The popular entertainer and talk-show host offers a candid account of her life in the aftermath of a series of professional and personal tragedies--the suicide of her husband and firing by Fox--and recovery
Joan Rivers (born Joan Sandra Molinsky) was an American comedian, actress, talk show host, businesswoman, and celebrity. She was known for her brash manner and loud, raspy voice with a heavy metropolitan New York accent. Rivers was the National Chairwoman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and is a board member of God's Love We Deliver. Like the ground-breaking Phyllis Diller, Rivers' act relied heavily on poking fun at herself. A typical Rivers joke about her unattractiveness: "I used to stand by the side of the road with a sign: 'Last girl before freeway.'"
The type of book that normalizes the heights these demigods inhabit so that we mere mortals and peasants may partake, if only in some teeny, insignificant way. Alas, it's satisfying to the zillionth power--although the topic is quite morbid (the death of the actress's husband Edgar as the culminating point in a career rife with ups and downs) & it lacks a more heightened & sustained joke factor (plus there IS totally a not-so-transparent ghost writer behind it, too) ... still, brill's brill.
Plus, I'd like to take the chance to nominate this book's cover for "BEST BOOK COVER OF ALL TIME"!
This is the story of a woman who had - and then lost - everything. The story of a woman who worked for three decades to finally reach the top. What subsequently happened to Joan Rivers had more to do with being a woman than with being a star. In a business that is notoriously harsh to women, Joan Rivers struggled to carve out a niche for herself that for the past several decades, has marked her as one of the gutsiest comediennes working in the business today.
Ultimately, Joan was forced to choose between her husband and her career. In the titanic confrontation between her husband and the boss of her television network, Joan stood with her husband and was out of a job. Far worse, Edgar, her husband of twenty-two years, took his own life.
In the face of such awful tragedy, where did this controversial star find the inner strength to continue on and survive without the protection of her husband? With her trademark combination of biting humor and fragility, tough-minded ambition and traditional values, Joan Rivers tells a story of tragedy and eventual triumph. Not only has she learned to survive the trials and tribulations of life, but she has ultimately thrived.
I must say that while I don't enjoy Joan Rivers' style of comedy, I certainly enjoyed reading her autobiography. She has gone through so much tragedy; things that would quite possibly torpedo another person's career for good. However, Joan Rivers has somehow risen above and triumphed over such sadness and still has managed to be successful. In my opinion, she is a very strong woman; a woman who is to be admired for her fortitude. I give this book an A+!
This is a well-told story (would you expect anything less?) about Rivers’ most difficult time in her life, when she lost her career, husband, and almost her daughter. She discusses her marriage in detail, from its beginning to its demise, and gives us a breakdown of how it slowly fell apart in the fifteen years prior to husband Edgar’s suicide. After experiencing some success in NYC, and with the Tonight Show gig in place, they moved to Los Angeles where Edgar’s previous success as a television and film producer closely associated with the U.N. (back when people cared about the U.N.) was to go unnoticed, and where he would be considered the husband of a star. She states that the great thing about New York is that people allow you to hang on to your accomplishments, whereas Hollywood is a company town where you are only judged on your current success. During the Fox debacle, Edgar would be seen as an irritant to the fledgling network, never being able to shake the label of star’s husband/manager, and Rivers was made to choose between her show and her husband, and she chose the latter, only to have him quit on her. He had a series of heart attacks in 1984 and had a very long road to recovery in which his personality changed and he became morose and controlling. For years before the heart attack Rivers had pleaded with Edgar to seek therapy. During the Fox debacle, when she was really worried about his mental state, he went to therapy but only talked superficially and charmed the therapist into thinking he was fine.
Joan has said many times that she felt Johnny Carson attributed her success to him, in a way the he would probably not have if she had been a man, and felt that he owned her to some degree. Joan writes that she completely enabled this by her loyalty (not even going on other shows as a guest) and by her treating “The Tonight Show” like it was her family. Setting down roots was always important to Joan, and she ignored the fact that she never got notes or calls from Carson, or even invited to parties by the production. When she discovered that there was a list of ten possible successors in the case of Carson’s eventual retirement, and that she was not even one of the ten, the writing was on the wall that she was not valued and that, if what she says is true, that her ratings were consistently higher than Carson’s, she was resented by much of the production. The Fox Network needed a name like hers to launch itself as a real competitor to the Big Three, yet they did not give the promised support of compelling stars of 20th Century Fox films to appear, nor did any of network co-founder Barry Diller’s buddies show up. In the end, Joan decided not to sue Fox because Edgar would have died of stress, so when the lawyers were finished, she had a $2 million settlement, “It was a lot of money, and nobody should feel sorry for me. But for that money I would never have left Carson, I would never have given up the foundation of my life, […] and been forced to live with the perception that my show was a failure.”
