updated 4/29/2004 10:29:21 AM ET 2004-04-29T14:29:21

Guest: Joan Rivers

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

JOAN RIVERS, COMEDIAN:  I was a good girl. 

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  An evening with Joan.  She‘s going back to her roots and is reaching out to a new generation.  Joan Rivers is doing stand-up again. 

RIVERS:  The Club Herpes, I will never forget.  There was a two rash minimum.

NORVILLE:  Tonight, from the red carpet...

RIVERS:  The line for the ladies room is longer than the ones at Whitney Houston‘s coffee table. 

NORVILLE:  ... to the color of money.

RIVERS:  And the bigger the better.

NORVILLE:  How she turned some of life‘s harshest blows into punch lines.  Joan Rivers on her fortunes, her facelifts and the future. 

RIVERS:  First off...

ANNOUNCER:  From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NORVILLE:  And good evening, everybody.

I‘m here with Joan Rivers for the full hour tonight.  What fun.  Can we talk?

RIVERS:  Can we talk?

NORVILLE:  Long before Donald Trump tried to trademark “you‘re fired,” you put a trademark on that one. 

RIVERS:  Yes.  I had a female lawyer who I spent, like, $4,000, you cannot get an umbrella without getting an OK from me that says “Can we talk?”  It‘s the only one we could patent. 

NORVILLE:  You have a patented umbrella? 

RIVERS:  That all she could get for me, $4,000 later.  “I got you the patent on umbrellas.” 

NORVILLE:  That‘s the best she could do?

RIVERS:  That‘s my life. 

NORVILLE:  That‘s the story of your life. 

RIVERS:  Patented umbrellas, my career.

NORVILLE:  That is hardly a metaphor for your career.  I mean, seriously, four decades into a career as an entertainer, you still keep coming up with new chapters. 

RIVERS:  Does one have a choice? NORVILLE:  You feel that way?

RIVERS:  In this business you damn better well keep—try to get through another door because, as I‘ve told you before, they‘re cutting your fingers off.  You have to keep moving forward.

NORVILLE:  Just keep going? 

RIVERS:  You stop, you‘re dead. 

NORVILLE:  You‘ve got a new show that you first premiered in Scotland.

RIVERS:  Edinburgh.

NORVILLE:  Edinburgh Comedy Festival, called “Broke and Alone.”  Where does the title come from?

RIVERS:  You know—

NORVILLE:  This is, like, your greatest fear?

RIVERS:  Yes.  It‘s everybody‘s greatest fear.  And my accountant says it‘s here.  And broke and alone because everyone says, “I‘m broke.”  If you have ever met anybody that says that, “I‘ve got enough money.  It‘s all I ever want”? I‘ve never heard that from anybody.  “If I only had this I‘d buy this.” 

So we all feel broke and we all are alone. 

NORVILLE:  And the show is hilarious, according to the critics.  One critic with—I think it was the “Scotsman” newspaper—said he enjoyed the show so much he wanted to go and have children so that he could tell his kids about the time he Joan Rivers. 

RIVERS:  Isn‘t that sweet?

NORVILLE:  That‘s amazing.

RIVERS:  We tried that night, but I only have two eggs left, so... 

NORVILLE:  It didn‘t work.

RIVERS:  It just didn‘t work.

NORVILLE:  Why are you going back to stand-up after becoming a headline act in Vegas and having so much success.  Stand-up is where you started. 

RIVERS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  You‘re going back to your roots. 

RIVERS:  And I will be in Boston, I think, this weekend at the Wilbur Theatre.  And then I‘m going back to Vegas. 

About two years ago I just said, “I wonder if new people would think I‘m funny.”  Because I wanted to know—oh, it‘s John Rivers, she‘s funny. 

So I went back to my—I went back to a little place in Greenwich Village called The Duplex, where I had started.  It held 35 people.

NORVILLE:  The same exact club you started in?

RIVERS:  The same club where I started it.  And went in unannounced and started talking to very young people and it just worked. 

And then I moved now to much bigger place every Wednesday night called Fed‘s.  We hold 110.  And it‘s just been so much.  And then I went to England and it just rushed into this whole big thing. 

NORVILLE:  Is—What is the show about?  Is it a typical stand-up routine?

RIVERS:  It‘s about anything that annoys me.  And...

NORVILLE:  It‘s just a crotchety old woman downloading. 

RIVERS:  Yes.  I swear and cursing and spitting and just, “Oh, yes, well.”  And it‘s great, because everybody is so filled with anger and angst and things that upset us.  I mean, we‘re all in New York waiting for the next bomb.  We‘re all waiting for something terrible to happen.

NORVILLE:  You really think it‘s going to happen?

RIVERS:  Yes.  And come to Fed‘s, because they will leave us alone because it looks like they have already gotten us.  So one safe place in New York. 

NORVILLE:  Because it‘s a bunch of riff-raff?

RIVERS:  It looks like somebody already blew it up. 

NORVILLE:  It‘s been bombed already.  No point in wasting another...

RIVERS:  That‘s right.

NORVILLE:  ... another weapon here.

RIVERS:  But it‘s just—it‘s been amazing.  And the people that have come are all young people.  They say I know—“The New York Times” said I‘m the spokeswoman for Generation Y, which is hilarious. 

NORVILLE:  That‘s cool.

RIVERS:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  You started in 1959. 

RIVERS:  1959, right out of school. 

NORVILLE:  Right out of school.  And to be still...

RIVERS:  Same dress. 

NORVILLE:  Same dress.

RIVERS:  I shouldn‘t really, though.

