Following parts in minor plays and a nine-month stint with Chicago's renowned Second City, American comedian, talk show host, businesswoman and celebrity Joan Rivers, nicknamed “Queen of the Barbed One-liners,” first achieved success with her appearance in “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson” in 1966 and later gained more attention when she was named the permanent guest host of the show in 1983. From there, she hosted “That Show Starring Joan Rivers” (1968), “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers” (1986), “Gossip! Gossip! Gossip!” (1992) and “Can We Shop?” (1994). However, known for her cheeky manner and loud, gruff voice with a heavy metropolitan New York City accent, Rivers is probably best remembered as the host of the syndicated daytime talk show “The Joan Rivers Show” (1989-1993), from which she picked up a Daytime Emmy Award in 1990. She also made a name for herself as co-host of live pre-award shows for E! Entertainment TV (1995-2004) and TV Guide Channel (2004-2007). Rivers, who debuted on the big screen with 1968's “The Swimmer,” also has appeared sporadically on-screen since 1968. In 1997, she made several performances on the popular soap opera “Another World” (1997), playing Meredith Dunston. The 1975 recipient of the George Award for Best Comedienne also has recorded albums, written books and performed in a number of stand-ups performances. Rivers was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989.
“Because I'm the only performer who comes out and says I've had plastic surgery, I've become the plastic surgery poster girl, which is hilarious because everybody has done it and they all deny it. They stand there, like the Bride of Frankenstein, they’ve all got stitches and they all say, ‘I’ve done nothing.’ I talk about it.” Joan Rivers
As for her personal life, Rivers is an avid collector of jewelry and has her own line of jewelry under the brand name “The Joan Rivers Collection.” To sell the items, she appears regularly on television's QVC and has become one of that network's bestselling lines. Rivers is the national spokesperson for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and is a board member of God's Love We Deliver.
On a more private note, Rivers is the mother of Melissa Rivers, a reality programming host, who was fathered by TV producer Edgar Rosenberg (married from 1965 to his death in 1987). Rivers was previously married to James Sanger (together from 1957-1958). As of 2006, Rivers is dating millionaire Orin Lehman.
Childhood and Family:
“My mother and father thought I'd be a doctor or lawyer, but it was my sister, Barbara, who became the lawyer. Barbara was my only sibling and I owe a lot to her. I get my drive from being the second child and a fat child. In my school class picture, I was the entire first row. My sister was smarter and better than I was in every way.” Joan Rivers
In Brooklyn, New York, Joan Alexandra Molinsky, later famous as Joan Rivers, was born on June 8, 1933, to Jewish-American parents Meyer C Molinsky and Beatrice. She grew up in Westchester County, in New York, and has a sister named Barbara. Between 1950 and 1952, Joan attended the Connecticut College for Women in New London, Connecticut, and in 1954, received a BA in English and anthropology from Barnard College in New York, where she is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Joan had a short-lived marriage with James Sanger (1957-1958) before marrying British producer Edgar Rosenberg on July 15, 1965. The couple welcomed a daughter, Melissa Rivers, on January 20, 1968. Joan's husband passed away on August 14, 1987, after committing suicide. Joan has a seven-year-old grandson named Edgar Cooper Endicott from Melissa's 1998 marriage to horse breeder John Endicott.
