Friday, September 5, 2014

Devisive, Derisive, But Dressed Like a Lady

Joan Rivers left us yesterday.  Actually she left us last week, but was kept on life support in the hope of recovery.  Her situation just points out how tenuous our lives can be, reminding us to live each day to the fullest.

Some folks out there won't read this blog because they never liked Ms. Rivers.  That's okay.  She wasn't in the business to make people like her.

There are comedians who operate from a base of pain.  These are the especially brilliant ones, the fast on their feet thinkers with the snappy one-liners that seemingly materialize out of the air. The recently deceased Robin Williams for one - his icon Jonathan Winters for another.  Ms. Rivers fits into that category as well.

She had a hell of a life but still she kept going using her pain as impetus to spark her razor remarks.

In her youth she wanted to be an actress.  In an interview she once said her whole family was funny.  When she went to the theatrical agents' offices, she would tell their secretaries jokes in the hope they would let her see the boss.  Finally one day, one of the secretaries told her "you're very funny.  Have you thought about doing stand-up?"  Hungry, working office temp jobs, Joan took the secretary's advice and a star was born.

I remember her through the years.  Sometimes when I was younger I was offended by the things she said.  I dismissed her as insensitive and willing to make fun of anybody to get attention.

But then, she came to QVC, the premier shopping channel.  For the last twenty years, she sold her line of jewelry, clothing, and cosmetic products.  She was funny on the air, but very sweet with the way she handled the customers who called to talk to her on the air.

She began with copies of imperial Russian jewelry.  Her family was of Russian ancestry and prized some of their pieces from that period.  Joan had a fondness for Faberge eggs - gorgeous creations meant for the ruling family by the world renown jeweler.  The surviving original ones are in museums and storied private collections.  Many are considered to be priceless. She had copies of the eggs made as jewelry, or objects to decorate the home.  They were beautiful.

She had a symbol she kept with her throughout her career.  A bumblebee - and why is that? Because anatomically a bumblebee should not be able to fly, but somehow it does.  It was a symbol for her that anything is possible.  She put out a long line of bejeweled bee jewelry that was very popular.  Each new design sold out in its initial showing.  I have to admit I have a few of them.  I like the idea that anything is possible, because I believe it is.

Her company grew and started making women's clothing and accessories.  Everything something she would wear.  She was usually on the Best Dressed List each year.  She was very successful on QVC.

There was another aspect of her which I admired.  She loved her dogs.  In the beginning, she brought her Yorkies with her to the set and they appeared in the shows with her when she sold her merchandise.  Then one by one, they passed on from old age.  And she did not bring any others with her.  She mourned her little Spike many years after he passed away.  I can relate to that.

I saw her earlier last month on what I believe was her last appearance on QVC.  I noticed how frail she was looking, how much smaller she seemed.  Honestly, having worked with elderly people in my career, I wondered then about her health.

I think the key to Joan Rivers was she was much harder on herself than she was anyone else.  She had a sensitive side in her treatment of her little dogs, her grandchild, and the ladies who called in to talk to her on QVC. Often the ladies would have a sad story to tell about getting the bee pin for someone who was seriously ill, for example.  Ms. Rivers was genuine in her response each time.

She'll be missed in the theaters and clubs she played to sold-out houses.  She will be missed on the Red Carpet, on the WE network where she had a show with her only child, Melissa. She will be missed on QVC by the legions of fans of her jewelry and clothes which made each of them feel like a lady on the Best Dressed List.

Goodnight, Joan, thank you for the outrageous laughs and lovely moments.

Rest well.

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