NORVILLE:  That you can fit into it, that‘s really something.  I mean, you look at this—Throw the picture back you, will you, Ray?  Put that picture back up. 

RIVERS:  I was a little bit...

NORVILLE:  This is a memory lane picture. 

RIVERS:  That‘s me in the upstairs, the downstairs. 

NORVILLE:  At the very beginning.

RIVERS:  And it‘s Barry Manilow behind me on the piano. 

NORVILLE:  Was it?

RIVERS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  He was on a couple weeks ago. 

RIVERS:  Yes.  Wonderful.  He was my pianist.

NORVILLE:  And the—the humor that you used back then really shocked a lot of people, because there were no holy cows.  There was nothing sacred, and there was no body sacred.  And people didn‘t expect that, certainly, from a woman. 

RIVERS:  Right.

NORVILLE:  Now it‘s old hat. 

RIVERS:  Now it‘s—But now there are new sacred cows that I go right after.

NORVILLE:  Like what?

RIVERS:  9/11.  Which we are—I do a lot about 9/11. 

NORVILLE:  Like what?

RIVERS:  It will sound very harsh here, but about the widows in 9/11 that perhaps some are not quite as upset as the majority are.  And then it came out in the “New York Post” that were some that were going, “Harry‘s gone, boohoo.  Hello.” 

You know, but there are so many things. 

NORVILLE:  Are there things that are off limits, I mean, even today?

RIVERS:  Nothing that I can say out loud that doesn‘t—that I‘m able to say is off limits, because I think if I‘m saying it, then it‘s OK, if I‘m thinking it.  And it‘s wonderful. 

Age.  Old people actually buy at Costco.  How stupid is that?  You‘re 80 years old and you buy nine jars of mayonnaise?

NORVILLE:  Or the 48-ounce thing of mayo? 

RIVERS:  Unless you know God likes sandwiches, you‘re a fool.

NORVILLE:  I saw a lady on TV tonight.  She‘s 97 years old.  She got pulled over and fingerprinted.  She‘s worried about her record for the future.  She‘s 97.  I mean, come on.

RIVERS:  It makes me laugh.  You want to say, “It‘s over, Gladys. 

Lock it down and cross your arms.”  So I talk a lot about that. 

NORVILLE:  You‘re a big hit at the home, I guess.  They love you there.

RIVERS:  They forget, though. 

NORVILLE:  I think she said something not nice but I‘m not really sure. 

RIVERS:  I can‘t remember. 

NORVILLE:  What about celebrities?  I mean, you have just had a field day with them. 

RIVERS:  Yes.  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  Is there a joke that you‘ve ever told that, when it came out of your mouth you thought, “I shouldn‘t have said that?  How am I going to dig my way out now?”

RIVERS:  Very often. 

NORVILLE:  Like two seconds ago. 

RIVERS:  Well, I‘m terribly sorry now about all the things I said about you over the years, because... 

NORVILLE:  But I called you on it once.  You did.  You were very mean to me during “The Today Show” times.

RIVERS:  I know.  I didn‘t know you then.  And we all thought that you had pushed out Jane Pauley.  Little did we know that she had just dynamited, you know...

NORVILLE:  She just moved on to something else on her own. 

But I remember coming on your talk show, which—for which you won an Emmy.

RIVERS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  Yet another award that you‘ve gotten, and you said something like that and I leaned over and I said, “And you‘re sorry now, aren‘t you?”

And you said, “Yes, I am.” 

RIVERS:  I‘m terribly sorry because you were adorable.  And it wasn‘t your fault. 

NORVILLE:  Have you said that to other celebrities?

RIVERS:  Yes, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise.  Yes.  Of course, if you ever say

·         I did.  Mary Tyler Moore, didn‘t talk to me for 15 years.  You know, we see her at all these things in New York.  Right past me, right past me.

And finally, one day I thought come on.  I said, “Why don‘t you talk to me?” 

And she said, “You made a joke about me.  You once called me, you said my smile makes me look like the joker.”  Remember, from “Batman?” 

NORVILLE:  Right.

RIVERS:  I said No. 1, it was a lousy joke.  I had forgotten it. 

And No. 2 that was 18 years ago.  How can you remember?  And now we talk. 

NORVILLE:  So all is forgiven?

RIVERS:  Well, she does look like the Joker. 

NORVILLE:  Joan. 

RIVERS:  Of course not.  I can‘t help it.

NORVILLE:  You also really get good on the red carpet.  I want to roll a snippet of tape from the Golden Globes this year...

RIVERS:  Uh-oh.

NORVILLE:  ... where you reached into the celebrity file and wove in some current events, too.  Here‘s Joan at the Golden Globes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

RIVERS:  What a year it‘s been for the entertainment industry.  Winona Ryder grabbed the spotlight and everything else within reach. 

The mystery was finally involved of what happened to Michael Jackson‘s original nose.  Nicole Kidman, wearing it in “The Hours.”  I spotted it right away. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Do you ever laugh at your jokes?

RIVERS:  When they‘re funny.

NORVILLE:  Did you laugh at that one?

RIVERS:  No, that‘s very dated now.  What I always say now is, “Poor Janet Jackson.  What she was trying to say is, ‘Here‘s my brother‘s nose.‘  And they didn‘t give her a chance.  She was trying to be very sweet.” 

NORVILLE:  It just didn‘t happen. 

Is Michael Jackson somebody that you can still have fun with, or has he just been in the news with the facelifts and the allegations for so long that, you know, enough already, move on to somebody new?

RIVERS:  No, I still talk about him in the act a lot. 

NORVILLE:  What do you say about him?

