by Leesa Dean
I’ve been working towards a deadline and it’s been nuts (pulling 12-15 hour days) so this week will be short. I was going to postpone but instead decided to write a few words about Joan Rivers, who, unless you’ve been living under a rock and didn’t hear, recently died.
I don’t think there’s a female comedian today who’s not indebted to her. And while I’m not a stand-up, I do write comedy and her influence and the kind of material she did had a huge impact on me. The political incorrectness. The great snappy one-liners. The I give zero f*cks of it all. When she was on, as Chris Rock said, nobody could follow her.
I think the moment I really started paying attention was when she began doing red carpet (which, I guess, is a reflection of my age.)
I was watching E! during Oscars coverage and there was Joan, describing some actress who had just walked by saying, “Just a girl with a dream. She slept her way to the middle.” It was such an outrageous thing to say on live tv, at the Oscars red carpet no less, that once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I knew one thing: I was in!
She’s gotten a lot of flack about her no holds barred skewering of celebs, saying how mean-spirited she was. While I never knew her I did get a chance to observe her in person once.
Many years ago, I volunteered at God’s Love We Deliver, an org that brings hot meals to homebound people with, primarily, AIDS. It was not an easy thing to do. A lot of places we’d go were shelters and SROs (Single Room Occupancy dumps), seeing people living out the ends of their lives alone, in decrepit despair and squaller.
I went, as a lot of volunteers did, on the holidays–Thanksgiving and Christmas–and this particular year who did I see waiting in line with the rest of the volunteers, picking up a bag of food, rocking a fur coat, but Joan Rivers. There was no press. No publicists. Just her and a friend, waiting in line with the rest of us. Helping. I even made o point of looking at the tabloids the next day and there was nothing about it.
This was during one of the low points in her career. Right before she got Fashion Police. And, frankly, she could have used the press. It’s kind of standard for celebrities to volunteer and use it as a photo op and an opportunity to show how great they are.
It was such a class act and spoke volumes about the type of person she was. So when, even post mortem, I hear people say what an unfeeling person she was (for, basically, telling jokes whose punchlines were a little too politically incorrect for them to handle), I say, quoting her, “Oh, grow up!”