Remembering Joan Rivers: Memorial services at Temple Emanu-El

Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers

WASHINGTON, September 5, 2014 — Joan Rivers was not done. And we were not done with her.  There is still shock to express and tears to cry.  Even if you did not know her, because her life was not done.

Her datebook was full.

And now family and friends, and millions of fans will stop to cry a little, laugh a lot, and say goodbye to a woman who was a pioneer for generations of women who came after her. And not just comedians like Roseanne Barr, Sarah Silverman, Kathy Griffin, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, but also women who, struggling with the loss of a spouse and raising a child, realized that she could go on, and so could they.

Those considering suicide might know that Joan once considered suicide, but her dog Spike sat on the gun resting in her lap. She credited that dog with saving her life.

“I tell people this is a horrible, awful dark moment, but it will change and you must know it’s going to change and you push forward. I look back and think, ‘Life is great, life goes on. It changes.'”

She ended up one of the lucky ones. She lived the celebrity high life of limousines and glamour. But she earned it. On her own. Because she was funny. And she told the truth. She made fun of anyone, anytime, including herself, and that was when she was most brilliant. Because we laughed with her and at ourselves. And we all survived.

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I can’t help but wonder what she would have said about Angelina Jolie’s wedding.

Along the way, she stopped often and reached her hand back to those who were struggling, and she helped.

The comedian supported the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Habitat For Humanity, and many more. But she donated her heart to God’s Love We Deliver. She was on the board of directors of the organization, which brings hot meals to those in need, for 20 years.

In a statement, the group mourned her passing and announced a special tribute:

Even after Joan started filming her many TV shows, she always came back to God’s Love when she was in New York to support our volunteers, our clients and our mission. This past year was a very busy one for Joan; yet, she came to SoHo for our groundbreaking ceremony in October, she volunteered with us on Thanksgiving and Winter Feast, and she came to our Brooklyn location to celebrate the delivery of our 15 millionth meal. Joan never skipped a beat, and it always felt like coming back to God’s Love was a little like coming home for Joan.

In honor and commemoration of our dear friend, we are naming the bakery in our expanded building in Soho The Joan Rivers Bakery.

Joan brought love, compassion and humor to every delivery she made and every event she supported. Joan’s impact on God’s Love will be felt always by our clients, volunteers, staff and community. Rest in peace, Joan. You will forever be in our hearts.


READ ALSO: Joan Rivers: When I die I want Meryl Streep crying in five different accents

Bill Cosby suggested that Johnny Carson put Joan on his show when the previously scheduled comic dropped out at the last second. After hearing her, Johnny said, “You’re going to be a big star.” And in comedy circles, that was as close to a nod from God as a comic could get.

The 2012 documentary, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” is considered the essential biography of Rivers.

Her last appearance on The Tonight Show was in 1986, when she appeared to promote her book “Enter Talking,” which she dedicated to her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, and Johnny Carson.

Shortly thereafter, Joan — who guest-hosted for Carson 72 times — was offered a late-night show at Fox, opposite The Tonight Show. She did not tell Johnny first, and feeling betrayed, he never spoke to her again. He banned her from his, and eventually Jay Leno’s show.

What happened no one knows for sure. Joan could not say anything because of her contract with Barry Diller at Fox demanded complete secrecy. Joan took the show because though Johnny loved her, NBC refused to give her a contract, or even put her on the list.

In the Hollywood Reporter, Joan described the fall out saying:

I was brought up seven times to the Carson show — interviewed and auditioned seven times by seven different people, and they rejected me, each time, over a period of three years. Then Bill Cosby was filling in, and the comedian that night bombed. Bill said to the booking producer, Shelly Schultz: ‘Joan Rivers couldn’t be any worse than this guy. Why don’t you use her?’

And that’s when they put me on the show. But they didn’t bring me on as a stand-up comic. They brought me on as a funny girl writer. I’m the only stand-up that never did a stand-up routine on the Carson show.

I adored Johnny. In the ’70s, I did opening monologues, I was hosting. The turning point was when I left the show. Everybody left the show to go to do their own shows. Bill Cosby. David Brenner. George Carlin. Everybody. I stuck around for 18 years. And they finally offered me my own late-night show.

The first person I called was Johnny, and he hung up on me — and never, ever spoke to me again. And then denied that I called him. I couldn’t figure it out. I would see him in a restaurant and go over and say hello. He wouldn’t talk to me.

I kept saying, “I don’t understand, why is he mad?” He was not angry at anybody else. I think he really felt because I was a woman that I just was his. That I wouldn’t leave him. I know this sounds very warped. But I don’t understand otherwise what was going on. For years, I thought that maybe he liked me better than the others. But I think it was a question of, ‘I found you, and you’re my property.’

He didn’t like that as a woman, I went up against him.

READ ALSO: Joan Rivers: Proud, unapologetic Hollywood Jew

Jimmy Fallon invited her to his inaugural show when he took over The Tonight Show desk earlier this year. And the she came back for a guest spot, appearing with Russell Crow. And she nailed it.

The funnyman teared up when he eulogized Joan on his show.

She said “There is always an adjective before my name, and its never a nice one.”  That will not be the case on Sunday friends will gather at New Yorks Temple Emanu-El to share stories and bid John Rivers goodbye.  She will then be flown to Los Angeles for internment.

The autopsy performed on Rivers is, at this time inconclusive.  The New York State Health Department has opened a “full investigation” in to the Yorkville Endoscopy Center where Rivers underwent what should have been an easy procedure, but that ended with Rivers not breathing and rushed to Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Tonight on CNN there will be a Spotlight on the Life of Joan Rivers. 10:00pm EST.

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