RIVERS:  It would be too rough here.

NORVILLE:  OK.

RIVERS:  But really, no he‘s still very—Liza, unfortunately, Liza‘s divorce, which sure shocked me, that was great—great material for while.  It just never stops.  And it‘s in all the papers.

NORVILLE:  Just now you wouldn‘t share the Michael Jackson material, because it‘s too rough for television.  There‘s a big controversy going on right now.  What can you say, what can‘t you say, the indecency wars, started by the flash of the nose or the nipple or whatever it was. 

RIVERS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  How do you come down on that?

RIVERS:  I think that it‘s absolutely right.  I think every show has its rules.  I do “Regis and Kelly,” and I know the rules.  Your choice is you want to do the show, here are our rules. 

I will go on David Letterman.  There are certain rules there.  There are certain rules here.  You abide by the rules. 

What I don‘t like is to say Janet Jackson flashed her breast, meanwhile did you see the commercials on the—what was that, the Super Bowl?

NORVILLE:  Super Bowl. 

RIVERS:  One was a couple obviously after intercourse having a beer. 

Make up your mind. 

They had another one where a horse farted in a couple‘s face. 

Remember that one?

NORVILLE:  Yes.

RIVERS:  And that was fine, but poor Janet Jackson who showed this pathetic little thing and it was down to her knee to start with, you know, so a lot of missed it.  We were looking up—we should have—you know, she should have gone like that. 

I just feel there should be a set of rules for every—but don‘t do that with the commercials and then say that‘s OK because we‘re making money. 

NORVILLE:  Double standard. 

RIVERS:  And I hate also innuendo.  That I can‘t stand, you know. 

NORVILLE:  The wink and the nod. 

RIVERS:  The wink and the nod.  We really know what they really are doing. 

NORVILLE:  But you never go there. 

RIVERS:  Yes.  Just say the word and get it out of your mouth. 

NORVILLE:  You also take as well as you give.  You‘re great on self-deprecating humor.

RIVERS:  Well, you see me this a bathing suit, that‘s not hard.  You see, you cry. 

NORVILLE:  When you‘re wearing a swimsuit.?

RIVERS:  I came on stage and you, a visible, and then your husband said oh. 

NORVILLE:  I never saw you in a bathing suit.  We‘re going to let the audience ponder the image in their mind, Joan Rivers in a swimsuit. 

Back more with Joan Rivers in a moment. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up, four decades in show business and still talking, the story of how this suburban housewife and mom climbed the comedy circuit to sit in for the king of late night.

RIVERS:  To make Johnny laugh was the name of the game.

ANNOUNCER:  Joan‘s fall from grace and how she managed to bounce back into the limelight.

RIVERS:  I could have had a quickie.  I could have downed a couple of huffers.  I could have fired my staff.

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RIVERS:  I got out of college and played in Greenwich Village in a lousy club where you passed the hat, the hat wouldn‘t come back.  That and then I played outside of Boston, Springfield, Massachusetts.  I played strip joints there.  Have you been there?  The Club Herpes, I will never forget.  There was a two rash minimum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  That was Joan Rivers on “THE TONIGHT SHOW” back in 1983. 

She‘s my guest for the full hour.  That one you laugh at. 

RIVERS:  It‘s funny. 

NORVILLE:  It is funny.

RIVERS:  I‘m going to Boston this weekend.  I‘ll put the same joke right back in. 

NORVILLE:  And it still works. 

RIVERS:  Club Herpes.

NORVILLE:  Your mother must have heard jokes like that and know that this was true.  You really were playing the dives. 

RIVERS:  The dives.  The dives.  And my parents were very proper. 

And my mother would sit in an audience and say, “This is not so.  This is truly not so.  Didn‘t happen.  Not my family.”

But I always wanted to be in the business, and there was no discouraging me.  I played—I was Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard.  I was playing strip joints and being fired.  You know, it was like, I would do jokes, you know.  I would take pasties, put them on my dress and people would go like, what?

NORVILLE:  We want the real show.  Come on. 

RIVERS:  “Put them back,” they started to say to me. 

And I was—the first seven years—the first year I worked in the business I was fired from every job, every single job.  And then it got a little better.  I got into Second City, but I got seven years before I got on the Carson show. 

NORVILLE:  How did you know to keep going?  What was it inside that told you, “I‘m destined to do this.  I will be a star.  I‘m not wasting my time.  Just try one more gig?”

RIVERS:  I never thought about being a star.  It was a calling.  I try to say this and people think I‘m insane.  It‘s—I mean, an artist has to paint, or I was a priest, just know where they‘re going.

NORVILLE:  Right.

RIVERS:  And there was no choice.  There was no question about it.  I wanted to be—I wanted to be an actress.  I wanted to be in the business. 

NORVILLE:  Was it was to be in front of people and make them laugh?  Was it to be in front of people and perform, or was it to be in front of people and take them away from wherever they were to another place?

RIVERS:  It was take me away from where I was. 

NORVILLE:  You didn‘t want the proper suburban upbringing?

RIVERS:  No, no.  And you know, people always say the childhood.  I had a good childhood, considering.  There are always problems.

But I wanted to perform.  When I put two words together—I saw Margaret O‘Brien, long before your time, an actress in a movie called “Journey for Margaret.”  And I was 4 ½ years old, and I thought, “Why is she up there and not me?” 

NORVILLE:  Really?  You were in kindergarten and you wanted to do this? 

RIVERS:  Pissed. 

NORVILLE:  I don‘t think you can say that. 

