joan: traces of the sacred, gobs of profane….

by Art Chantry (

i got this in the mail yesterday. joan rivers is coming to tacoma to do her schtick. no big deal, she’s been here before. but, look at her FACE! what the hell?

is that a black eye? did she get punched? well, it IS joan rivers…. or is that her latest plastic surgery falling apart? well, it IS joan rivers…


maybe it’s some sort of graphic designer’s joke trying to make some sort of visual metaphor about her act being rough and tough and everybody gets punched out? or perhaps that designer also was making a wisecrack about her numerous facelifts? maybe joan is making the jokes herself! she’s well known for her biting with taking a pieces out of herself, too.

upon closer inspection, i discovered that it’s a smudge made somewhere en route in the mail system. i think some thing (could have been a leg of some device) whacked into it just perfectly. maybe it fell on the floor and got stepped on. maybe it got stuck in some cancellation machine.

whatever it was, it was one of those little bits of serendipity, a perfect kozmic synchronicity. pure jungian.

i often catch things like this and save them. i even use them in my design work. someday, you may see joan rivers’ smudged blackened eyes carefully collaged into somebody’s face in one of my posters. i’ve done it before. i’ll do it again. nobody is safe…

…i saw her in a massive crowd once at the los angeles ‘street beat’ event. she was to appear on stage with stevie wonder (a combo so weird, i had to see it.) to give you an idea what this crowd was like, when i walked into the solid massive throng of tens of thousands of people cramming the streets (blocked off), i amazingly walked right into a fully contained riot with tear gas and police on horse back and the whole works. a circle jerks show had just ended and the LAPD were breaking up the thrashing audience… so, i simply let the crowd lift me up and carry me away from it. it was very strange. i got stuck in this crush for a long time and i couldn’t get out. the mayor drifted by. eventually i worked my way out, barely touching the ground and stood on the sidewalk to catch my breathe (it got hard to breathe). then a huge black limo pulled up and a phalanx of cops ‘parted the red sea’ of that crowd and then opened the limo door. an absolutely terrified tiny tiny tiny little woman (well under 5 feet tall) wearing a yellow suit and sporting a face like a horse stepped out into the sunlight , looked around and was whisked into the depths of the throng. it was joan rivers. i’ve never seen anybody look MORE terrified in my life. yet, she went in. what a pro.


Lynn Crosbie:…In fact, it is only Griffin and Rickles who come close to celebrating Rivers properly in interviews. Griffin

pares her to Moms Mabley and Phyllis Diller; Rickles notes her “outstanding timing.”

In her work, definitely. In her life, not so much. It would be decades before an audience could countenance a foul-mouthed female comic, and still, so few exist. (It is not feminine to compare one’s wayward lady parts to a grey bunny slipper, and that is that.)

And Rivers, an old-style comic who keeps index cards of bada-boom jokes in a huge filing cabinet, is politically volatile. In the film, she compares Michelle Obama’s style to Jackie O.’s with shocking and crude élan as her assistants groan in distaste.

Rivers does not seem to care what people think: Having cut her teeth in tough clubs in Greenwich Village, she seems impervious to the pop world’s cynical opinions, which she wisely attributes to her having long been pigeonholed, among the elite, as a “Borscht Belt” comic.

But watch her face as the male comics at the Friars Club Roast excoriate her “clown mask.”

“No man has ever called me beautiful,” she quietly notes earlier in the film, and here lays bare the woman beneath the hard, brittle carapace.

The documentary, her big victory on Celebrity Apprentice (“Meh, it’s not the Oscars, but still,” she is heard saying), a rush of publicity and more have filled up her date book, the empty sight of which, she says, scares her to death.

I never liked Rivers until I saw this film: She is a brilliant comic, possessed of an inspiring heart. When she delivers food to a sick woman in Manhattan, she shows genuine interest in her photography, then goes home to Google her.

I did the same: It was the great cult flâneuse Flo Fox, a little down but not out. Quite a lot like her friend in all the vulgar fur and flash, the great Joan Rivers.Read More:

Stephen Cole:The film begins with the 77-year-old comedian staring without makeup into an unforgiving mirror. Then we follow her plodding down the steps of a nightclub dive, weighed down with jewellery and wraps. Hitting the stage, she launches into a rancorous account of how daughter Melissa turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars to bare her breasts for Playboy.

Can Joan Rivers still talk?

“Is she nuts?” Rivers shouts in her familiar barking Chihuahua voice, and then (I’m paraphrasing here, for decorum’s sake): She should’ve offered to drop her pants for another $200,000.

Brooklyn-born, Barnard-educated Rivers, née Joan Alexandra Molinsky, was a fringe comedian when Johnny Carson invited her onto NBC’s Tonight Show in 1965. She killed, as they say, and afterward the host whispered to her, “You’re going to be a big star.”

Carson’s benediction was a blessing and a curse, as the film Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work makes clear. By the mid-sixties, the world was hungry for an impolite comic to dish about sex. Sample clip from film:

Carson: “Some men prefer smart women.”

Rivers: “Oh, please, Johnny. No man ever put his hand up a woman’s dress looking for a library card.” Read More:

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