Driving Joan Rivers

posted in: Tribute | 6

Joan Rivers has died. That’s the news I’m  seeing.

I remember her. My  group, our  group, the Indian River Boys opened for  her  many  times in the mid 80’s before she would guest host the Tonight Show. She was a hoot! Myself,   and Curry Worsham, the bass singer in the quartet, were looking in  on her act, from the foyer, when there came a knocking on the door of Carlos and Charlies’, where we had just finished our opening act, and she was a few  minutes into her show. Steve Tolman was there too.  I think Curry  answered the door. I think it  had one of those peekaboo doors in the middle of the door so the person  on the inside could check out the person on the outside before deciding to let them  in.  The person  knocking  on the door knocked several times before we answered the door. Hey ! Whoever  it was was late for the show. Not really  our problem. We were just the opening act. Anyways,  someone got around to asking “Who is it ? ” The voice on the other side of the  door replied “It’s George!” “George? George who?” The other voice then said “It’s Boy  George! Let me in!” Oh yeah. Sure it is.  But we had to look, and there he was. Boy  George. Coming to see his buddy  Joan Rivers. So we let him  in and he  started watching Joan from  behind the curtain that we watched her  from,  and when she got to the part in her show where she started making fun  of  Boy  George as just another  queen of England that didn’t know how  to dress right,  he entered the show room with a flourish, and exclaimed in mock disdain “YOU BITCH !” and things went wonderfully  crazy  the rest of the show.

That was one of my  memories of Joan Rivers. But I had actually  met her a couple of years earlier when I was working as the executive office courier for Tandem/Tat,  Norman Lear and Bud Yorkins’ hugely  successful television production company. Mr. Television,  Al Burton, the Senior Vice President of Creative for Tandem/TAT, had asked me to drive to Los Angeles International Airport, LAX, to pick up Joan Rivers and bring  her back to the office for a meeting.  So I got in my beat up Datsun B210 and met Joan Rivers at the airport,  and found myself  driving Joan Rivers to Metromedia  studios in Hollywood.

For  anyone unfamiliar with Los Angeles,  LAX is quite a  drive from  Hollywood, so I got the chance to get to know her a bit. She was very nice, and real down to earth. And unlike a lot of folks I knew that were comedic,  she wasn’t always trying to test her funny  bits on me. Maybe because I wasn’t important , and maybe because she was tired after flying nonstop, cross-country, from  New York. But when we did talk, she would ask questions about myself, and then would talk about what got her started. Writing, she said. She told me that whatever you  do,  always write.  Write for  others. Write for  yourself. Because, as she put it, don’t expect others in show business to all of a sudden discover you. Write your  own material,  so that you can perform your own material, and not wait for someone else to do it for you.

I’ve never forgotten that, even though  she wasn’t the only person  in Hollywood to suggest that. Perry  Grant,  senior writer of One Day At a Time,  also recommended that I do the same, though I never really  did write  scripts for myself.  But as a singer,  I’ve ended up writing songs for  myself,  and I still do.

I want to thank Joan Rivers for giving me that advice. She didn’t have to. She didn’t know  me from the next executive office courier  working  for minimum  wage in Hollywood.  But she was a people person, and was just sharing with  me what she knew. Because that’s who she was.

Thanks Joan.  Those experiences always colored my  positive  opinion of you.


IRB with Joan Rivers




6 Responses

  1. Margaret Siemers

    She truly was a very special lady. Once a friend of mine and his mother were to see her perform, unfortunately my friends father passed away suddenly and, with her performance only being a few weeks after the funeral did not wish to attend. However she insisted my friend go and take someone with him in her stead. These were tickets that let you meet the entertainer after the show backstage so we attended as did about 75 others.

    Joan worked the room beautifully, taking each well wisher by the had and finding something personal to say to each. When she got to my friend and I he naturally told Joan how big a fan his mother was of hers, and only something like this tragedy could have kept her from visiting.

    Joan never missed a beat. “Will she be up this late?” My friend indicated that he was staying over at her home and yes, he was sure she would be waiting to hear all that had taken place. “The poor woman, I want to talk to her.” “Can you wait till I am finished here?”

    Long story short, we were escorted to her dressing room to wait for her. Soon after Joan came in and said she decided the others could wait on us, that this was important. She had my friend call his house and prepare his mother, not wanting to give the poor dear any more shocks this year.

    Joan was AMAZING! She and my friends mother conversed for a full forty-five minutes. She wanted to hear all about the husband from her. They talked like old friends about loosing a loved one, what life was like to them, just normal concerned reaching out to a friend conversation. She ended the call by saying she was giving my friend her personal contact number and that she wanted her to use it if she ever needed to talk about anything. “I am giving the number to your son, I don’t what you to loose it.” she said.

    She ended our “visit” with a hug for both of us and this advice for my friend. “Take note of your mothers feelings, be there for her, she just lost everything and will never show you this.” She continued, “You have my number, make sure she uses it if she wants to call.”

    Yes, she was a very special lady. Thank you for sharing your memories with us all.

  2. John George Campbell

    Thank you for sharing that great story, Margaret. That is the Joan Rivers I knew from opening for her, quite often. Just a real nice person.

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