Joan Rivers, the pioneering queen of comedy, who overcame tragedy and disappointment to transform herself in late life into a comic scourge of the red carpet, has died, according to her daughter, Melissa Rivers. She was 81.
She died today at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, where she was rushed after she stopped breathing during surgery on her vocal chords at an endoscopy clinic on Aug.28. She had been unconscious and on life support, in critical but stable condition. She was stable enough to be moved out of intensive care into a private room yesterday.
Her daughter and sometime sidekick, Melissa Rivers, who rushed from
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Rivers is survived by her daughter, 46, her partner in withering red-carpet fashion interviews and reviews, her producer on Joan's weekly YouTube series In Bed With Joan, and mother of Joan's grandson, Cooper Endicott, 13.
Rivers, who was actively flogging her latest humor book this year, was making headlinesup to the last minute, raising eyebrows, as she had so many times in the past, with jokes and remarks viewed as insensitive, unfunny or politically incorrect:
She joked about the Holocaust and the
Mostly, she didn't apologize, or only grudgingly. Rivers, who has more than 2 million Twitter followers, didn't believe she went too far. "Life is tough. Life is tough. I just think, 'Make them laugh,' " she told USA TODAY in a recent interview.
She started out in an era when not only could she not say the word abortion on TV, she could not even acknowledge that she was seven months pregnant while appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. A lone woman in a man's world, Rivers made it a point to break rules.
MEMORIES: Comedy Central roasting Joan Rivers
She turned her own insecurities, about her looks and abilities, into comic fodder, and despite ups and downs in her career, she never stopped working. A dozen humor books carry her name (her latest,Diary of a Mad
When the documentary filmabout her,Joan Rivers — A Piece of Work, came out in 2010, it showed Rivers as a woman terrified of a blank datebook. She told USA TODAY that the queen of comedy had no intention of abdicating. She was 77 at the time, and speaking from the
To some people she was a joke — all that plastic surgery, all those red-carpet inanities — but she lived off that joke very nicely, thank you.
"I love what I do, why should I rest?" she said then."How lucky am I, doing what I want to do? That's heaven."
For decades the most important man in Rivers' life, after husband
Rivers made her first appearance on The
By the 1980s, she thought of herself as Carson's daughter, and was his favorite guest host on the show when he was absent. But in 1986 it all came to tears. She announced she would host her own talk show on Fox in the same time period as The Tonight Show, thus becoming Carson's competitor. Somehow, she failed to warn him in advance.
He cut her off, never spoke to her again and banned her from the show, a ban that survived into the hosting terms of his two successors,
But she survived, and even thrived.
The documentary about her, which featured appearances by comics including Griffin,
No matter what, she was determined not to leave the stage until they carried her out on a stretcher, as her then-manager, Bill Stammeth, explained. "God help the next queen of comedy because this one is not abdicating — she'll leave nail marks on the red carpet."