I have my favorites whether it’s ice cream flavor or my favorite movie. I don’t play favorites with people – like my kids. How can a mom have a favorite kid? My mother had six and if she has a favorite, she's kept it secret all these years. It’s obviously not me, or I’d know, right?
But most of us do lean towards some favoritism, and my favorite comedienne was, is and always will be, Joan Rivers. Last week when news broke about her surgery complications, I went into worry mode, and I couldn’t shake the feeling as much as I wanted to believe any positive shred of information. I checked in on her every few hours: Google – Joan Rivers - the reports never changed. Joan wasn’t getting better. Her daughter shared little information, not a good sign. I came to believe Melissa and her son were spending final days with someone they loved. The other day on my morning drive to work, I thought, “you know she’s gonna go, it’s just a matter of time before we hear the news and then everything changes. The grieving will begin.”
Fashion Police was my Friday evening ritual. I would rather watch Joan than hang out with friends or go to the movies or shop. Last week, my friend, Janine, and I watched Joan’s special on the Emmy and VMA awards together via smartphone. Text - “OMG, Joan is so bad!” Which actually meant she was so “good.”
What was it about Joan that makes her passing so sad for me? I’ve been trying to figure it out these past few days. Do I see her as a mother figure? Nope, don’t think so. Maybe a little bit like a best girlfriend, someone you could rely on to always cheer you up, when down. Maybe it was her authenticity. A person doesn’t go through 50 years of show business being interviewed and performing without revealing something of herself. If you’re inclined, watch her interviews. Check out her routines or one-liners. She was a real person. She channeled warmth and goodness to her audience.
She had been FINE, in good health. She had just filmed Fashion Police on Monday, how can she be gone? But that’s how it goes. One minute our loved ones are okay. . .
Seems more often than not, though, death gives a warning. My father’s last illness and his passing had been a long process. I was emotionally prepared if there is such a thing, not that it lessened the pain and loss. Which is why Joan’s death feels so terribly sudden. So terribly wrong. It feels out of time, though no matter how much I object, it was obviously her time.
But her time also includes those 81 years of living. She didn’t bemoan the fact that she had gotten older, she cherished life and told that to interviewers and her daughter; and there were times when her life was pretty damned sad and scary. But she recovered. She worked hard. She maintained a positive outlook. And humor, a significant aspect of her soul and identity, came through for her when she needed it most – to heal her own life.
Whenever I watched her on TV and the time I saw her live here in Vermont two years ago, I knew we were short-timers, she was, after all, 81 years old. I had it all figured out for her. She could work until she was about 85, until she realized that all the travel and stage work made her a little too tired. She would still live in her NYC apartment. Her driver would take her to lunch dates and the doctor’s . . .
Her beloved dogs would remain her steady companions. She would carry on, spry enough to fly to see Melissa and Cooper in L.A., and they would come see her. She’d make the occasional media appearance. Then, in her 90’s, she’d just pass on in her sleep.
Pip (my cat) watching Fashion Police clip "Guess Me From Behind." (June, 2014)
From all accounts, she was a gracious, kind, warm colleague, friend, mother and grandmother. There are folks out there who have gotten all twisted about Joan’s line-crossing, biting humor. Her brave, side-splitting, self-deprecating humor. The kind that makes people think. Or helps them escape. Or encourages them to take life less seriously. Well, they won’t have to deal with it any longer. As for me (and the rest of us) I’ll miss my favorite Joan.