Melissa Rivers: Life After Joan—A Funny, Moving Celebration on a Special 'Fashion Police'
In a commemorative edition of 'Fashion Police,' Joan Rivers' co-presenters recalled the host fondly and wittily—and Melissa Rivers said the show would return.
An hour-and-a-half of pure, raucous, profanity-fueled laughter: what a perfect edition of Fashion Police aired on E! on Friday night in memory of its host, its figurehead, its heart: Joan Rivers.
With her bent for fur coats, feather boas and shock, Rivers would have truly appreciated the dramatic final announcement at its end—that the show would go on. Melissa Rivers, Rivers' daughter and the show's executive producer, announced it would return in January—in what form and hosted by who it was unclear. But Fashion Police would continue.
For most of its duration, this commemorative edition featured Rivers' three co-presenters: Giuliana Rancic, Kelly Osbourne, and George Kotsiopoulos sitting on directors' chairs, sharing memories and anecdotes, wiping away occasional tears, laughing, interspersed with film of Rivers at her raucous best. It was as finely balanced and perfectly toned as Rivers' funeral.
The Fashion Police special was respectful, moving and the best tribute because it showed Rivers telling jokes, which she loved, and commanding a stage, which she loved, and taking us all screaming to the edge, which she loved the most. It was, as its star would have wanted, squarely for her fans—the "Joan Rangers."
Rivers died on September 4, aged 81, a week after suffering a cardiac arrest while undergoing a procedure at the Yorkville Endoscopy Clinic in Manhattan. Yesterday, Gwen Korovin, Rivers' personal throat doctor, denied performing an "unauthorized procedure” on Rivers and snapping a selfie of the star while she was under anesthesia.
There was no talk of the circumstances of her death in the episode, beyond the disbelief that she had died: she had been, as Kotsiopoulos said, so full of life when the group had filmed the last Fashion Police before Rivers' death. The show had begun on August 30, 2010. Osbourne, who was by far the most emotional of the three, laughed that Rivers would always say the worst thing possible, then ask her, "Kelly, what do you think?"
Rancic said Rivers would "always go" where no-one else dared to. She loved particularly joking about female genitalia, noting once of a picture of Snooki from Jersey Shore with a sleeping cat, "Snooki's pussy is exhausted."
Kotsiopoulos said he was "only a stylist" when chosen to be one of the panel, Osbourne said it was the "opportunity to work with a legend," Rancic said the well-worn, and sometimes untrue Hollywood cliche that a tight group of people were like "family" was true in their case.
The presenters laughed about the guests the show had entertained: Raquel Welch, the mysterious liking Joan had for Pauly D from Jersey Shore, and how the studio "stank of weed," according to Osbourne, after being visited by Wiz Khalifa. "My first sexual experience was rape. Luckily he didn't press charges," Joan Rivers told Sarah Silverman, in one clip. To RuPaul: "What is more painful? Waxing your back or sitting on a penis?"
Katy Perry was admonished for dressing up as an angel while tailing her grandmother to an event. Dressing up as an angel around a really old person is guaranteed to make them think they're on their way out, said Rivers. "Madonna's vagina was so dry she could start a campfire just by rubbing her legs together," Rivers quipped. Miss Piggy bested Rivers, who, seeing a porcine-themed joke heading her way, harrumphed, "Is this going to be a pig joke? Because I didn't come in here armed with a bunch of dinosaur jokes."
Nothing was off-limits, said Osbourne. Kotsiopoulos said he couldn't believe she was 81. Rancic said people "just adored" Rivers, who was shown dressing up as Mariah Carey, as a "guidette" from Jersey Shore, writhing to hazy-crazy orgasm, and then bonding with her co-hosts by passing food from her mouth to theirs.
If she flubbed a joke, she said "fuck, shit, piss" so the producers couldn't use that bit. Beside her, hidden, was a beaker. It didn't contain water or coffee, but white wine. She rarely dropped names of her famous friends, except Prince Charles', who issued a public note of condolence after her death.
The best celebrities understood that Rivers' joking wasn't personal, said Kotsiopoulos. It was testament to them being in the zeitgeist. Katy Perry tweeted after Rivers' death, what was the point of wearing all her dumb outfits if Rivers wasn't around to rip them apart? Of a necklace Rihanna was wearing, Rivers joked she had asked Rihanna how she felt about the choker. "Joan, I still love him," Rivers said Rihanna had responded.
Osbourne said Rivers had transformed the red carpet into the fashion circus it now was years ago with her infamous question, "Who are you wearing?" Many fashion designers watch Fashion Police and love it, despite their dresses being the butt of Rivers' jokes.
Rivers herself was the hardest-working person in Hollywood the trio said. The "cover girl for 117-year-old Magazine," as Rivers called herself, did Fashion Police, her QVC show, her web series, and her reality show with Melissa, Joan Knows Best. Despite its late night feel, Fashion Police itself was recorded at 7am.
Funny and rude as she seemed (and Rivers always said she was being honest, not rude), in private she was "such a lady," her three Fashion Police friends said: graceful, elegant, and generous, always passing gifts to friends. A teary Osbourne said she now thought "WWJD—what would Joan do" when faced with a quandary. Rivers was lovely and solicitous with Rancic after she was diagnosed with breast cancer—and joked this was an opportunity to get a pair of new breasts.
The jokes kept coming. One dress Rivers described as like so many of the men she had slept with: "another six inches would have made all the difference." Of Taylor Swift's many famous boyfriends: "She has seen more shafts than a coal miner." One audience member asked her who her favorite sex-mate was. "Lily Tomlin," Rivers shot back, to whoops.
She mock-wept with pride when Osbourne described one dress as looking like a giant clitoris. Kotsiopoulos loved the moment she gently slapped him, Rancic when she swooned alliteratively over her every week, "my leggy, lithe, Giuliana."
Melissa Rivers appeared in the last segment. She said she loved when her mother made herself crack up before getting to a punchline: a lovely sequence of such moments followed. Even though she had called him gay and his wife transgender, the Obamas sent Melissa a handwritten note of condolence after Rivers' death saying, "Not only did she make us laugh, she made us think."
Osbourne assented that Rivers had made it easier for her and "other independent, outspoken women" to be themselves. Melissa smiled that she could never understand people being offended by her mother when she was so often the target of her mother's jokes. Yet even as her mother lobbed insults, Melissa was shown looking on, delight and pride in her eyes. "Melissa, you're from part of me that cannot be lasered off," Rivers said. "I love you so much."
In the final moments Rivers was shown saying, "I'm 80 years old, getting in a limo, and they still want me. This is one great life." Rivers loved working, she relished being in the mix, and game. Rivers thanked "all Joan Rangers" for all the love and support that they had sent to her and her son Cooper, who Rivers adored.
Then Melissa brought the entire Fashion Police team on set for a final "Joan Ranger salute," and many fans would have done the same at home.
But, Melissa said, the show could only end with—as her mother would want—a joke. "I've seen my own vagina fewer times than I've seen hers, and mine is in better shape," Rivers bellowed about Lindsay Lohan. "It's so big that after every period, BP pays for the clean-up." Melissa was then shown coming on stage to congratulate her mother on telling her one millionth vagina joke.
And then, the screen cut to Rivers, posing and looking great, and one final inscription: "Joan Rivers, 1933-2014."