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.