RIVERS:  Furious.  I can‘t say that.  Upset.  Four-year-old child sitting next to her mother in the movie theater going, “Why is she there?  I can do that.” 

Every time—you know that song from “A Chorus Line,” “I Can Do That.”  That was always me.  “I can do that.  I could be Joan of Ark.  She‘ll have a New York accent.  We‘ll work on it.” 

NORVILLE:  We‘ll work on that.

Your mom didn‘t approve?

RIVERS:  My poor mother.  No, they were in shock.  And my father was in shock.  My father was a doctor, and every time a prostitute would come in the office he‘d say, you know, “What do you do, Laura?”

And she‘d say, “I‘m an actress.” 

So his daughter wants in and says, “I want to be an actress,” my father, it was over.  No, they didn‘t approve at all. 

NORVILLE:  Did they ever come around?  At what point did they say, “Joanie, we‘re proud?”

RIVERS:  When I got on the Carson show, and thank goodness they lived

·         thank goodness they lived to see it.  And it was wonderful for them. 

NORVILLE:  This is a picture of your first appearance.  And that was a big moment, the fact that you‘re even sitting next to him, because Carson didn‘t always invite the comics that came through to take a seat.

RIVERS:  No, no.

NORVILLE:  When he invited you to sit down do you remember the thought going through your head as you walked across the desk?

RIVERS:  I never did a stand-up.  I was brought on as a girl writer, because they didn‘t think he was funny enough to be a stand-up. 

And Bill Cosby had been on the night before, and they had a terrible comedian.  And Bill said—I had been brought up nine time to audition.  And when Bill saw that comic, he said, “Use Joan Rivers.  She‘s better than him.” 

So they put me on because the guy the night before had bombed. 

NORVILLE:  Had just bombed.

RIVERS:  And so they brought me on.  They still didn‘t believe so they put me on as girl writer.  So I sat down and I never did stand-up on “The Tonight Show” until I actually hosted. 

NORVILLE:  And that was a humongous deal.  You were Johnny‘s replacement. 

RIVERS:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  And it went well for a long time.  Let‘s go back.  There you are coming out. 

RIVERS:  Coming out.

NORVILLE:  And I think we‘ve got a clip where you had—I believe it was Susan Anton.  Let‘s take a listen to Joan Rivers on “THE TONIGHT SHOW.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

RIVERS:  Don‘t you feel like you‘re wearing, like you forgot something?  You can get away with it, but you‘re in a bra.  I mean, you know.

SUSAN ANTON, ACTRESS:  At least I‘m finally wearing one. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Was that fun?

RIVERS:  Yes, that was great.  I loved “THE TONIGHT SHOW.”

NORVILLE:  And then Fox network started up, right?  Offered you the gig of a lifetime. 

RIVERS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  Come in there, host their signature show right up against Carson, Johnny Carson.  How hard was that?

RIVERS:  I didn‘t realize—It wasn‘t hard.  It was hard getting guests.  Who are you going to go on, six stations or all over America.  But it was sad, because I didn‘t realize how upset it made Johnny. 

We‘re competitors.  And we became competitors.

NORVILLE:  And you didn‘t realize that he would see it as disloyal?

RIVERS:  I never thought of it. 

NORVILLE:  It just didn‘t occur to you?

RIVERS:  My contract had come to an end.  Everybody else had gone on.  You know, Letterman had gone on, Cosby had gone on.  We had all gone.  But I think because I was a woman he absolutely took it as disloyalty. 

NORVILLE:  Did you two ever mend that fence?

RIVERS:  No and it made me very sad.  When his son died I sent him a letter saying whatever happened between us, this should not happen to anybody.  And I never heard from him.  That made me very sad.  There are so few of us left that really go back a long way, and I loved him.  Best straight man ever.  I adored Johnny. 

NORVILLE:  And then, as bad as it was when your show was canceled, it was just a matter of weeks later that your husband committed suicide. 

RIVERS:  He committed suicide three weeks after the show was cancelled.  Yes, because he thought it was his fault and it really was—not his fault but he and Ruben Murdock and Barry Diller went at each other.  It was nothing to do with ratings.  They...

NORVILLE:  Personalities. 

RIVERS:  Personalities.  And he knew what had happened, and he killed himself. 

NORVILLE:  and yet you kept on and did a movie about it.  I think a lot of people were shocked. 

RIVERS:  Excuse me.

NORVILLE:  That‘s OK.  We all understand about working through a crisis.  But I think a lot of people looked at the movie that you and Melissa did, your daughter, about his suicide...

RIVERS:  His suicide.

NORVILLE:  ... and the angst that you all went through and just were...

RIVERS:  Appalled.

NORVILE:  ... appalled.  Why would you do that?

RIVERS:  We did the movie—First of all, it was four years later, after the suicide.  And we did a movie all about the suicide, a very honest movie.  Critics destroyed us. 

Deborah, I must have gotten over a million pieces of mail from people saying, “Thank you.  This is the first time suicide was ever dealt with.  Thank you for showing me it‘s OK to be angry.  Thank you for showing me what happens in a family.”

It was amazing what happened. 

NORVILLE:  And let‘s show people what happens in the family.  Here‘s a clip from the movie “Tears and Laughter.”

RIVERS:  “Tears and Laughter.”

NORVILLE:  Starring Joan Rivers and Melissa Rivers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELISSA RIVERS, DAUGHTER:  Not once have you even asked me about me, how I really feel.  It‘s always about you.  It‘s always been about you.  It will always be still about you. 

RIVERS:  I‘m selling that house.  I‘m selling that house with or without your permission.  This is absolutely crazy. 

