Berkshires Remember Joan Rivers

2013 Performance at the Colonial in Pittsfield

By: - May 11, 2013

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At 81 before she passed this week the comic Joan Rivers was still out there earning the daily bread to maintain an elaborate and expensive lifestyle. Because of endless surgeries, during Red Carpet appearances schoomzing with celebreties she and her daughter Melissa often looked more like sisters.

At its peak a brilliant career as a TV celebrity took a dive when she left a position as designated host of the Tonight Show in the absences of Johnny Carson to launch a rival show. Carson never spoke to her again and when the Rivers show flopped she was banned from his network. They her husband, who has grossly mismanaged her career and finances, took his life.

As documented in the film A Piece of Work she reinvented herself as a telemarketer and daytime TV star.

At the Colonial

With a mask like face, pulled as tight as a drum from numerous nips and tucks, the potty mouthed, eighty something going on sweet sixteen, Joan Rivers prowled the stage of the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield like a tigress in heat hungry for raw meat.

Nobody was spared her fangs and claws as Rivers (Joan Alexandra Molinsky born June 8, 1933 in Brooklyn) ripped into a hilarious litany of hate savaging everyone from Jewish mothers, to the blind, cripples, amputees, Mexicans, Haitians, drooping vaginas, gays, lesbians, and a rolodex of her nearest and dearest celebrity friends.

She hates children like the brats sitting behind her on a flight home from Mexico. Oh and she hates Mexicans even more than the Haitians she encountered when she flew there with Anderson Cooper after the earth quake.

“Have you ever heard of anybody ripping a photo of a Mexican from a magazine and taking it to a plastic surgeon demanding Make me look like this?”

She mocked Chaz Bono, the transgendered son of her best friend Cher for asking mommy for “25,000 to buy a penis.”

Paul McCarthy’s ex wife Heather, an amputee, walked away with $500 million because he didn’t have a pre nup. Simulating hacking away at a leg she asked Paul which limb he wanted for a cool half billion.


That seems pretty raw, but trust me, we were rolling in the aisles.

Yah had to be there.

The Colonial was pretty well sold out with an adoring audience loving every hateful minute of her stand up, lie down, and roll around comedy.

She was scheduled to come to Pittsfield some time ago but cancelled because of the death of her friend Michael Jackson. Can’t you imagine them swapping cosmetic surgery tips. There wasn’t much left of Michael’s face by the time he checked out.

But what an exquisite corpse.

When Rivers croaks they can skip the embalming.

Anticipating her demise she speculated that it might happen on stage in Pittsfield. “That will give you something great to talk about at dinner parties.”

The total gonzo woman has made and lost a fortune by slicing and dicing everything in sight.

Why is a woman of her age one-nighting, global whistle stops and not home knitting kaftans or playing bingo at the senior center?

Like the rest of us pensioners.

Sadly, she may need the money to maintain a celebrity lifestyle.

As reported on August 15, 1987 “Edgar Rosenberg, husband of comedian Joan Rivers, was discovered dead yesterday morning in a guest room of the posh Four Seasons Hotel in an apparent suicide from an overdose of Valium, police said.

“Rosenberg, 63, was known to millions by his first name only - as the butt of his wife's jokes on television. He was in Philadelphia alone on business, according to a spokesman for Rivers. The couple have millions of dollars in real estate holdings in the area.”

During her routine, in a segment sounding off on the disabled, she pantomimed having to push a wheel chair up the ramp to a party. This after berating her fictive companion that he might try to negotiate just three steps. “We’re late for the party” she said acting out pushing him round and round the meandering handicapped ramp.

Although not identified the companion was a reference to her late husband from whom she was separated during the last year of his life. As suicide notes he left audio tapes for Joan, their daughter Melissa, and their business manager. Apparently he had mismanaged millions of their assets.

As Rivers told a journalist “my husband went really berserk his last year, mentally had problems, and invested terribly. The joke is: Venus de Milo manicure shop, diet spas in Darfur. I was left with no husband, no job and no money, and a lot of debts. And QVC, God, came out of the blue. (She designed a line of jewelry sold through telemarketing).”

