Wednesday, September 10, 2014





In 1975 I was joyously ensconced as a daily columnist for The Hollywood Reporter, thanks to my mentor, Tichi Wilkerson. It created my entire world of lasting friendships. Joan Rivers was my friend for 40 years. While Joan was the funniest human in the world, to her private friends she was a fragile bird with a steel core. Her kindness and generosity happened behind the scenes. She supported so many people financially and emotionally, and the public never knew. Here are personal snippets of our lives together.

The day we met: Joan, Edgar and Melissa moved to Los Angeles and rented a house in Coldwater Canyon Dr. Her publicist, Frank Liberman, asked me to meet her there for lunch. He thought we'd hit it off. I rang the bell....

"Hi, I'm Archie the ice skater. Joan found me at Rockefeller Center and I needed a job. I'm her assistant. She said to meet her in Melissa's room." I think Melissa was nine.
"So nice to meet you," said Joan wearing a witch costume. "Melissa and I are playing Halloween.".........

"Hi, it's Joan. I'm at Ceasar's Palace and I'm taking orders. What do you want? Soap, towels, shampoo?"
"I really need a blanket this time," I said.
"Edgar! screamed Joan. "Pack the blanket!"......

 Joan, a few months  after living on Coldwater Canyon, knew somehow it wasn't in the right place and called me. "Where's the best place to live? I know this isn't it." 
"Bel Air. That's the only place for you," I answered.....

The first dinner party in the Bel Air House--Vincent Price and Coral Brown, Roddy MacDowell and his friend, and another famous actor and his wife. Joan's table was camera-ready for House Beautiful. We sat down and Roddy's friend realized I was a member of the press. He had just received a bad review on his singing act in the Hollywood Reporter. I knew nothing about it. 
First course: Lobster bisque was served. Joan lifted her spoon and we started to eat. I was next to Edgar. I loved him from the moment I met him. Suddenly the singer jumps up and starts to yell at me. I guess I represented all press. He was drunk and it got louder. Then he lunged across the table to hit me. Joan put down her soup spoon. Edgar blocked the blow. Roddy grabbed the kid, took him outside and locked him in the car.
Second course: Filet mignon with whipped potatoes and glazed carrots. I'm still shaky and go to the ladies room. I open the door and the wife of the unnamed actor is face down on the floor, passed out from some substance. I run back to the dining room and announce it. The woman's husband runs to the bathroom and revives her and they leave. Back to the dinner table. The filets are cold. Joan throws her fork across the room. "F--k it. I'm ordering pizza."

The Bel Air house backed up against the golf course of the Bel Air Country Club. It was a restricted club--no Jews allowed. Joan's great love was her rose garden in her back yard and she tended to them every day. The only problem was that wayward golf balls were constantly coming over the hedge and either hitting her or the roses. I was with her in the backyard one day and a ball went whizzing by. Suddenly a man in full golfing regalia stuck his head over the fence and asked for his ball back. Joan picked up the ball and yelled, "You Nazi! Your balls are mine!"

After Edgar died Joan and I were sitting in the Bel Air kitchen. She was in a robe and slippers crying softly. "No one wants me. All my bookings have been canceled because they think a widow can't be funny. I'm off all the dinner party guest lists because I'm single and the wives think I'll go after their husbands." She paused for a second, Kleenex over her nose and said, "I know. We'll go Jewish Skiing! Go home and pack and come right back."
"What's Jewish skiing? I asked. 
"Don't ask."
In a few hours I found myself on a plane to Deer Valley with Joan and Melissa and a hairdresser (our beloved Max D'Fray), and a masseuse. Shalom Slolom.

My favorite times with Joan were actually us sitting side by side somewhere in the world, no make-up or hair, each quietly reading a book. She looked like she might be a librarian from Anywhere, USA. Thanks to Melissa, Joan's last days in the hospital were spent in a beautiful, huge room, decorated by event planner Preston Bailey, who did Melissa's wedding. Things from her own bedroom were brought there so it looked like home. There were dusty rose roses in vases all over. She had her own lace comforter and all of her European linens. It was Joan's boudoir and it was fit for a Queen. She looked beautiful and peaceful. I held her hand and  talked to her repeatedly. For me, she will never die. I think I'll probably never laugh again, but if I really can't, I'll remember back to the time when another friend of mine was in a coma and I thought if maybe Joan spoke to her it might help. Joan called and I held the phone close to my friend's ear so I could hear Joan's words  of encouragement---"Wake up, you stupid bitch!"

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