In the days following the death of iconic Hollywood comedian Joan Rivers, her life story is being discussed with abandon. The hilarious comic never kept anything in, saying what everyone else was thinking and wishing they had the confidence to say. Rivers was 81 at the time of her death, and she lived a long, successful life. Even though she’s been in the public eye for decades, there are still facets of Rivers’ life that might surprise many. She was a public figure, but that doesn’t mean everyone knew everything about her. Read on to learn a few things about the late Joan Rivers.
She Was the First Female Host of the Tonight Show
Before Leno took over (and subsequently retired) the role of The Tonight Show host, the show was hosted by another famous face, Johnny Carson. Rivers was the first female to host the show and she was very grateful to Carson for giving her that opportunity. She was considered a permanent guest on the show and was the host of it more than 80 times when Carson wasn’t able to fulfill his duties as host, which was often. However, she was not chosen as the successor to his role when he retired.
She and Johnny Carson Didn’t Get Along
Despite what it looked like on camera, Joan Rivers and Johnny Carson were not actually friends. She’s been known to say that when the cameras were not rolling, Carson wouldn’t actually speak to her. However, when the cameras were on, they looked like the best of friends. She does credit him for making her career what it was today, but she understood they had no real friendship. In fact, when she was offered her own show she called him to thank him and he refused to take her calls and never spoke to her again.
She Was a Widow
Rivers is not a two-time divorcee, as many people mistakenly believe. In fact, her second husband was someone she was married to for 22 years. She met him in 1965 and married him four days later. They were involved in an interesting relationship. Rosenberg was her manager and the producer of her failed late night talk show. When he had a heart attack a few years before his death, he was said to have been taking medication for his condition that caused him to develop depression. His depression is believed to have caused him to commit suicide in 1987.
She’s Always Been Inappropriate
Rivers made her career what it was by being inappropriate. She never felt anything was off limits when it came to making jokes and saying what was on her mind. In fact, she once told the Queen of England to shave her legs. She also takes the credit for making inappropriate jokes about her late husband just days after he took his own life. She reportedly took her daughter, Melissa Rivers, to dinner at Spago, and is quoted as saying, “If Daddy were here and saw these prices, he’d kill himself all over again,” to her daughter.
She Was a Collector
Now that she’s no longer with us, Joan Rivers’ daughter Melissa has a lot of china to go through. Rivers was an avid china collector, often saying that she is proud of the fact that people never eat on the same pattern china a second time when they come to her house. She was known for her fabulous taste and her china collection was no different. She had a large collection that obviously made her happy, as she was someone who enjoyed to entertain and have guests over for dinner to enjoy her gorgeous china patterns.
She was Kate Middleton before Kate Middleton was Kate Middleton, if that makes any sense. Kate Middleton is famous for being a habitual outfit-recycler. She will wear the same fabulous pieces over and over again in the public eye, which is always surprising to people. It seems that Rivers, however, was like that before Middleton made it popular. She spent her entire life working hard to ensure that she could recycle her outfits time and time again, because let’s face it; when you spend that much money on beautiful clothes, you want to wear them again so that you can enjoy them!
Her Name was Not Her Name
The iconic Joan Rivers was not actually Joan Rivers. She was born with the name Joan Alexandra Molinsky, but that doesn’t really sound like much of a Hollywood name. At the encouragement of her age, Tony Rivers, who did not like her name, she decided to change it. She dropped the middle and last name and petitioned to take on Rivers as a last name. However, when she was a standup comedian, she went by yet another name – Pepper January. It’s not easy to see Joan Rivers as a Pepper.
She’s Always Been in Fashion
Before she was married to her late husband, Edgar Rosenberg, Rivers was married to a man by the name of James Sanger. Sanger was the heir to Bond, a clothing store where she worked as a fashion buyer. She got her start in the fashion industry long before she was the host of Fashion Police. Even though she was only married to the clothing store heir for six months, she took her love of fashion out of the relationship. She worked at Lord & Taylor in New York, and she even had a line at QVC.
QVC Made her Rich
People do wonder just how much money Joan Rivers really had, and it’s always been a bit of a mystery. She was obviously a wealthy woman, but just how wealthy? Well, we don’t know how much she was paid for her roles on television, but we certainly know that her line of clothing and accessories with QVC was a successful. Over the 25 years she had her line on QVC, she earned over $1 billion. There’s one thing that can be said of fashion; and that’s that being a billionaire is always a stylish accessory.