M. RIVERS:  It‘s not.  I have needed you.  And you have not once been here for me.  You got rid of Daddy and now you‘re trying to get rid of me.  Well, guess what.  I‘m the one getting rid of you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIVERS:  Kills me.

NORVILLE:  How do you...

RIVERS:  Isn‘t she a good actress?

NORVILLE:  I don‘t know that that was acting. 

RIVERS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  That was life being played out for real. 

RIVERS:  Yes.  Look at this. 

NORVILLE:  I know.  You‘ve got tears in your eyes.  Do you ever regret doing it?

RIVERS:  Not at all.  Deborah, you should never know what suicide does to a family.  Not at all.  To this day I work so hard in suicide prevention, and you want to say to everybody, “It‘s OK,” because what‘s left after suicide is a shattered life.  And you‘ve got to find your way back. 

NORVILLE:  People don‘t know this.  But there are times when someone can call the suicide prevention line here in New York City, and this one is on the other end of the phone talking to them. 

RIVERS:  Yes.  Sometimes.

NORVILLE:  That‘s important to you. 

RIVERS:  Yes, very.  And people call up, and I‘ll get letter.  And I always stop, always stop and I make sure that they‘re put in touch with somebody.  Big priority in my life. 

Look at me, you are never over it and you‘re never over the anger.  People say, “You‘ll see Edgar in heaven.”  I‘ll kill him.  He better not come near me in heaven. 

What it did—what it does to your child.  It‘s a very difficult time for you, and that was 17 years ago and look how it affects you. 

NORVILLE:  It never goes away.  It never goes away. 

RIVERS:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  We‘ll take a break.  Back with more with Joan Rivers in a moment. 

RIVERS:  Make-up!

ANNOUNCER:  Up next the red carpet‘s fashion queen crowns Hollywood‘s worst dressers. 

RIVERS:  I love that dominatrix look.

ANNOUNCER:  Why Joan Rivers may just be one of the most feared women in show biz. 

RIVERS:  Well, you know.

ANNOUNCER:  When DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RIVERS:  What about Jack Nicholson‘s comb-over in “Schmidt,” huh?  Was that the first cover-up since Rosie O‘Donnell said she was too hot for Tom Cruise?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  Joan Rivers and her daughter, Melissa, have been co-hosting red carpet events in Hollywood since 1996, applauding the people who look good and dressing down those who don‘t. 

Back now with Joan Rivers.

No one ever thought to pay attention to people on the way in. 

RIVERS:  We were the first.  We were the first. 

NORVILLE:  Where did the idea come from? 

RIVERS:  Desperation.  I was banned from late-night television since I left “The Tonight Show.”

And I needed a job.  And Melissa was working at E! and said, you should try my mom.  And they said, she wouldn‘t go out and stand with the paparazzi.  Well, Deborah, you do what you have to do. 

And I went out.  I was the one that would say, who are you wearing, who are you wearing, wear is that from?  And I remember somebody at NBC, as a matter of fact, said, oh, people shouldn‘t ask such shallow questions.  And now everybody—it became a big thing because I love fashion so much. 

NORVILLE:  You would be the kind before the show existed that would pick up the magazines after the events and pore over the paparazzi pictures.

RIVERS:  Yes.  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  And look at the dresses and critique them just on your own at home, oh, she looks like a dog, she looks fabulous?

NORVILLE:  Well, didn‘t you always do that as a real person at home, where you would sit and you would you‘d say, what to you think of them as they come down?  You always want to see what they were wearing.

RIVERS:  And in those days, they didn‘t have stylists, so they really looked great, some of them, and some of them really looked like idiots.  It was so much fun. 

NORVILLE:  You have, I think, changed the way celebrities think about their public image.  And that is pretty astonishing because they spend the lion‘s share of time thinking about their public image. 

RIVERS:  Yes.  I think that they now—I love it when somebody will come up to me and say Susan Sarandon said to me one time, Tim Robbins, he wore this just for you, Joan.  Well, you just think, this is amazing.  It‘s so much fun.

Or Sarah Jessica Parker will go, I know, I know.  It is fabulous, but not the shoes.  And you go, life is good.

NORVILLE:  Life is good.

RIVERS:  Life is good.

NORVILLE:  Do you ever feel bad about things that you say, because you can be pretty biting out there, too.  Not everybody looks great and you don‘t always pretend that they do. 

RIVERS:  I truly think, if you are making $20 million a movie, whether or not I like your dress shouldn‘t destroy your life.  That‘s No. 1. 

No. 2, they all have stylists, so don‘t be mad at me.  And, No. 3, I‘m a critic.  It‘s like saying, I‘m mad at you because you don‘t like my movie.  My job the minute I hit the red carpet is to say what I think so the people—and we‘re No. 1 on E! -- we‘re the highest rated show—that the people at home know my opinion.  I‘m a critic.  Very tough. 

NORVILLE:  And the people on the red carpet know your opinion, too.

RIVERS:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  And Bono, for instance, from U2 was watching one year and apparently you didn‘t like what he had to put on that night and the next year he came up to you and made a point of saying, check me out.  Check this out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BONO, U2:  I‘d like to say something, Joan.

RIVERS:  Yes. 

BONO:  You referred to me once as the worst-dressed man. 

RIVERS:  Yes. 

BONO:  Now, I am Irish. 

RIVERS:  Well, look at the difference.

BONO:  Have I made any improvements? 

(CROSSTALK)

RIVERS:  You have made a lot of improvement.  I‘m very happy tonight. 

You are OK tonight.   

BONO:  Thank you, darling.

