Friday, July 9, 2010

Standing Out in the Rain with Joan Rivers

NEW YORK - MAY 26: Media personality Joan Rivers attends the premiere of 'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work' at Angelika Film Center on May 26, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)


(Note: There are what some would consider spoilers in this movie review. So if you want to see the movie completely "unspoiled," don't read any further!)

With my 100-calorie white cheddar popcorn bags safely tucked away in my purse, I was finally on my way to see the new documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. I knew that if I didn't sneak in a quasi-healthy snack option with me I would either cave and buy the movie theater hypertension-in-a-bucket popcorn with extra squirts of buttery flavored cholesterol or I would sit there miserable listening to the torturous sounds of everyone else blissfully munching away.

The theater was filled with innocent-looking grey-haired ladies wearing cluster rings on their fingers and cardigan sweaters draped over their shoulders. But looks can be deceiving. Those little old ladies might be sweet, pie-baking grandmas, but by the sounds of their giggling and guffawing, they loved a raunchy Joan Rivers' vagina joke just as much as the gaggle of gay men sitting two rows down from me.

Iconic funny woman, and plastic surgery advocate, Joan Rivers, takes part in a Q&A after a screening of her film Piece of Work in New York City, New York, USA on July 1, 2010. Joan admitted that childhood poverty caused her to be the driven person that she is today. She also divulged that she would be making an appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman after many years away from late night television that stemmed from a long running conflict with the late Johnny Carson. Fame Pictures, Inc


After approximately twenty seven previews and commercials, the movie opened with an extreme close-up of Joan getting her makeup on. Joan baring her naked face--flaws and all--set the tone for the entire movie.

Although Joan is innately funny, she stresses how hard she works to create her seemingly off-the-cuff humor. Jokes don't write themselves and she doesn't have a team of writers working for her. Never comfortable resting on her laurels, she is constantly writing new material and trying it out every week in a hole-in-the-wall New York comedy club. And every joke Joan has ever written is typed up and literally filed away in a card catalogue organized by topic. You never know when you might need to find a prostitute joke in a hurry!

Like Liberace, Joan lives in a gilded, glittering palace … or as she puts it, how Marie Antoinette would've lived if she had money. Gaudy? Yes. But could you picture Joan living in a three-bedroom, two-bath brick ranch-style house decorated with Rooms-To-Go furniture? I think not. Joan says that working her ass off to support her lavish lifestyle is worth it to her since she loves her "creature comforts." Not mention that she's also supporting a large staff, her charities, family members, and she even pays to send some of her employees' kids to private school. That's a heavy load for such a tiny lady to carry.

Joan also claims to have a deep-seated need to constantly work in order to feel fulfilled, loved, and valued as a person. She will not turn down any paying job no matter where it is or how undignified the work might be. Her biggest fear is an empty date book.

Iconic funny woman, and plastic surgery advocate, Joan Rivers, takes part in a Q&A after a screening of her film Piece of Work in New York City, New York, USA on July 1, 2010. Joan admitted that childhood poverty caused her to be the driven person that she is today. She also divulged that she would be making an appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman after many years away from late night television that stemmed from a long running conflict with the late Johnny Carson. Fame Pictures, Inc


Joan is keenly aware that she has become the butt of plastic surgery jokes. And while I understand her critics, at least Joan freely admits to it! Just in home shopping land alone, there is a plethora of nipped, tucked, sucked, and injected hosts and spokespeople who refuse to admit that anything other than a magic potion (which is available for 5 easy payments of $19.99, by the way)  melted the years away. No man has ever told Joan that she was beautiful. Apparently that insecurity coupled with the pressures of show business have fueled her fetish.

But all the plastic surgery can't stop the sands of time from slipping away. The older you get, the people in your life who can remember the big milestones and the silly inside jokes begin to dwindle until no one is left. Sharing your memories keeps the people you love and the memories you cherish alive in your heart and at seventy-five, Joan is finding that there just isn't anyone left anymore who can "remember when …" with her.

NEW YORK - MAY 26: Media personality Joan Rivers attends the premiere of 'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work' at Angelika Film Center on May 26, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)


Unfortunately for me, the documentary didn't focus much on Joan's jewelry line or her QVC visits. I was hoping for some interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits. Honestly, what would QVC be today if it weren't for Joan Rivers?

I will not call her an icon, a trailblazer, or a mentor since that would only piss her off. I will say that she is a brilliant comedy writer and performer who has made her own luck through a helluva a lot of hard work and perseverance.

