About three weeks after the world reeled over the loss of Robin Williams, another comedy legend suddenly departed from this world. A supposedly routine throat procedure reportedly went awry and Joan Rivers went into cardiac arrest and had to be hospitalized in Mt. Sinai into a medically induced coma, then had to be in life support. After a week, she passed away. Prior to that tragedy, this woman still was in the prime of her life, with a full schedule and her legendarily sharp, acid wit still very much intact (even after six decades in the business).
I first heard of this comic legend when I read my mom’s Mod magazine (a local women’s magazine) when I was in my adolescence–it was about Elizabeth Taylor “recovering” from her troubles then and they referenced a famous one-liner by this comic–“Elizabeth Taylor has more chins than a Hong Kong phone book.” It was an outrageous remark, I thought then, and was amused at the daring guts for her to say that about a revered Hollywood icon.
I learned a little more about this irreverent comic as I read some entertainment news in various magazines, imported and local, during my college days, especially about the fact that she got to host a talk show in Fox rivaling Johnny Carson’s legendary Tonight Show. The way they framed the story then was that she was a traitor to Johnny, and I was conditioned to dislike her for that.
As we started subscribing to cable when I became part of the workforce, there was a UHF channel then known as CTV (from 1992-2000), then E! Philippines (2001-2002) where we see programming from the US cable entertainment channel E!, and during awards season in the 1990s, we started seeing Joan RIvers back in the limelight interviewing celebrities on the red carpet. Her critiques and acerbic wit could be a bit too much to take at times, but I started appreciating her commentary, and when I started doing pageant reviews online starting in the year 2000, I had Joan Rivers in my mind when I review pageant evening gowns. Of course I couldn’t get away with her brutal frankness in reviewing wardrobe but she became one of my inspirations when I do my “Homestretch” reviews.
When E! is finally back on cable full time two years ago, there was one program that had become one of my must-watch programs–Fashion Police. I enjoyed watching Joan praise and/or rip through celebrities’ wardrobes, even if her saucier comments are muted out in our shores. Her last Fashion Police was the Emmys/MTV Awards dual extravaganza (which I unfortunately missed as the program airs during the time i had to commute to work, and I missed any repeat broadcast as they chose not to show it during her health crisis that led to her death). I also saw in this program also hints of her renowned graciousness and compassion, like the way she relates to (and sometimes teases) her co-hosts Giuliana Rancic, Kelly Osbourne, and George Katsiopoulos, plus the guests they have over the years.
I wonder if she didn’t have that throat procedure, how long she would’ve lasted before even showing a smidgen of losing a bit of her edge. As it is, even if she had such a long career, her departure felt abrupt. Much has been said what a trailblazer she was and she undeniably has left a gap that no one could fill at this point. I’m forever going to miss Fashion Police and red carpet events from now on would seem rather empty now that we can’t hear Joan’s hilarious comments anymore.