Hallways & Runways: Fashion and Comedy Legend Dies at 81
Haley Macray, Veritas Staff
Described as “a simple girl with a dream” comedian Joan Rivers was a pioneer in many fields. Rivers died at the age of 81 on September 4 after being placed on life support for several days following complications with a routine surgery.
Rivers’ influential career started with the Tonight Show. There she was mentored by host Johnny Carson and became the only permanent guest host. On the Tonight Show Rivers’ iconic comedic style began to form and flourish as she would make fun of celebrities and her many plastic surgeries.
Following her time spent on the Tonight Show, Rivers went on to host her own show, The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, making her the first female to host her own late night talk show. Following this, she transitioned into daytime television with The Joan Rivers Show, winning a Daytime Emmy in 1990.
Her success with television did not stop there. Possibly her most successful endeavor, Rivers established Live from the Red Carpet for E! Network in 1996. This program created one of Rivers’ most memorable questions, “Who are you wearing?” After great success with this show Rivers became the host of E!’s popular Fashion Police. Alongside co-hosts Giuliana Rancic, anchor of E! News, Kelly Osbourne, and George Kotsiopoulos, Rivers commented on celebrity “Must See Looks of the Week,” always making sure to include humor. She referred to viewers as the “Joan Rangers.”
Besides her TV and entertainment ventures, Rivers also tried her hand in fashion designing. She debuted her QVC line featuring jewelry, scarves, and clothing in 1990. The line has remained a success to this day.
Whether she realized it or not, Rivers paved the way for many other comedians, talk show hosts, and fashion programs. She was an icon that many are saying passed too soon.
On August 28 Rivers went in for surgery on her vocal chords in a Manhattan clinic. What was planned to be a routine procedure became serious quickly when Rivers stopped breathing. She was transported to Mount Sinai Hospital where she was put into a medically induced coma after reports say she entered cardiac arrest. According to these reports doctors attempted to bring her out of the coma on September 1. Two days later she was moved to a private room in order to provide her with extra comfort. On September 4 Rivers died “peacefully at 1:17pm surrounded by family and close friends,” says a statement from Rivers’ daughter Melissa Rivers.
After the sad news was announced fans took to social media to extend their condolences.
“Cooper [Rivers’ grandson] and I have found ourselves humbled by the outpouring of love, support, and prayers we have received from around the world. They have been heard and appreciated,” said Melissa in the same statement regarding her mother’s death.
Previous to her death, in one of her many books, Rivers had declared that she wanted an elaborate funeral. She wanted publicists and reporters making a fuss, singing, and entertainment.
Although Rivers’ funeral did not involve Meryl Streep crying in five different accents like Rivers had hoped, it was as Hollywood as a funeral could get, described as “Joan all the way” by Deborah Norville, host of Inside Edition.
The September 7 funeral that took place at Temple Emanu-El in New York included a eulogy by Howard Stern, a close friend of Rivers, performances by the The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, and speeches from many of Rivers’ celebrity friends. Mourning fans were lined up in the streets outside of the temple. The funeral was as “show-biz” as possible, just the way Rivers would have wanted it.
Broadway marquees were dimmed for one minute on September 9 at 6:45 in memory of Rivers who had performed on the famous street in the past.
Rivers’ passing has had a huge outreaching affect. She paved the way for many comedians, especially those who were female and became an iconic part of Hollywood and its fashion scene with Live from the Red Carpet and Fashion Police. Rivers will be greatly missed by many.
“My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.” – Melissa Rivers