Regarding enormous debts that, coupled with declining health, led to his suicide shePaid them all off. I was a good girl. I was stupid. I should’ve gone into bankruptcy! At this age, I don’t believe in being honorable. My biggest regret is I’m not dating Bernie Madoff. We could’ve spent that $62 billion together!”


On her behalf one assumes that she gives as good as she gets. Behind that outrageous stage persona is arguably a performer who reverses her pain into an outrageous form of aggressive, attack entertainment. The private Rivers, unlike the vicious yenta, cares deeply for those she skewers.

One must put in context her 11th book, I Hate Everyone.…Starting With Me. Perhaps, like Jonathan Swift, she is a brilliant, outrageous satirist reflecting the vulgarity, decadence, celebrity obsession, and materialism of contemporary America. Every era has its Sophocles, Juvenal, Voltaire, Swift and Rivers.

The real life Rivers works on behalf of numerous charities: God's Love We Deliver, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Guide Dogs for the Blind, National Osteoporosis Foundation and Wounded Warriors, among other organizations

On stage she evoked the guilty pleasure of laughing about the unspeakable. She rips through the layers of PC with which we sanctimoniously and hypocritically wrap ourselves. She is the pampered, wigged, botoxed, slender, over dressed gorilla in the room. Probing our deepest prejudices she knows where we live in our closeted heart of hearts; skewered, exposed and played for laughs.

Today, Sunday morning, it makes me want to rush to a priest sputtering “Bless me father for I have sinned. I laughed so hard at Joan Rivers’ hateful jokes.” 

Life on the road can be tough. For a performer of her stature the norm is to travel in style with an entourage. On TV, Vegas and the global casino circuit, for example, there is the full orchestra that opens and closes the show.

At the Colonial she introduced her six piece orchestra. We only saw a pianist, drummer and sax player on stage. But behind each player was a full length mirror creating, at least in her mind, the illusion of a six piece band.

They were local musicians not familiar with her material. Like the rest of us, they often doubled over at her gags.

Several times she interacted with the pianist asking “What’s your name honey?”

Flopping to the floor and rolling about to demonstrate her flexibility and conditioning she stated “It’s easy to get down and hard to get up.” She called to “What’s your name” for some help.

Then, like some diva sex kitten she wanted to get up on the piano and strike an odalisque pose. But she couldn’t get her leg up. Again she enlisted “What’s your name” who awkwardly helped her. Milking the gag she wrapped her legs around him in an erotic manner.

Use your imagination.

At going on 80 she likes to flaunt her trim figure while taking a swipe at Goldie Hawn who acts sexy but has a pacemaker.

There was a gross routine about taking a friend to the emergency room and whispering to the attending that “Her vagina has fallen out.” This was graphically demonstrated.


Then there was something totally over the top about using it as a tether, like a suction cup, during an earth quake.

Can you believe this shit?

Oy gevalt, heaven forbid her mother should live so long already to hear such things.

Looks are everything in show biz and even her daughter Melissa has had procedures continuing in the family tradition.

Here in the Berkshires where the royals are all too too rich, thin and fabulous for words we all age gracefully.

Some years ago my Austrian friend, Christine, took me to dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Hollywood. Looking about the room she noted the surgeries “Tummy tuck, breast implants, face lift, nose job.”

Rivers told us that this week she is filing papers to run for Mayor of New York.

Joan doesn’t like the blind because “They never compliment me on my looks.” As Mayor she plans to pass a law against them “having apartments with views.” 

Also she’s in favor of reviving slavery. Just because it didn’t work out with black folks, well, how about trying it with other ethnic groups. “Like Peruvians and the undocumented. They would have full time employment, three meals a day, and a roof over their heads.”

If that’s funny you deserve a night with Joan Rivers off the leash and as charming as a rabid pit bull.

Oy vey.