She does a great deal of growing up after Edgar’s death. First, she realizes that Hollywood contracts are not worth the paper they’re printed on, that the lawyers always know they can get out of them. During the marriage, she relied on Edgar to review contracts and worry about all the business end. As anyone who has seen the documentary “A Piece of Work” can attest, Ms. Rivers became an incredible business person extremely capable or managing her own affairs. She ends with “If I can’t get through one door I’ll go through another door. Or I’ll make a door! But something terrific will come no matter how dark the present is. God always comes up with a third-act twist, and we won’t know till we die whether the play was a comedy or a tragedy, so you better be prepared for both. That’s the exhilaration of being alive, there’s always another scene coming out of nowhere. God is the best dramatist.”
I’m fascinated by Joan Rivers and this was a fascinating read. She goes into her career – especially her fallout with Johnny Carson and the debacle at Fox – and her husband’s suicide. She’s raw and real and you truly feel for her. I’m also sad she came up as a comedian during such a difficult time for women. She was a pioneer in so many ways, and the establishment and the public were so unreasonably tough on her. She deserved better. At the same time, I’ve heard she was very cutthroat with other female comedians, which, “product of her time,” yada yada, but it still makes me sad that she felt she had to behave that way to ensure her own success. And yet I’ve read accounts in other celebs’ memoirs about how she was the most gracious, generous, and kind person. She was probably all of the above. Not up for debate: her work ethic and ambition, which were awe-inspiring.
Why did I wait so long to read this book? It's amazing. Very well written, filled with detailed behind-the-scenes information on television, and a much more serious book than one would expect from Rivers. It's not a comedy book by any means--instead it's a serious memoir of her life with her late husband and the disastrous Fox late night TV show.
She throws a lot of people under the bus, naming names of those who are Hollywood insiders. Barry Diller comes across the worst, and it's ironic that now he is pretty much a washed-up has-been while Rivers is flourishing. Johnny Carson's lawyer (who released his own book recently that gives a very different story) comes across as a mafia hit man. Even Ben Stein, who I had always had respect for, gets hit for making up a fake story that got published about Rivers at her husband's funeral--she threatens to sue and he threatens to make up even more stuff if she does! The whole thing makes you wonder why anyone would want to work with Hollywood people--they're all selfish crazy liars that think nothing of breaking contracts and threatening lawsuits.
There are also some very serious sections of the book where she pours her heart out. I had to sit back and contemplate some of the insights she gave regarding life, death, marriage, family, and God. She is a deep, introspective person who accepts much of the blame for what has happened to her.
The book isn't perfect--the biggest flaw is that the central story to the book gets passed over in just a few paragraphs. Yes, the book is really about her husband's suicide (which is very detailed) but the key moment in the suicide story is when Fox's Barry Diller fires her husband from her late night show and she has to make the choice between leaving with him or continuing the show. This whole scene gets less than two pages in the book and appears to be intentionally vague--is it to avoid lawsuits from Diller??? She also doesn't really mention what happened after her husband died--nothing about the memorial service or specifics about legal issues. She talks about her pain and her fighting with Melissa over whether to get rid of the house, but there are some big holes here that need to be filled.
Even the story of how she got her syndicated talk show is too brief and rushed. And at times the reader gets the feel that Rivers, while accepting some fault, is too quick to blame her husband on her own inability to stand up for herself. So while there are some great moments of detail regarding her Broadway debut and how Fox wrecked her late night show, this book should have been a lot longer and more detailed in some sections.
She is the only female network late night talk show host in TV history and the story behind how she split from Johnny Carson to take the Fox show now makes sense. She tried hard to talk with Carson before she accepted the Fox job and this book goes behind the headlines to explain it all. It's a must-read--just don't expect this to be a comedy book filled with raunchy humor.