RIVERS:  A pleasure to see you. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  How important is the look to the Hollywood machine? 

Clearly it mattered to Bono? 

RIVERS:  Bono cares.  It cracks me up.  I just goes, this is insane that Bono is worried what I think. 

NORVILLE:  He‘s out there helping people in starving countries. 

RIVERS:  Yes, and planting trees where they don‘t want them planted.  This man is working, where he‘s force-feeding people.  Yes, he is a wonderful man.  And he‘s worried. 

NORVILLE:  And while you are worrying about what people are wearing, you are also very conscious about what you wear yourself.  You consistently are on the best-dressed lists.  How much work is that? 

RIVERS:  I‘m not as good as I should be. 

NORVILLE:  You‘re kidding.

RIVERS:  I‘m truly—also, I‘m right now doing things that are age appropriate, which means I should be in a shroud. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  As you said, with the hands crossed and the flower

(CROSSTALK)

RIVERS:  The hands crossed.

NORVILLE:  The lily in your hands.

(CROSSTALK)

RIVERS:  Mother, get a new toe tag. 

NORVILLE:  But you have also launched an incredible career that, quite frankly in terms of dollars and cents is probably more lucrative than what we see you doing on television, unless we‘re flipping around to cable and land on QVC. 

RIVERS:  QVC.  God bless QVC.  God bless my jewelry line.  God bless my mother, who loved jewelry.  That‘s where it‘s coming.  There we are.

NORVILLE:  How—is it true that you have sold over $200 million worth of costume jewelry? 

RIVERS:  Probably, as my partner David Dangle (ph) would say, probably more.  He is always to me, Joan, you‘re lowballing. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  How did this door open to you? 

RIVERS:  It opened again at another low point in my career.  I‘ve had many low points.  And they came to me and they said, would you like to design jewelry?  And I thought, sure, why not?

And at that time nobody went on television to sell.  It was—if your career was dead and over with, you still thought about selling on television.  That is how low it was. 

NORVILLE:  But you thought your career was over. 

RIVERS:  Yes.  Well, I always think that.  But, yes, but I really did. 

And I thought, I believe in going through every door.  I believe in God and I really think everything has a reason.  And I truly thought, do it.  You only regret what you didn‘t do in life.

NORVILLE:  Right. 

RIVERS:  And I did 10 things I would need on a desert island.  So I wrote sailor and then I thought, what would the other nine be?  And they would all be jewelry.

And that‘s where I created.  And it sold.  So I then went back and did a little more and then a little more.  And it grew into this astonishing—we‘re international. 

NORVILLE:  It‘s amazing.  It‘s amazing. 

RIVERS:  Yes.  It‘s amazing.  It‘s so—to be walking in Brussels and see a woman who doesn‘t speak English wearing one of my B-pins kills me. 

NORVILLE:  Kills you.

RIVERS:  Kills me.

NORVILLE:  Back with more of Joan Rivers right after this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

RIVERS:  If this had been a taped show, I could have had a break now.  I could have had a quickie.  I could have downed a couple of uppers.  I could have fired my staff.  I could have dealt with feelings of inadequacy, like a normal star.

But, anyhow, stay tuned for more happy times. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Joan Rivers puts celebrities to the test on the red carpet, but her opinions go way beyond that.  We‘ll get her take on some of Hollywood‘s biggest stars right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Back now with comedian and entertainer Joan Rivers. 

You have made a career on television talking about and to celebrities.  But we have really kind of gone into this culture of celebrity.  Do you feel responsible for it?  How did this happen? 

RIVERS:  I don‘t know and I don‘t get it, because I really am not interested who “The Bachelorette” is going to pick.  They are not real celebrities to me. 

NORVILLE:  But that just underscores how many people want to be like you.  They want to be famous.

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  No, seriously.  They will sign up for these shows.

RIVERS:  Fame.

NORVILLE:  They will do anything to get their 15 minutes. 

RIVERS:  Anything.  Anything.

And I guess that is wonderful because it makes you—your butcher will now say, I saw you on television.  It makes you stand a little straighter. 

NORVILLE:  And the stars are just as into that as the regular people are.  This whole industry that exists, it is very important for you to mention them. 

RIVERS:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  Even though they may not like what you have to say, they are somebody if they get noticed. 

RIVERS:  Yes. 

And it keeps you going.  I remember after Edgar‘s suicide and the whole thing and I wasn‘t mentioned anywhere.  And then they came out with a terribly mean article about me in “National “Enquirer.”  And Melissa called up and said, mom, you are in “The Enquirer.”  We are back this business. 

NORVILLE:  Really?

RIVERS:  She understood.  They‘re going to read about you.  That means you‘re a celebrity again.  It‘s OK.

NORVILLE:  Who do you this is the most overrated celebrity out there now? 

RIVERS:  Oh, I don‘t know.  It is so hard to say.  I really don‘t know.  How about that?

NORVILLE:  Really?

Who do you see out on the landscape then on the other question that is not getting the notice they ought to, but they are going to be big? 

I think Kathy Griffin is a brilliant comedian.  And I don‘t think she is quite getting the due yet that she should yet.  I think she‘s—Hugh Jackman is a super, super, super, super, blow-your-mind-away star.  He is getting the recognition, but I think he is going to be major, even bigger. 

NORVILLE:  What about some of the stars on the red carpet?  I just want to throw up some pictures and get your take on some of the people. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  So let‘s throw some videotape, if we can.  I think this is from the Costume Institute the other night.  We didn‘t have you on the red carpet, so we thought we would take some of the pictures. 

