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Entertainment News: Comic Legend Joan Rivers Dies at 81

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NEW YORK CITY – There are legends, and then there is Joan Rivers. The comedian and show business survivor had a life journey as an influential star from the 1960s all the way to the end of her life. Joan Rivers died on September 4th, 2014, in New York City after suffering respiratory failure last weekend.

Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers, Forever Young
Photo credit: E! Entertainment Network

Joan Alexandra Molinsky was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Barnard College. As she developed her comic act, her agent at the time – Tony Rivers – suggested a name change, so Joan took his last name as hers. She was fired by Rivers as a result. Her training in comedy included a seven-month stint at The Second City in Chicago, but she got her feet wet in the comedy clubs in New York City in the 1960s, which included fellow comedy performers like George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen. She moved into television with “Candid Camera” and made her first appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in 1965.

As the 1960s and ‘70s progressed, Rivers appeared on variety shows like ‘The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Carol Burnett Show,” and became the favorite guest host of Johnny Carson when he vacationed from “The Tonight Show.” She dabbled in films, supporting Burt Lancaster in the classic “The Swimmer” (1968) and directed one film, the experimental “Rabbit Test,” starring Billy Crystal.

It was the Carson connection, and her continuing stand-up career, that launched her into national prominence. The fledging FOX TV Network lured her away from guest hosting to launching her own talk show, “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers” in 1986. The relationship between Joan Rivers and Johnny Carson was never the same again, as Carson thought he had been slighted in the move. Rivers did not appear on “The Tonight Show” again until March of 2014. Her short-lived talk show only lasted a year, as Rivers’ husband Edgar Rosenberg caused tension as executive producer, and the network fired them both. Rosenberg committed suicide three months after the firing, and Rivers always blamed the FOX Network humiliation.

Joan Rivers
A Joan Rivers Comedy Album, 1983
Photo credit: Geffen Records

Joan Rivers was all about re-invention, and after the FOX debacle, she had a successful daytime talk show in the 1990s, and began to do red carpets interviews in 1994 for the E! Entertainment Network. That relationship lasted until the end of her life, as she also starred in “Fashion Police” for the network, and made memorable appearances over the years on “Celebrity Apprentice,” the WE-TV reality show “Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best” and on the Louis C.K. show “Louie.”

Rivers was married twice, and birthed her one daughter and show business partner Melissa Rivers in 1968. Joan Rivers died after complications following throat surgery on August 28th, 2014. She never recovered after she stopped breathing during the procedure, and passed away on September 4th. She is survived by Melissa Rivers and one grandson, Cooper Endicott.

On the next page is a 2010 interview conducted with Joan Rivers by Patrick McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com, and published here for the first time. In this extensive career overview, she talks about everything, in the brassy and profane way that was her trademark. The spirit of Lenny Bruce had better watch out. Click page two for Joan Rivers, in her own words.

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