I think if you like Joan Rivers, you can't help but like this book - particularly if you listen to the audio version, as I did. I loved listening to her. It's not that it's a funny book, because it isn't. And it didn't matter. Her take on herself and her trials in life seemed very honest and true and un-whiny. She might have been a harsh comic, but it doesn't show here. She even breaks down a bit in some moments, especially when talking about one of the biggest and saddest subjects of the book, her husband Edgar's suicide. Unfortunately it seems that only an abridged version is available from Audible - I was a little sad when it was over.
I see in the blurb that Rivers talks about "her husband's suicide". Well, I read this book (years ago). Suicide ? I don't recall that he committed suicide. I remember her famous joke about scattering his ashes at Bloomingdales ("So I'd visit him more often"). So now, ...., I loved this book. I was happy with my memory of this book until I read the damn blurb. Now I have to go back and read the book, at least the relevant parts. Oh, well. There are worse tragedies in life than having to re-read a good book.
I miss my fashion police fix, so I decided to find one of Joan's audiobooks, just to hear her voice. This book is a love letter to Edgar. While I've heard the stories in bits and pieces it was nice to hear Joan tell the story.
I am not a fan of Joan Rivers. Saw her on Fashion Police show and found her comments to be crude at times but comical. Thought this book allow me to read up on her . Unfortunately, wasn't the book I had in mind. Not much detail.
I listened to the audio version of this book in one day, and I think something in this weird world of ours lined up just right because today has been a day where I really needed some guidance. I'm grieving the death of my mother from alcoholic liver failure, and though she's been gone for seven months, bad days creep up on me when I don't expect them. Sometimes there's just a string of a few bad hours. Today was shaping up to be a bad day, and I woke up after a night of lousy sleep gripped with anxiety over nonsensical "What if?" scenarios that have plagued me more than normal since my mom passed away. Then I found this audiobook.
Joan Rivers is my idol. She was beautiful, hilarious, and offensive, and I adored her for it. I've read several of her books, watched her documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, and watched Fashion Police and Joan & Melissa whenever I could. She's an inspiration to women who are going through hardships in their lives, because every time life knocked her down, she pulled herself back up with or without help. She says in this book that women look to her and say, "If she can survive, I can survive." And it's true.
Grief is a messy, nasty, horrendous thing on the best of occasions, but when you're hurled into grief due to suicide, addiction, or murder, everything gets way more complicated. Joan writes about the relationship with her husband throughout a majority of this book, and how his pride kept him from taking care of himself because he was never able to acknowledge that he needed help for his mental or physical health. He had to be in control of everything, or he would be in control of nothing. Over two decades, the relationship went through unimaginable stresses and heartaches, because show business is among the most ruthless employers in the world. When show business deems you useless, you're done. Joan slowly watched the man she married wither away, to be replaced by a sick man beset with multiple medical problems and mental illness that he never acknowledged was there. The ugly truth is that you cannot help someone who doesn't acknowledge they need help. When Edgar committed suicide, he ruined the worlds of his wife and daughter, who blamed themselves and wondered where they went wrong. But blame can't be placed on anyone, and that's very hard to deal with. It's sometimes easier to grieve when you can blame something like a heart condition or an aneurysm, but suicide leaves shattered lives in its wake with no one to point to.
I have nightmares that my mom is still alive, belligerently drinking in the middle of a summer afternoon and attempting to get in her car and go shopping. In these dreams, I scream at her and say things no child should ever say to their parent. I wake up and feel incredibly guilty and hateful. She's gone. There's nothing more to say to her. But then some nights, I have dreams that she comes over to see me and she's healthy and happy, and then I wake up feeling better. It's a complicated process, and there's no going around it or shortening it. My mom had a problem. She had an illness. Like many illnesses, it could have been managed if she had sought medical intervention early enough and then took the steps to maintain treatment and take care of herself as best as she could. Unfortunately, she didn't; she never accepted that she had a problem with alcohol, even when she nearly set our house on fire because she stuck a piece of bread in the microwave, punched in 20 minutes, and then fell asleep. In a way, she chose alcohol over life. Joan's husband Edgar chose suicide over trying to rebuild his career and his family. We need to acknowledge someone's culpability when they do something like that, because that's the only way that we can live in the truth and try to end the cycle of avoiding blame and embracing denial.
