No more talking

Remembering Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers: The go-to red carpet critic and funny lady. (E! / Brian Bowen Smith/E! / October 24, 2013)

Dolled-up celebrities who walk the red carpet in designer-clad attire will now strut and pose without the most critical eye of all—that of the ultimate fashion critic, Joan Rivers. The comedienne died Thursday at 81 after complications from a surgery last week that left her on life support.

She has taken her final bow, her final curtain call. The world will be laughing a little less now without Joan Rivers. I know I will.

Rivers broke the mold for funny ladies—and plastic surgery patients—and paved the way for irreverent comedy throughout her accomplished 50-plus-year career.

And she wasn't finished. The accomplished author's latest book in which she skewered more than a hundred celebrities, "Diary of a Mad Diva," was published in July. Her Web series, "In Bed With Joan," was a success. She and daughter Melissa were set to resume filming their wildly popular and thriving E! Television show, "Fashion Police," shortly after her surgery.

The standup star was scheduled to appear Nov. 14 at the Chicago Theatre, one of the 120-some live shows she performed a year.

Part feminist, part anti-feminist, the raspy-voiced Rivers did it all, all the time. And I was reminded Thursday of how surprised I was to learn in her 2010 documentary, "A Piece of Work," that one of her biggest struggles was finding more jobs. It was hard to believe that this talented woman who had made such a name for herself was not turning down opportunities left and right. She hustled until the very end.

I don't remember a time when I didn't know who Rivers was. But it wasn't until a couple of years ago when I came to appreciate the beginning of her career—a time when comedy was dominated by men and women did not say and do the things that Rivers did. Rivers showed us that you have to stay consistent in whatever it is you choose to do with your life—and you have to tell it like it is.

She was the antithesis of understatement when it came to almost anything—particularly fashion, plastic surgery and put downs. And no one was safe. She targeted fat people, thin people, smart people, stupid people, herself and everyone else. Had she known you or me, we certainly would have been bullseyes, too.

She was the go-to critic for every Hollywood red carpet event since before I can remember, and nothing and nobody were off-limits for the uber-offensive, self-proclaimed diva. She said what everyone else was afraid to say and could turn anything and everything into a joke—including suicide and abortion. And she owned it. She taught us to not take tragedies, life or ourselves so seriously, and showed us that we are our own toughest critics. Well, maybe that's not true. She was.

The irony that a "routine surgery on her vocal cords" led to her death would not be lost on Rivers, who was never at a loss for words.

I certainly hope her funeral wishes are fulfilled, including a paparazzi spectacle, Meryl Streep crying in five different accents and long, flowing Beyonce hair. Just please, God, whatever you do, don't let Giuliana Rancic take over "Fashion Police."

Angel kisses to heaven, Joan Rivers. You were a legend. Brava.

jcantarelli@tribune.com

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