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A look back at Joan and Melissa Rivers

A look back at the lives and careers of mother daughter working duo, Joan and Melissa Rivers.
A look back at the lives and careers of mother daughter working duo, Joan and Melissa Rivers.
Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for VH1

Comedienne Joan Rivers is in for the fight of her life. On Thursday, August 28th, Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York after undergoing a procedure on her throat. The 81 year old star, who is no stranger to plastic surgery, stopped breathing and had to be medically induced into a coma. Currently, she remains on life support and her family is weighing the decision to end her life. In particular, this decision is hardest for her only child, Melissa Rivers. The two have shared a close bond over the years that has been documented in a number of television shows together. Melissa recently released a statement on the matter.

Joan and Melissa pose at the 2014 NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Upfronts in New York City.
Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

My mother would be so touched by the tributes and prayers that we have received from around the world. Her condition remains serious but she is receiving the best treatment and care possible. We ask that you continue to keep her in your thoughts as we pray for her recovery.

Melissa Rivers was born in 1968 as Melissa Warburg Rosenberg to parents Rivers and Edgar Rosenberg. She was essentially born into the business with both parents working (Joan as an entertainer on The Joan Rivers Show and Rosenberg as the show's executive producer). She grew up watching her father and her mother collaborate and create a career for a female comedienne at a time when such a thing was taboo. In 1987, while both her parents served as writers for The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, she suffered one of the most heartbreaking losses of her life. Her father committed suicide after Fox tried to fire him against Joan's objections and then cancelled The Late Show in retaliation.

Melissa was in college at the time studying European History, a departure from her parents entertainment lifestyle. After her father's death, Melissa graduated college, pursued a career in journalism and changed her name to Melissa Rivers. She continued to build her resume in television and in 1994 she and her mother chronicled their struggle with Rosenberg's death in Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story. The film starred both mother and daughter and was not well received but it was a cathartic experience for the pair.

Just two short years later, Melissa became a red carpet correspondent for E! alongside Joan. Melissa's straight routine paired with Joan's biting jabs, made the show a hit and terrified celebs unsure of what Joan would say next. Some would say that Joan was the reason why red carpet fashion improved dramatically because she called it like she saw it and made no apologies for her biting wit. Melissa's tact and even matching with her mom proved that she could be a star as well. She starred in two of the E! channel's highest rated reality show specials, Oh Baby! Melissa's Guide To Pregnancy and Oh Toddler! Surviving The Early Years.

In 2003, the Rivers left the E! red carpet to accept a $6 million dollar contract for the TV Guide Channel interviewing red carpet celebrities. The deal was profitable but TV Guide opted not to renew their contract, which was fine because Joan and Melissa had maintained a good relationship with the E! network. Joan was host of Fashion Police and Melissa served as occasional guest host and producer. In 2006, Melissa produced one of Joan's standup specials for Bravo poignantly titled, Joan Rivers: Before Melissa Pulls The Plug. Obviously, no one thought that art would imitate life years later.

There were several other collaborations including the reality show, Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best, but all of the shows tell a story. This is a mother and daughter who survived a terrible loss and they rebounded by clinging to each other. Melissa picked up where her father left off and in nurturing Joan's career, she created one of her own. They never once hid their personal life. They shared their struggles with the world. Now Melissa stands at the precipice of what might be the end of a three decade partnership and a lifetime of love. There are not words to express the depths of emotion that Melissa must be feeling but at least she has the comfort of knowing that she was her mom's best friend and that everyone could see it, even when they were fighting and kicking each other out of the house. Here's hoping that Joan's indomitable spirit continues to fight on. Who else is going to give it the stars when they wear something atrocious?

Update: Joan Rivers died on Thursday, September 4, 2014. Her daughter Melissa Rivers expressed her remorse in a statement posted via her mother's website.

"It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers. She passed away peacefully at 1:17 p.m. surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses and staff of Mt. Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother", said Melissa Rivers. "Cooper and I have found ourselves humbled by the outpouring of love, support and prayers that we have received from around the world. They have been heard and appreciated. My mother's greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know that her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon."

Update: CNN confirms that the New York medical examiner's office will investigate Rivers' death. Rivers underwent a mild throat operation at the Yorkville Endoscopy clinic and suffered a heart attack on the table.

Niema Hulin is a graduate of the University of Florida and a resident of Miami, Florida. She has spent the past 12 years working on film, television and commercials as a Production Coordinator and the last 5 years as freelance writer. Her films have included Bad Boys II and I Am Number IV and her articles have been featured on, CBS Local, Time Warner and LinkedIn Pulse. In all of her endeavors, she aspires to enlighten, entertain and be of service to the greater good.

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