This is Anne Heche at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum.  What is with the hair? 

RIVERS:  I don‘t know.  Perhaps she bumped into Ellen.  I don‘t know. 

NORVILLE:  Next. 

RIVERS:  It was supposed to be France, wasn‘t it?

NORVILLE:  Yes.  The theme was dangerous liaisons.  That is Renee Zellweger.  She was one of the co-chairs of the thing.  She looks pretty nice. 

RIVERS:  She looks great, but, again, the hair then should be French. 

NORVILLE:  Yes, but it was pouring down rain. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Oh, that is going to hurt us.  But I love Renee.  I think Renee is terrific and has gone through a lot. 

That is one of the Williams.  That is Serena Williams, I think. 

RIVERS:  Great.  Busty.  How does she hit a ball?  How does she do her backhand?

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  Next.  Let‘s move on.  Who is that?  Oh, that is Kim Cattrall. 

RIVERS:  Looking great. 

NORVILLE:  That is very pretty.

RIVERS:  Looking great.

NORVILLE:  I think that is Kim Cattrall.  And that is the lady of the Oscars. 

RIVERS:  Oh, please.

NORVILLE:  Charlize Theron. 

RIVERS:  I mean, golden.  Golden.  Can‘t touch her.

NORVILLE:  Has she ever done it wrong on the red carpet all the times you‘ve been out there? 

RIVERS:  Never.  Long before she was who she was, when she was like one of the thousands that come through, you always noticed her because she was so beautifully dressed. 

NORVILLE:  And how much do you think about it when you are out there?  You are out there critiquing the stars.  You have got to be thinking a lot about what you are putting on.  Where do you get your clothes? 

(CROSSTALK)

RIVERS:  I have a man named Kerry Fettman (ph) who goes and begs designers to lend it to me.  And he says, she doesn‘t sweat.  And I let him decide.  I absolutely let him decide. 

NORVILLE:  So you don‘t pick your own clothes?

RIVERS:  No, I let Kerry pick my clothes for the awards. 

NORVILLE:  But you get the award for being best dressed.  That really doesn‘t seem fair.

RIVERS:  But that is real life.

NORVILLE:  Oh, OK.

RIVERS:  That‘s real life when we go to our own things.  But the award shows, Kerry is so smart and knows what he is doing.  Just let him do it.

NORVILLE:  And the designers are thrilled. 

RIVERS:  They are very happy.  And so far, I have had a couple of misses, but most of it has been hits. 

NORVILLE:  Who have been the biggest misses in the years that you have been out there on the red carpet? 

RIVERS:  Well, come on.  Bjork.

NORVILLE:  OK, the swan lady. 

(CROSSTALK)

RIVERS:  The chicken.  Woman walking with a chicken.

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Did she ever say what she was thinking? 

RIVERS:  I think she was clucking. 

NORVILLE:  Uma Thurman. 

RIVERS:  Uma Thurman.  Wasn‘t this, this year? 

NORVILLE:  That‘s this year‘s Oscars.

RIVERS:  Well, she looks like she is coming from a—like she‘s going

to carry a German

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  No, I think it‘s more like the gypsy wedding.

RIVERS:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  Oh, this is Lara Flynn Boyle.

RIVERS:  Smartest white woman alive. 

NORVILLE:  Why?

RIVERS:  She had just broken up with Jack Nicholson that year and she made every paper.  He won and she made the headlines.  I said to Melissa, this is one smart woman.

NORVILLE:  So that was a calculated move. 

RIVERS:  That‘s what I have been told. 

NORVILLE:  To take the spotlight away from... 

RIVERS:  And did. 

NORVILLE:  And it worked.

RIVERS:  How about that?  Break up with me, will you?

NORVILLE:  The dish from Joan Rivers. 

RIVERS:  Well, we will see, honey, who is going to get the headlines tomorrow, the winner, little picture, or me. 

NORVILLE:  And it is still out there. 

RIVERS:  It is still out.  I think she is brilliant. 

NORVILLE:  Cool. 

We will be back.  More with Joan Rivers right after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Do you like the music?  You are sort of dancing around.  A little happy tune.

(CROSSTALK)

RIVERS:  This is called widows.  That is how widows dance, dance from the waist up at parties, because nobody asks. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Oh, that is so sad.  Oh, lord.

Joan Rivers has had all kinds of ups and downs in her career, but she has always managed to carry on in the face of adversity. 

You really have been a survivor.  Where do you get the drive? 

RIVERS:  No choice.  And what are you going to do?  You can‘t fix what just happened.  I can never sit down here again.  You can never ask me the questions again, so you better keep moving forward. 

NORVILLE:  You do a lot of motivational speaking around the country.  And I know a lot of women always come up to you afterwards.  What piece of advice are they looking for?  And guys, too, I guess. 

RIVERS:  I think they just want to hear that you are going to get through, the it is back to—nobody wants to deal—if she got through, then I can get through.  And it does get better.  I truly believe this. 

I always say write down everything in a book, put it in the book and then reopen it in a year and you will go, oh, nonsense.  It is much worse now.  That was nonsense. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  Now we have really got a problem. 

RIVERS:  Now we have got problems. 

NORVILLE:  There was I know a sad chapter in your life when Melissa, your daughter, and her husband, John, were divorced. 

RIVERS:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  They really did have the wedding of the century.  I was privileged to attend.  It was like being in a winter wonderland.  The tables were beautiful.  The hall was incredible.  Melissa looked stunning in a Vera Wang gown. 

RIVERS:  Yes.  And Preston Bailey did—look at those flowers. 

NORVILLE:  It was amazing. 

