Joan Rivers’ funeral took place on September 7. Though her death was stunning and deeply sad, she was an amazing woman, and there’s peace in knowing that as she lived, she changed the world for the better. Rivers was among the last of a select group of famous senior citizens who had been regular guest hosts for Johnny Carson, and she was the first woman to break into late-night television. Anyone else might have been driven out of the business for the kinds of things Rivers said, but she was loved for her acerbic and often self-deprecating humor. It was far worse to be overlooked by her routine than to be the object of one of her cruelest punch lines.
The model of an independent older adult at age 81, Rivers would hate being called one of our favorite famous senior citizens. She is quoted by her friend Cindy Adams as once having said, “See, I’m still here. I’m not finished. I’m not Joan of AARP.” In honor of this strong, fiery comedienne, here’s a look at some of her underreported moments and hidden facets.
A Woman of Substance
Actions speak louder than words. Peggy Noonan recalls an episode from 2004 that showed Rivers’ strength of character. Both were among those who were invited to formally receive the body of former president Ronald Reagan at the US Capitol, where he would lie in state. Just before the arrival, the Secret Service “burst into the room,” ordering an immediate evacuation. An airplane had strayed into the restricted airspace and appeared to be on a collision course with the Capitol. Everyone thought they were under attack.
During the frantic evacuation, Rivers fell down the stairs and broke the heel on her shoe. She was unable to keep going and her best friend attempted to help her. She pleaded with him to leave her behind and to save himself by running to safety.
Rivers was hands-on when it came to giving back to the community. For 25 years, she was devoted to God’s Love We Deliver, an organization in New York that delivers “high-quality meals to people who, because of their illness, are unable to provide or prepare meals for themselves.” She not only served on the organization’s board of directors for the past 20 years, but she also personally delivered meals each holiday season, worked the annual Race to Deliver in November, and won over $500,000 for the organization when she competed on Celebrity Apprentice. (Click here to view a gallery of Rivers in action.)
A Proper Farewell
River would have loved her funeral, as it truly paid homage to her humor, strength, and candor. Howard Stern delivered the eulogy, the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus sang “Big Spender,” Hugh Jackman sang “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage,” and, at the funeral’s conclusion, the New York City Police Department’s bagpipers played on the street.
Joan River’s Greatest Accomplishment
From the time she was a young adult until she matured into one of entertainment’s most famous seniors, Rivers bridged multiple generation gaps and brought a smile to the faces of millions. Far beyond talent, Rivers had the extraordinary gift of being able to make others feel important — a gift she imparted on the world each day of her life.