My Seder with Joan and Melissa Rivers
At the Rivers' family Passover, Moses has a lisp, Elijah gets drunk, and the self-promotion doesn’t stop. Paula Froelich leaves with a new appreciation of the soon-to-be reality stars—and a free necklace.
You know you’re going to get an epic Seder when you’re greeted at the door by two goys in faux-fur Hassidic hats with greasy-looking fake Payos’ attached to them. It was also a pretty good sign that I had successfully arrived at Melissa and Joan Rivers’ house—as opposed to the other four Seders that were being held on that particularly dimly lit Pacific Palisades street Monday night.
“Come in! Come in!” Joan, dressed almost entirely in a sparkly outfit from her Joan Rivers Collection, cried. “Passover—such a happy occasion. We were passed over!”
I’ve known Joan for a couple of years now—and worshipped her for over two decades. And so, after she was a guest on my radio demo I did for Sirius two weeks ago, when she asked me to come to Passover in L.A. I not only said yes—but, in the positive version of Sarah Palin, screamed, “Hell yes!”
“Let’s just drink the wine instead of dripping it on our plate,” Joan said. “We’ll drip it in our throat instead…”
The crowd was a mix of family and old friends—Melissa, her son Cooper, her boyfriend Jason (from my hometown of Cincinnati! Who knew?), Jason’s parents, Joan’s manager Michael, her old agent Sue, Peter Tilden, and his family… and me.
People dressed for the occasion. Sue showed up in homemade purple satin top with huge pink rosettes pinned to her boobs—a la Charlize Theron’s Oscar dress. “Exactly!” Sue said, when I guessed the reference. Sue changed for dinner, but the point was made: This crowd was here for a good time and nothing was off limits. Not even Elijah.
As we sat down to start the festivities, Melissa announced, “Fun fact—Moses had a lisp so sometimes we break out with the speech impediment. Don’t be shocked.” Joan added, “Just being historically accurate!”
Haggadahs were passed around as were matchbooks with the cover of Melissa’s book, Red Carpet Ready, on them (“Because,” explained Joan, “as we all know, you can never over self-promote! Even amongst friends and family”) —along with a “sack of plagues.”
“It’s for later, you’ll see,” Joan explained. “When we get to the plagues we hold each one up.” Inside was a plastic jumping frog (frogs), some green lice/ticks (pestilence), a man made of bubble wrap for (boils), a toy locust, dark sunglasses (darkness), lion and tiger finger puppets (wild beasts), a collapsible calf (we weren’t sure what that was for, but assumed it symbolized the first born), fake blood and hand puppets for Pharoah (who was red) and Moses (in green).
“Moses is green,” Joan explained, “because he’s environmentally conscious.”
Which, I suppose, makes up for the lisp.
Sue kicked things off with a reading before asking, “Why do I always get the bondage parts? OK, OK here we go… Now we are in bondage, next year— “
“Stocks!” Michael quipped.
“Let’s just drink the wine instead of dripping it on our plate,” Joan said a few minutes later. “We’ll drip it in our throat instead…”
Soon after, Joan had had enough.
“And now we eat!” she said.
“We didn’t do the four questions…” Melissa said.
“We’ll do it later—after we eat!”
“No, later everyone just wants to drink. Let's do it now.
Joan capitulated. “OK, but this is wroooooong. Page 67!”
Dinner conversation was strictly off the record (due to the fact that everyone at the table had great stories—let’s not forget Joan and Melissa did Celebrity Apprentice with Jesse James, I used to work for Page Six, and Sue was a onetime agent to the stars). But we’d all be in serious trouble if that shit leaked. For reals. It was some good gossip. I seriously think Joan’s got the in on where Jimmy Hoffa’s body is. Or at least knows the showgirl who does.
Afterward, Cooper found the afikomen (for $10) and let Elijah in for his glass of booze. Joan then explained to her (exhausted) grandson, “Elijah comes in and drinks the glass of wine. Now Cooper, look at the glass, it was your great grandfather’s wine glass. See the wine going away?”
Joan: “Well. This is like the 4,372nd house he’s been to tonight. Elijah’s drunk—give him a break!”
I had to leave shortly after that—the Palisades is a loooong way from my home, The Sunset Tower Hotel, and let’s be honest—even in the abbreviated version of the Haggadah, there are like four glasses of wine to drink. After all, I have to keep up my religious duties!
At the door, I hugged Melissa and Joan said, “You get to take the plagues home with you. A gift bag!” She then took off the gorgeous crystal necklace she’d been wearing which I’d admired earlier (Joan Rivers Collection found on QVC!) and said, “Here—take it. It’s yours. Now go before anyone sees you!” Because that’s just the kind of classy dame she is. I love those ladies.
P.S.: Joan and Melissa just got green-lit for a reality show for WE about Joan moving in with Melissa, Cooper, and Jason in L.A.. This will rock harder than Poison at Spring Break.
Paula Froelich is the New York Times bestselling author of the debut novel, Mercury in Retrograde . Previously at Page Six, Entertainment Tonight , and The Insider , she is now blogging for The Sundance Channel, working on her next novel, a radio show, a TV show, and other projects.