The Joan Rivers Show
Joan Rivers worked in publicity for a New York department store in the 1950s before deciding to become a serious actress. After studying acting and performing in a few off-Broadway productions, she began doing comedy after an agent suggested it. Billing herself as “Pepper January, Comedy with Spice,” Rivers played seedy clubs and strip joints and then in the early 1960s, she landed a nine-month tenure with the famed Second City improvisational troupe in Chicago. The comedian returned to her homeland of New York City and found work in clubs like Max's Kansas City and The Bitter End in Greenwich Village, in which the only other female comic around was Lily Tomlin. Rivers also wrote for the TV show “Candid Camera” and for other women such as Phyllis Diller and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
“Finally, in 1965, I was promised a shot on 'The Tonight Show.' Six times I showed up and six times they said no. Finally, the seventh time, they said, 'You're on.' I had only a few minutes at the end of the show, but Johnny told me in front of the whole country that I was funny and that I was going to be a star.” Joan Rivers
In 1966, Rivers' career entered a new phase when she made her first of many appearances on the well-liked popular TV show “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.” The same year, she also appeared on another popular show called “The Ed Sullivan Show,” a gig she held until 1970. In 1968, Rivers eventually had the opportunity to headline her own talk show, “That Show Starring Joan Rivers,” although it was considered a failure. Her first screen role also arrived that same year and she portrayed Joan in “The Swimmer,” a drama starring Burt Lancaster. She also continued to perform in clubs and with the support of her husband, quickly emerged as a Las Vegas headliner.
The new decade saw Rivers frequently appear as a guest on various TV comedy and variety shows, including “The Carol Burnett Show,” “The Hollywood Squares” and “The Mike Douglas Show.” She starred in her first Broadway play, 1972's “Fun City,” where she also served as a playwright, co-penned the made-for-TV film “The Girl Most Likely To...” (1973), wrote, directed and appeared in the flop feature “Rabbit Test” (1977), which starred Billy Crystal as a man who gives birth, and was credited as co-creator of the CBS TV series “Husbands, Wives and Lovers” (1978). She lent her writing talent to a nationally syndicated newspaper column distributed by the Chicago Tribune (1973 -1976) and released a successful album of her live stand-up act titled “Can We Talk?” Throughout it all, Rivers stayed in the limelight with her guest host gig on “The Tonight Show” and by 1983, she had been appointed the permanent guest host for Carson on that show.
In 1986, Rivers starred in “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers” on the Fox Television Network. Unfortunately for her, the show only lasted for a year. When it first aired, Rivers was still on “The Tonight Show.” Carson was so upset by her decision to quit without discussing it with him that Rivers was banned from his show. They never reconciled. On her falling-out with Johnny Carson, Rivers said, “I tried to contact Johnny to reconcile our friendship, a million times, but he just wasn't having it. When he passed away, I felt such a crushing blow that things were still unresolved. Johnny was a dear friend. I wish things would've ended different. This just was not worth it.”
A tragedy struck shortly after the demise of her series. Her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, was found dead after committing suicide. Rivers wrote about her husband's death in two bestsellers published in the 1990s, “Enter Talking” and “Still Talking.” Rivers revisited TV with success in 1989 when she hosted the syndicated daytime talk show “The Joan Rivers Show,” which ran for four year until 1993. For her brilliant effort, Rivers was handed a 1990 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk/Service Show Host.
In 1992, Rivers launched a USA Network weekly series, “Gossip! Gossip! Gossip!” and after the cancellation of her two shows, ventured to a different format with “Can We Shop?” (1994), a flop syndicated semi-version of home shopping. The same year, she starred with daughter Melissa in the NBC television film “Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story” (1994). The film was well-received by audiences.
The following year, Rivers and her daughter began hosting on pre-award show programs for the E! Entertainment TV. Rivers became known to soap fans two years later, in 1997, as Meredith Dunston on several episodes of the NBC series “Another World.” From 1998 to 1999, she played the recurring role of Edie on the popular sitcom “Suddenly Susan,” starring Brooke Shields. She closed out the decade by supporting Jennifer Tilly and Danielle Harris in the independent film “Goosed” (1999).
In 2004, Rivers and her daughter left E! to do the same red carpet duties for TV Guide Network, a gig she kept until Lisa Rinna later replaced her in 2007. Still in 2004, Rivers lent her voice for the animated feature sequel “Shrek 2” and guest starred as herself on the season finale of F/X's series “Nip/Tuck.” More recently, in 2007, she acted in the comedy film “Making Trouble.”
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Talk/Service Show Host, “The Joan Rivers Show,” 1990
Hasty Pudding Theatricals: Woman of the Year, 1984
Golden Apple: Sour Apple, 1983