Where is Joan when you need her?
Daughter Melissa wishes comedian was around to take aim at Trump, Weinstein
Joan Rivers Confidential Melissa Rivers and Scott Currie Abrams
In the three years since Joan Rivers died, her daughter Melissa has been travelling the world scattering her mother’s ashes in all the key places. “She’s now in Paris, Mexico and Wyoming,” says the 49-year-old author and producer, sitting in her ocean view Los Angeles home surrounded by photos of her mother.
The legendary Brooklyn-born actress and comedian — who died in 2014 from complications after throat surgery — “is in London, too,” Rivers says. “I’ve scattered her ashes in the lobby of The Ritz, in The Wolseley and a little bit in Harry’s Bar.”
In her wit, her eyes and her delivery, Rivers is uncannily like her mother. Little wonder, when you consider how close the two women were: how they grieved the loss of Melissa’s father, Edgar Rosenberg, together when Joan’s husband of 22 years died by suicide in 1987, ripped apart celebrities’ red carpet dresses together on their Fashion Police TV show, took joy in Melissa’s son, Cooper, and shared a lifetime of laughter right up until Joan’s death.
“Even now,” Rivers says, “it’s not like her voice is ever not there. People say to me: ‘Do you hear your mom in your head?’ And I’m thinking: ‘Probably more than I want to.’ Just this morning she was there shouting: ‘F--- ’em’!”
The truth is Rivers has been doing all she can to keep her mother’s voice as loud and brash as ever.
To that end, she is publishing Joan Rivers Confidential, a coffee table-style “scrapbook” with many of the funniest monologues, letters and never-before-heard jokes her mother had amassed over the years.
The newly released book reminds you just how outrageously funny her mother was.
“She became such a feminist icon,” her daughter says, “but Mom never thought of herself as a feminist.”
Perhaps the biggest revelation in the book is that the woman so quick to skewer she became known as the “comic stiletto” hated to upset people. “Mom was never out to hurt anyone, and actually very few people got angry. Even Elizabeth Taylor loved her ... in the end.”
Ah, yes: I was going to ask about Donald Trump. He and her mother became friendly after she won Celebrity Apprentice in 2009, but could she ever have imagined he’d become U.S. president?
“Honestly, I think she’d be so torn between being invited to the White House and being able to steal things, which she loved to do — whether it was pocketing an ashtray or some pens — and what she felt was morally right. That would have been Sophie’s Choice for my mother.”
But would she have voted for Trump? “I think she would have wanted someone who didn’t have to prove he had the biggest one in the room.”
That old-boys’ club culture of intimidation has been blown wide open in Hollywood in recent weeks, and although neither Rivers nor her mother knew Harvey Weinstein well, Joan — who started acting in her teens — had warned her daughter about the casting couch.
“There were a few times when she had felt extremely uncomfortable with men and didn’t want to be alone with them,” Melissa says. “‘Most powerful men are pigs,’ she told me, ‘and it sucks and it’s wrong and you don’t have to take it, but be aware that it happens.’ Sadly, this is a tale that’s as old as time, and really no different to Louis B Mayer and Jack Warner chasing women around the desk,” she would say.
“But Mom would have been appalled that this had been going on for so long without anybody saying a thing. She would also have had a whole filing cabinet dedicated to Harvey Weinstein jokes by now.”
Rivers’ expression has gone from sadness to anger and frustration.
“The first year without Mom was a blur, the second was when I realized it was real, and now I do just feel this bittersweet frustration: Why are you not here to make jokes about my son as a teenager and Trump and Harvey?
“Because, by the way, she would be in heaven right now. Heaven.”
Despite her take-no-prisoners style and reputation, comedian Joan Rivers, left, did not like to upset other celebrities, recalls her daughter Melissa Rivers. The younger Rivers has just released a coffee table-style book to honour her mother’s memory.