RIVERS:  Yes, it was great.  Sad, very sad, sad that it didn‘t work, sad that he is so angry.  And I‘m so worried how it is going to affect the baby.  And it is just one of those things.  You have got to move on. 

NORVILLE:  Does it make it harder dealing with those kinds of family crises when you have been so in the limelight, the wedding was so public, you are such a public figure, and Melissa as well? 

RIVERS:  It does and it doesn‘t, Deborah.

It is horrible, as you know, when bad things happen to you in public.  But the public can be so wonderful.  When Edgar committed suicide, I was walking down the street in New York and a garbage man called out from his truck: “My wife lit a candle for you, Joanie.”

NORVILLE:  Aww.

RIVERS:  I don‘t know where he is, but you just go, oh, thank you. 

Somebody is helping me, caring for me. 

NORVILLE:  And that is really what it‘s all about, isn‘t it?

RIVERS:  It‘s all about that we are there together helping. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  Yes. 

RIVERS:  Here I go again. 

NORVILLE:  You are not supposed to be crying here.  I don‘t mean to do that.

(CROSSTALK)

RIVERS:  You look so good. 

(LAUGHTER)

RIVERS:  I have to go look in the mirror. 

NORVILLE:  Reminds you of your youth. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  Is it true that you signed up for an online dating service? 

RIVERS:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  I do not believe that. 

RIVERS:  Yes, I did. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  So you‘re here on national television telling the guys, I‘m available. 

RIVERS:  Not one person called in. 

NORVILLE:  Seriously? 

RIVERS:  Seriously.  Because everything was funny. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Tell me about your application.  What did you say about yourself? 

RIVERS:  I said things like, I only like long walks on the beach if you own the beach, that kind of stuff. 

(LAUGHTER)

RIVERS:  Oh, just—and the last thing was, and, frankly, Scarlett, if you don‘t call, I don‘t give a damn.  And then I put in Nicole Kidman‘s picture with a line through it. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  This is not me. 

RIVERS:  This is not me.  And they said, you can‘t do that.  Didn‘t get one person. 

NORVILLE:  Do you go online and every day and check? 

RIVERS:  My assistant did, and then we stopped. 

NORVILLE:  It was too depressing. 

(LAUGHTER)

RIVERS:  Nobody. 

NORVILLE:  So, in your broken, alone old age here, how do you spend your nights? 

RIVERS:  Well, actually, performing.  I perform.  And I have a lot of

·         nobody is 100 percent.  It sounds like my lecture now.  I have, boy, 92.6.  It‘s OK.  So there is nobody in my life at the moment.

NORVILLE:  But that‘s OK?

RIVERS:  I met one man.  He is in Australia.  That is my luck. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  Well, you can always do a show in Australia. 

RIVERS:  Sure.

NORVILLE:  See him for the three nights that you are there. 

And, finally, I have got to ask you, I think you were the first person, maybe after Phillies Diller, to actually be public about plastic surgery. 

RIVERS:  Yes.  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  Does it bug you that people know that you have had cosmetic work.  Does it bug you that you see it all over the place now on reality TV? 

RIVERS:  I think it is wonderful.  It bugs me they think I have done so much.  I just came out of the closet because I was so sick of hearing actresses saying, I have done nothing and they‘re talking through their part in their hair. 

And I came out and said, listen, everybody, everyone has done something pretty much in California after a certain age.  If you want to look good, do it.  And I think it‘s wonderful.  If it makes you feel good, do it. 

NORVILLE:  Joan, it is always a pleasure.  Your first book that you wrote was called “Enter Talking.”

RIVERS:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  And something tells me that, years from now, when we are all standing around the grave, cemetery, the epitaph on the gravestone is going to be, she left laughing. 

RIVERS:  That is so sweet. 

NORVILLE:  Great to see you, Joan Rivers.

RIVERS:  I love you.  Thank you so much.

NORVILLE:  Thank you so much for being here. 

And for all of Joan‘s fans, she is going to be performing.  If you are going to be up in the Boston area, she will be up there performing at the Wilbur Theatre.  Her show is called “Broke and Alone.”  It is going to be tomorrow night through Saturday.

And also you‘ll be in Las Vegas. 

RIVERS:  The Stardust. 

NORVILLE:  The Stardust Hotel.

RIVERS:  Going back after 10 years. 

NORVILLE:  It‘s the first time in 10 years?

RIVERS:  Ten years, yes.  The costume smells. 

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  Joan and her moldy costumes a decade later back in Las Vegas.  It is really a testament to the fact that you keep on pushing and things are happening. 

RIVERS:  Yes, and to Bob Mackie.

NORVILLE:  And to Bob Mackie.

Joan Rivers, always a pleasure.  Come back and visit. 

RIVERS:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

NORVILLE:  Back after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  We like to hear from you, so send us your ideas and comments to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.  And you can check out what other people have said.  Just go to our Web page.  And, at that same place, where would that be, NORVILLE.MSNBC.com, you can sign up for our daily newsletter. 

That‘s our program for tonight.  Thanks to Joan Rivers for being with us.  Thanks to you for watching.

And join us tomorrow night.  The riveting book “The Da Vinci Code,” it‘s been on the best-sellers list for 56 weeks.  Now it‘s causing a furor with some religious scholars who say the novel is confusing many of the faithful with its mix of fact and fiction, especially the claim that Jesus may have been married.  Tomorrow night, “The Da Vinci Code” controversy. 

Now, coming up next, Joe Scarborough with the president‘s work visa program.  That‘s our program.  “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is next. 

                                                              

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,