Lightning might not strike often, but--as Joan would advise--if you want to get hit, you gotta stand out in the rain.

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for not throwing the overused term "icon" about Joan. She is a brilliant and multi-faceted talent and businesswoman. And God bless her for being so upfront and honest

    But an "icon'?

    Icons should be synonymous with an era; Elvis, Babe Ruth, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, Madonna. They conjure up images of times and people gone by.

    I heard someone recently refer to Sarah Jessica Parker as an icon...gimmee a break!!!

    Yeah, when I think of the early years of the 21st Century SJP always pops into my mind.

    Right!

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  2. I was looking forward to this documentary because of the advance buzz, and I finally saw it a couple of weeks ago here in San Francisco (much different audience) and almost wish I hadn't.

    I'd always admired Joan Rivers and had expected more of a tribute to a work ethic of days gone by, to her perseverance and to something more upbeat and positive. Instead, I saw Ms. Rivers as a completely tragic figure. In spite of her accomplishments, in spite of her ability to pick herself up and continue after tragedy and disappointment, she is completely unable to enjoy her life.

    If she has no one to "remember when" with, it's not because they're all dead, it's because she made so few close friends on the way up. She's always been terribly, terribly unkind in a genuinely mean-spirited way to other women, especially attractive, successful women, so it's not surprising she doesn't have a lot of friends among the many surviving Hollywood figures of her own generation.

    She comes across as a bitter, resentful, unhappy, unpeaceful old woman.

    The only person who comes across worse than she does is that appalling daughter of hers who is a filthy-mouthed, self-entitled nobody in her own right.

    At the end of your life you find yourself surrounded by the things you considered most important. Unfortunately, for Ms. Rivers this means money and things and a dwindling series of stage gigs and little else.

    Sad, tragic, and ultimately depressing.

    Susan Berg

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  3. Hey Susan, thanks for your perspective.

    I think that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand. Comedians are known for having tragic personal lives and I don't think that Joan is an exception--she's just lived a longer life than many others.

    I guess that's what I found so compelling about the movie. It *is* tragic. But I don't think that she is a bad or evil person, just terribly flawed.

    Hugh ... I don't know if you saw that movie, but Joan carries on in several scenes about how she HATES being called an icon. It's like being put out to pasture.

    qb

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  4. Very nicely done, Queen Bea, and well-written. I do want to see this documentary on Joan as I've been a fan for many years. I saw her live back when AC in NJ was just a beginning venue for entertainers after gambling was voted in. It was so long ago, she was there with her diminutive mother and elderly father. She stood all of five feet tall. She took the stage down that night at Resorts.

    This film may seem like a dreary life story of an aged and anxious comic, but it's Joan, raw and simple. Better that than plastic surgeried up, too.

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  5. Every time Joan Rivers is on television and I am with my father he just shakes his head and groans. As a borscht belt comic in the late 50's and early 60's Rivers went out of her way to insult the women in her audiences, especially the women who stayed at the hotels and many bungalow colonies of the Catskill Mountains. I really do not know anyone who saw her shows and had anything good to say. I've seen her many, many times on television and do admire her routines but knowing how she is held in such poor regard by those whose backgrounds are so similar to hers, is sad. Not to be totally negative, I do admire her taste in fashion and jewelry and own a few of her pieces. She's a tragic figure in my opinion.

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  6. Hello Susan,

    Very Nice Post and thanks for sharing your view to us all...

    love you

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  9. Joan looks good for her age.I remember whey her and her daughter Mellissa used to host some show on tv a couple of years back.I can't seem to remember the name of the show.

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  11. I've been a Joan Rivers fan for quite some time, love her lines for QVC and have some great memories of seeing her in Atlantic City in the 80's. I was up front during one of her shows and she asked me if my husband took good care of me. I said, "of course he does, but I also take care of him, too". She couldn't have been nicer, saying "that's what marriage should be about", remarked on my jewelry and told me I found a "keeper". She definitely has a softer side that we don't often see on TV or in her live shows.

    I have to disagree, however, with your comment on where would QVC be without Joan Rivers? They have been successful for many years because they don't hawk all the junk you see on other shopping channels. Their presentations are usually much more professional, too. I think Joan Rivers owes a lot of her success to her QVC lines of jewelry, skin care and now, clothing. Without the association with QVC, we might have been asking today, "whatever happened to Joan Rivers?".

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