The aftermath of Edgar's suicide was destruction and misery. Joan was financially ruined, Melissa's entire world shattered, and mother and daughter became estranged for a time. Joan developed an eating disorder because it was the one area of her life where she could maintain some semblance of control. In the aftermath of my mom's illness and death, my anxiety has been worse than ever and I've had panic attacks at work over seemingly insignificant stressors. But over time, if we work hard enough and don't destroy ourselves, we can find that things get better when we make them better. Joan returned to stand-up comedy and writing, then to the stage, and earned an Emmy for her talk show. I've maintained my sobriety and hit two years sober in July, got my workload under control, and have taken to journaling to get the negative thoughts out of my head and onto paper. For the most part, it works; sometimes if I'm having a taxing day, all I need to do is hop on my elliptical or spew some rants in my journal to burn off some of that energy and I feel better.
This is a great book for women who are looking for inspiration during trying times. The kicker is that I listened to the audio version, and I absolutely hate audiobooks; that's how good this one is.
I was overall pretty disappointed with this book. First of all and most importantly: THIS BOOK WAS NOT FUNNY. And I don't say that because I think that her jokes aren't funny. Quite the opposite actually. I primarily read this book sticky for Joan's great comedy. The problem with the book was that there weren't any jokes. She occasionally repeated a joke or 2 from her early stand up routines but they were out of context and didn't have the impact they could have had in the routine. Not to mention, Joan is like one of the first female comedians in America and possibly the world so her jokes at the time were very tame compared to the foul mouth she had in her later years.
This book couldn't even be really considered as a biography either. The woman died in her eighties as one of the most iconic and successful women in showbusiness and comedy and this is all she had to say up to this point in her life?? Come on! If this was a biography, then it should have been much better.
This book was mainly about Joan's tragic marriage to Edgar Rosenberg, a German born TV producer. A seemingly normal and difficult marriage, the two had a daughter, Melissa, and they both battle for Joan's career as an actress, comedian tv host and so forth. Like any ambitious woman in showbusiness, Joan had her ups and downs and eventually got her big break as the co host of the Johnny Carson show. Johnny Carson.....a thoroughly overrated and unpleasant tv icon. For years she continued on the show and Joan goes into some detail of her busy life and what the tv executives wanted her to do. Eventually years later Joan left the Carson show for her own show on Fox, which caused a major animosity from Carson for the rest of his life. Fox, the racist creepy uncle of channels, also eventually blew up in her face and she was let go from that as well and had to bounce back to acting and eventually comedy again climbing her way back. In the middle of this hectic career, her husband Edgar had a major heart attack after the family had argued over Melissa studying. I did not care for Edgar throughout the book until I read this chapter. It was too real. To quick and very unfortunate. Edgar just barely survived the tumultuous weeks in intensive care in the hospital and then went back home a different man. A weaker man, even mentally weaker. Edgar eventually became depressed and very difficult to deal with because of his refusal for therapy and change. After Joan was let go from Fox , on to of that, Edgar committed suicide by overdosing on pills. A huge blue to the family and Joan. For her to bounce back from that was tough and took many years with her daughter to get over it.
That was sort of it. My review of the book is pretty much as brief as the book was. I was really hoping for more jokes and that's not what I got.
A short book on Joan's career to the top and eventual fallout after her husband dies. Joan kept a positive outlook and eventually fought through the end of career to find enjoyment in life again. Joan throw in a few jokes, but for the most part this book is more about the business side of comedy. Joan is a good writer and structures this book well.
This book discusses her husband's suicide for about 20% of the book and how she lost her show at Fox for 80% of the book. She is very honest about how FOX executives mistreated her and she names the people who wronged her. She also talks about her start in stand up comedy. That was my favorite part of the book.
I bloody love Joan and this book was just superb. She is completely honest and alongside the expected humour, doesn't shy away from going over the really difficult and emotional times she's expirienced. Highly recommended for any fan, especially if you can listen to the audio version which she reads herself.
What a woman. My inspiration and role model! The only celebrity whose death I was genuinely devastated about. I just admire her tenacity and work ethic so much, and how she details all her struggles in show business. Must read for Joan fans!