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Joam Rivers dies at 81

Raunchy and hilarious comedian Joan Rivers passed away today at age 81, after being hospitalized last week due to cardiac arrest.
Raunchy and hilarious comedian Joan Rivers passed away today at age 81, after being hospitalized last week due to cardiac arrest.Charles William Bush. Photo taken from www.hollywoodreporter.com

Tragic news for celebrity followers in Fresno and all over the world today as legendary, raunchy comedian Joan Rivers passed away today at age 81, following her being rushed to a hospital last week upon entering cardiac arrest at a Manhattan doctor's office following a routine procedure.

As reported by several sources, including Lynn Elber of AOL.com, River's daughter Melissa said she died at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, surrounded by family and close friends. She said, "My mother's greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon."

Rivers - known for her trademark phrase "Can we talk?" - lived a career in the entertainment industry for half a century, never afraid to lay insults into all races, genders and creeds in the industry. Her career saw her take on several generations of targets as well, from Elizabeth Taylor to Miley Cyrus.

Nothing seemed sacred to Rivers if it meant getting a laugh. She would mock everything from her supposed lack of sex appeal ("My best birth control now is just to leave the lights on") to even her own mortality. As she was quoted in a 2013 interview with the Associated Press, "I have never wanted to be a day less than I am. People say, `I wish I were 30 again.' Nahhh! I'm very happy HERE. It's great. It gets better and better. And then, of course, we die."

Rivers was also the queen of the Hollywood runway critique with her segment Who are you wearing?, which saw her doing such things as remarking that Adele's Grammy wardrobe made the singer look like she was sitting on a teapot. She also slammed actors at the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes for E! Entertainment. Unfortunately, in 2007, Rivers and her partner-in-slime, her own daughter Melissa, were both dropped by their new employer, the TV Guide Channel, and replaced by actress Lisa Rinna. Nevertheless, they found new success on E! with the hit show Fashion Police, which Rivers hosted and her daughter produced.

But perhaps the most remarkable thing about Rivers was her hard work, and tenacity in her pursuit of her own style of comedy, never stopping her fine tuning and nailing every joke that was on her mind. She told the Associated Press in 2013, mere day after the death of her older sister, "The trouble with me is, I make jokes too often. I was making jokes yesterday at the funeral home. That's how I get through life. Life is SO difficult - everybody's been through something! But you laugh at it, it becomes smaller."

Yet despite the laughs she had earned in her life, Rivers also faced real life tragedy. Edgar Rosenberg, her husband of 23 years, committed suicide in 1987 after she was fired from her Fox talk show, which he produced. The show's failure was a major factor, Rivers said. Rosenberg's suicide also temporarily derailed her career; as she told The New York Times in 1990, "Nobody wants to see someone whose husband has killed himself do comedy four weeks later."

Rivers was born Joan Molinsky in Brooklyn to Russian immigrants Meyer Molinsky, a doctor, and his wife Beatrice. She had a privileged upbringing but struggled with weight - she considered herself a "fatty" as a child - and recalled using make-believe as a means of escape. She graduated from Barnard College in 1954 and worked as a department store fashion coordinator before taking up work in comedy clubs. She had a six-month marriage to Jimmy Sanger.

Originally entering the business to become a dramatic actress, Rivers took her earliest comedy roles as a a means of paying the bills. Keep in mind that in the early 1960s comedy was a mostly male-driven medium and the only major female comics for Rivers to look up to were Totie Fields and Phyllis Diller. But she worked her way up from performing local clubs in New York until, in 1965, she finally landed her big break on The Tonight Show. As host Johnny Carson told her after her performance in front of the audience, "God, you're funny. You're going to be a star."

In late 1965 she had recorded her first comedy album, "Joan Rivers Presents Mr. Phyllis and Other Funny Stories." It was also that year that she met British producer Edgar Rosenberg and they married after a four-day courtship.

In 1968 Rivers hosted a morning talk show on NBC and, the next year, made her Las Vegas debut during a time where female comedians still a rarity. As she told The Los Angeles Time in 1977, "To control an audience is a very masculine thing. The minute a lady is in any form of power, they (the public) totally strip away your femininity - which isn't so. Catherine the Great had a great time."

Sadly, revers also saw her fair share of failure in Hollywood as well. In 1978, she wrote, directed and co-starred in the movie Rabbit Test, in which Billy Crystal starred as a man who gets pregnant. The film was poorly received, but on the bright side, in 1983, though, she named as permanent guest host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. Sadly, despite drawing in ratings, NBC did not renew her contract three years later, which gave then-fledgling network Fox the opportunity to offer her her own late-night show. The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers premiered on Fox in 1986, but only lasted one season and came at a heavy price: Johnny Carson felt blind-sighted by her becoming a competitor and severed ties with her as a result.

With her show gone in a year (herself later declaring she had been "raped" by Fox), her husband was found dead three months later. It would be two years until her career picked up again. She appeared at clubs and on several TV shows including Hollywood Squares. She also appeared on Broadway and released more comedy albums and books, the most recent titled Diary of a Mad Diva.

In recent years, Rivers appeared on the TV shopping channel QVC to promote her line of jewelry, and won the reality show Celebrity Apprentice by beating out her bitter adversary, poker champ Annie Duke. She was also featured in the 2010 documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

Survived by her daughter Melissa and grandson Cooper, Joan Rivers is a name that family, friends and fans all over the world will not soon forget. Rest in peace, Mrs. Rivers, you will be dearly missed.