#SWC No. 17: Strong Jewish Women in History – Joan Rivers

Listen to the podcast (06:37)

Welcome to #SWC, a quickie, 5-minute story about an amazing Jewish woman in history!

Thank you for joining me!

This week I attended an online summit, where they asked for three women we were inspired by and why.

I wrote:

Maya Angelou: because of her talent, her beauty, her message, her words. She was the ultimate strong, smart, woman. But she isn’t Jewish, so we won’t talk about her today.

The second woman was Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanx: what I learn from her is to hustle, hustle, hustle; to believe in yourself despite others not believing in you and to do it all with grace. But, although Sarah is Jewish, she is also alive, and this podcast is about dead Jewish women. So hopefully I’ll be able to get Sarah to come on to the podcast, and I’ll interview her, in real life, and not just read about her.

And the third woman I wrote on that list was Joan Rivers: a woman who broke taboos and was not afraid to speak when others expected her to be soft and quiet and docile.

I started looking for her quotes and clips and I got to watching Fashion Police, which used to be my number one favorite show on TV, which I don’t watch at all now (unless there’s an amazing series, then I spend most of my time NOT watching it, until I can’t hold out anymore, and I binge a few episodes… Like “The Americans”, for example.. )

Her story is not a simple one, but one of breaking new ground for women. With a huge personality, a lot of love behind her persona, and a life that wasn’t always clear or easy.

It’s hard to summarize Joan Rivers into a short blog post or podcast.

And I know she may not be in consensus, as to if you think she’s somebody to admire and be inspired by. But I did, and I am and continue to be inspired by her.
Her ultimate chutzpah, the way she could take your breath away with her humor again and again and again. Her ambition was second to none.

One of the things I learned on the summit I attended, which was given by Gloria Feldt and Mary Legakis Engel, was Carpe the Chaos! Meaning, if you want to make a difference, sometimes it’s the difference you’re making that will be the balagan, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.

In Joan River’s case, she spoke about gender discrimination all the time, about LGBT issues, about injustices, about abortion rights, about women coming out from under their husband’s rule, way back in the 60’s, when she first became famous on the Johnny Carson Show.

So here’s a clip from 1974, which is clean. I’ve watched hours of her now, supposedly researching today’s show, but really just loving every bit of her. In those hours of research, this is 10 seconds of clean audio, so enjoy!

Let me try and tell you a little about her, some things you may know, and others you may not:

Joan was born Joan Molinsky in New York in 1933, to parents who immigrated to the US from Russia.
She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Barnard College.
She performed her comedy in many many small clubs for about 7 years, before she got her break on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. She became a regular feature on the show, as well as the Ed Sullivan show, before becoming the permanent host when Johnny was away, and she always credited Johnny Carson with her success.

She did not have an easy career, and she was never conceited about her success, quite the opposite. She was an incredibly hard worker, with a crazy work ethic and ambition.

Joan Rivers was married for six months to her first husband, and they divorced and did not have kids together.
Her second husband was also her producer, Edgar Rosenberg, and together they had Melissa Rivers, their only child. They were married for 22 years, and unfortunately, Edgar Rosenberg committed suicide.

Joan Rivers wrote 12 books, had a line of jewelry and clothing on QVC, was in many movies, TV shows, and on Broadway theater. She was nominated for multiple awards; she has a Grammy and a Daytime Grammy award.

Sadly, Joan Rivers died from complications of surgery on her vocal chords, at the age of 81.

Howard Stern, delivering the eulogy, described Joan Rivers as “brassy in public [and] classy in private”.