She’s An Animal Lover
Despite being seen in fur on multiple occasions, it was always faux fur because Rivers was a huge animal advocate. She loved animals when she was on earth, and she was an advocate for their rights and their life. She even credited one of her dogs for saving her life when she was sitting in her house after her husband killed himself. Her dog came into the room and sat down on top of the gun that Rivers had in her lap as she was about to kill herself. She realized that when the dog sat down on her lap, she couldn’t do it.
People Loved Her
She was mean to people about their fashion choices, but it seems that Hollywood takes that in stride. It seems that most people know that not everyone is going to love their own personal style and their choices, and some even admit that they had an off day in the fashion world, because they loved Rivers. Even though she heckled them, made fun of their clothing and wasn’t all that nice about their looks on a regular basis, the people she made fun of loved her. Perhaps it was her honesty that was so refreshing to people.
She was an Advocate for Plastic Surgery
Rivers was always very open and honest about her feelings on plastic surgery. She was once quoted as saying, “I just hosted the Miss USA Pageant, and let me tell you, beautiful gets you everywhere. The New York Times had an article maybe six months ago: Babies respond to pretty faces. So stop telling everyone it’s OK not to be pretty! If you can fix it, fix it!” She had several different surgeries to help her look good, and she was happy with that. She wanted to look young and good her entire life.
She Was a Bona Fide Movie Star
Joan Rivers starred as herself in the 1994 movie, “Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story,” alongside her daughter. The movie was the life story of herself and her daughter, their love and their loss. She decided to take on such a difficult project because she believed that she could help people by bringing attention to suicide and what it means for the people who are left behind. It wasn’t an easy project for Rivers, but she’s not someone who enjoyed taking the easy road in her career.
She Loved her Grandson
Melissa Rivers has a son, Cooper, and every year, Joan Rivers got to spend an entire week with Cooper, doing whatever he wanted to do. They’ve been to dude ranches, bungee jumping and even swimming with sharks. It goes to show what a doting grandmother she really was to her grandson, considering she was not the type of woman who liked to do anything that involved messing up her hair or potentially making her look less than perfect. Her grandson is certainly going to miss his grandmother now that she’s gone.
She Wasn’t a Snob
Even though Rivers had her own fashion line and made fun of what people wore for a living, she wasn’t a clothing snob. In fact, she loved thrift stores and often found some of her favorite belongings in them. She might have had plenty of money with which to shop and enjoy purchasing high-end designer clothes, and she did, but she didn’t limit herself to just shopping in Louis Vuitton and Dior. She loved thrift store shopping and made a point of shopping in them as often as possible, always finding great pieces for her closet.
She Loved to Walk
Rivers never seemed like the kind of woman who wanted to put on anything but a pair of Louboutins or Choos, but she was an avid walker. She stated in a magazine interview one time that she loves to walk and tries to get in at least 3 miles per day, even if she’s travelling and has to do her walking in the middle of an airport in the middle of nowhere. She had to keep her figure trim and fit somehow, and she wasn’t a fan of the gym. Good old-fashioned walking is what made her look so good.
She Was a Great Mother
She has been known to say that she was a great mother, even though her daughter no longer listens to her as an adult and sometimes disagrees with her. Even though they have their differences, this was a mother/daughter duo that got along famously and was the best of friends. They only had each other for a very long time, and Rivers made sure her daughter and grandson knew that she loved them and wanted to care for them. Their relationship is the kind that resulted from dedication, love and hard work.
She was a Sucker for Italian Food
It’s not easy being in the spotlight and feeling the need to be thin and gorgeous all the time, and that was especially difficult for Rivers, who loved Italian food. Of course, everyone loves Italian food. It’s delicious and not even remotely good for you, so it would only make sense that people would love it and want as much of it as possible. She went on the record once as saying that her last meal, if she had the opportunity to choose it, would be all Italian; lasagna, noodles and cannolis.
She was Always Fabulous
Even when she was unconscious and in a medically induced coma, Rivers’ daughter Melissa knew what her mother wanted. She never would have wanted anyone to see her looking anything less than fabulous, so she hired a team of makeup artists and hair dressers to come into Mount Sinai and make her look just as good in her coma as she did in real life. Additionally, she even had a manicure and pedicure while she was in the hospital because her daughter knew she would have wanted it.
She Kissed Barbra Streisand
Before Katy Perry took a page from her own book, Joan Rivers was kissing a girl and liking it. It was the late 1950s and it was a time in which same-sex relationships were heard of but exceptionally taboo. She was working on her Hollywood career performing in a play called Driftwood that was being shown in a small theater that seated only 40 people. She was a lesbian in the play, and her love interest was a woman by the name of Barbra Streisand, who no one knew at that time.
(Photo by Jordan Strauss/WireImage)