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Joan Rivers, a Comic Stiletto Quick to Skewer, Is Dead at 81
By SP_COP on September 04, 2014 | From
Joan Rivers, a Comic Stiletto Quick to Skewer, Is Dead at 81 Joan Rivers, the raspy loudmouth who pounced on America’s obsessions with flab, face-lifts, body hair and other blemishes of neurotic life, including her own, in five decades of caustic comedy that propelled her from nightclubs to television to international stardom, died on Thursday in Manhattan. She was 81.

Her daughter, Melissa Rivers, confirmed her death. A spokeswoman, Judy Katz, said the cause had not yet been determined.

Ms. Rivers died at Mount Sinai Hospital, where she had been taken last Thursday from an outpatient surgery clinic after going into cardiac arrest and losing consciousness, the authorities said. The State Health Department is investigating the circumstances that led to her death, a state official said Thursday.

Ms. Rivers had been in the clinic for a minor procedure on her vocal cords, according to a spokesman. Her daughter said Tuesday that her mother was on life support and Wednesday that she was out of intensive care.

Ms. Rivers was one of America’s first successful female stand-up comics in an aggressive tradition that had been almost exclusively the province of men, from Don Rickles to Lenny Bruce. She was a role model and an inspiration for tough-talking comedians like Roseanne Barr, Sarah Silverman and countless others.

Vivacious even as a nipped-and-tucked octogenarian, flitting from coast to coast and stage to studio in a whirl of live and taped shows, publicity stunts and cosmetic surgery visits, Ms. Rivers evolved from a sassy, self-deprecating performer early in her career into a coarser assassin, slashing at celebrities and others with a rapier wit that some critics called comic genius in the bloodletting vein of Mr. Bruce. Others called it downright vicious. But if she turned off the scowlers, she left millions in stitches.

“Can we talk?” she demanded in her signature call to gossip and skewer — the brassy Jewish-American princess from Flatbush, Brooklyn, and Larchmont, in Westchester County, leveling with the world.

She would take the stage in a demure black sheath and ladylike pearls, a tiny bouffant blonde with a genteel air of sorority decorum. Then she’d stick her finger down her throat and regurgitate the dirt on the rich and famous, the stream-of-consciousness take on national heroes and sacrosanct cultural idols.

On Nancy Reagan’s hairdo: “Bulletproof. If they ever combed it, they’d find Jimmy Hoffa.”

On Charlton Heston: “He told us, ‘I got Alzheimer’s.’ Surprise! He’s been wearing his wig sideways for 19 years.”

On Donatella Versace: “That skin! She looks like something you’d hang off your door in Africa.”

On Sandra Bullock’s Bottega Veneta gown at the Golden Globes: “It looked like Prince’s old prom dress.” (And Tina Fey’s Zac Posen: “A decorative toilet seat cover.”)

On Queen Elizabeth II: “Gowns by Helen Keller.” “Nice looking. Not at all like her stamp. Wears her watch over the glove, though — tacky.”

On herself, desperate for a man: “My parents had a sign, ‘Last girl before thruway.’ I’d get an obscene phone call. I’d say, ‘Hold on a minute, let me get a cigarette.’ ”

Nothing was sacred.

Yes, her humor was sometimes caustic, but she herself was so self-deprecating that it never seem mean-spirited. I bet she's making jokes right now over all the coverage of her passing.

On her husband’s suicide: “After Edgar killed himself, I went out to dinner with Melissa. I looked at the menu and said, ‘If Daddy were here to see these prices, he’d kill himself all over again.’ ”

Even the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center were not off limits. “A few days after 9/11,” Jonathan Van Meter recalled in a 2010 New York magazine article, “she called and asked me if I wanted to meet her for lunch at Windows on the Ground.”

Mr. Van Meter wrote: “She pushes as far as she can as soon as she can. It’s compulsive.”

Shocked? Offended?

“Oh, grow up!” she advised....
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