounded with quick jabs of wit, but smiled so sweetly afterwards, you just had to forgive. She was everyone’s mother — and everyone’s friend, even if you only saw her on TV.
The reality show with Melissa and Joan living together was clearly, at times, a bit less than real. I couldn’t believe Joan really went in search of pot or lived in that small basement bedroom. But the love, frustration, and worry Melissa and Joan exhibited for each other, showed us how great their relationship must be.
The road for Melissa is going to be hard. I know, I also lost a mother who was my best friend. Sweetie, we’re sending out a whole lot of love to you. Life will never be the same, but your mom taught millions of women, including me, to be strong just by her example.Taught us to not give up on our dreams, not fall down when people laugh at us instead of with us, to get up when life deals you lower than low blows, and that an artist can keep trying and inventing, and moving with the times, up until their last breath.
Being her daughter must now make you the strongest woman on earth.
In fact, that’s the word, I’d use to sum up Joan more than anything else. And wherever she is now, I know she’s talking, and laughing, and still showering this planet with her special brand of love.
Categories: Today on Top Secret Washington
I love that you paid tribute to Joan–and that you got to see her in person. What a life she lived. Did you know she co-wrote mysteries? I loved them! I think I wrote to her once to tell her how much I enjoyed them. Reading your blog brought back that memory. Joan’s family has been in my prayers.
I did not know that, Susan. What a talent. Thanks for sharing.
You’ve said everything on my mind and heart, with far more eloquence than I could have mustered. Joan was the dear friend we always wanted to dish with; she grabbed our hearts with ‘Can we talk?’ and continually brightened our lives.
She will be missed. Thank you for that beautiful tribute, Diana.
So glad to be able to share my feelings with friends here online.
Lovely tribute, Diana. You’re lucky you got to see/meet her in person.
Thanks, Naomi. I am heartbroken that she died because of medical error — someone not following procedure. It is so sad. My heart goes out to Melissa.