Joan Rivers dishes before her Gay Days Weekend appearance

By : Kirk Hartlage
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You know Joan Rivers for her no-holds-barred commentary on the red carpet, and quite possibly from her mega-successful QVC jewelry line. You might also know her from her victory on the first Celebrity Apprentice or from her show How’d You Get So Rich? (Wednesday nights on TV Land), which takes a candid look at the extravagant lifestyles of fabulously rich entrepreneurs and innovators. But you most likely know Rivers for her scathing comedy, which she brings to Hard Rock Live on Friday, June 4, for a special Gay Days Weekend performance.

I, however, know Rivers for the fashion advice she once gave me during a phone interview several years ago.

“Wrong!” she told me. “Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!” was her take on my wearing pajama pants to work.

Lesson learned, I braved calling Rivers once again to get her take on the latest Celebrity Apprentice, her own reality shows, and how she planned to celebrate her 77th birthday, which takes place just a few days following her Orlando appearance.

Joan, it’s so good to talk with you again. I told my mother we’d be speaking and she said, “Well, I just hope she’s nice to you…”
Too late!

I told her what you said about my pajama pants and she said, “Well, you know she’s right about that.”
Listen to your mother!

Oh, I do. And to you, too. No more PJs to work! So now that I’m dressing better I’m hoping you can introduce me to one of these guys you profile on How’d You Get So Rich? Have there been any gay guys on there?
Yes! I don’t think the episode has been on yet. His father made all the money and told him, “You build our dream house and decorate it.” This guy had all the money in the world and did the most amazing house in Virginia that you’ve ever seen in your life. All the money and you can do whatever you want decorating wise? That’s a Jewish woman’s wet dream and a gay man’s wet dream.

Are any of the guys you talk to single?
The one that did the house is single. But you know, nowadays, there are so many people out there—and it’s not just in the straight world—that can’t keep an alliance. It’s my gay friends that are switching partners so fast. It’s sad, nobody is willing to compromise.

Do you think the lack of gay marriage feeds into that lack of commitment?
No, I just think society doesn’t look at the long term thing anymore. Gay or straight. It’s very easy to say, “I’m sick of you: out of here!”

Any suggestions on how to fix that?
Yes. Anybody that breaks up, send me a dollar. Gay or straight. (laughs)  But really, it’s a non-commitment era and that makes me very sad.

What are some of the more creative ways you’ve seen people get rich?
Oh it’s wonderful! One man who made wee-wee pads for dogs. Millions—a man who invented a detector for mold—millllions! The man who did the Clapper, you know when you (claps her hands) and your lights go on and off? MILLIONS! The only ones we use are people who made it in fascinating and interesting ways. I’m not interested in stock brokers. Or other white collar criminals.

We’re talking before the finale of The Celebrity Apprentice, but I want to ask something from the first episode. What is it like to have Cyndi Lauper wait on you as a waitress?
Well, you want to use a lot of Purell. You put Purell on the hamburger. (laughs)

Are there certain job duties the new Celebrity Apprentice can expect?

There were none. (laughs) I was kind of disappointed. But it may have just been me! I was asked to go nowhere. I was asked to represent them no place. I was asked not to mention too often that I was the winner.

But you did get to do some stuff with the Miss USA pageant that Donald Trump owns.
Yes, and that was different. Melissa and I had such a good time. We hadn’t worked on camera together for a while. She’s now producing The Fashion Police that I do on E!, but it was so great to have her on camera with me. She knows how to feed me lines and I know how to shut up. She’s a great commentator. I just sit back and throw in the jokes. It’s fabulous.

And you’re doing a reality show together?
We have this new thing called Mother Knows Best, which we’re starting to tape in July. I’m going to move back to California. I’m looking for a place—I really am—but just half the year. I can’t leave New York ever, ever, ever. But I certainly am leaving part time. I can be nearer my family; it’s time. The show has me moving into Melissa’s house until I get my own place.

Her husband must be thrilled.
It’s a boyfriend, so it’s even worse.

It’s not like a competition show where he can vote you out.
No, but I think he would like to. There’ll be a big sigh when I leave.

Let me go back to the Miss USA pageant for a moment. What do you think of the winner and the pictures of her…

…pole dancing? Yeah, let me just tell you. All those Miss USAs? There were more pole dancers there than there are in Poland. Everybody pole dances now. My makeup girl, who’s a bow-wow, she pole dances. She has a pole in her apartment. It’s great exercise, and they’re having fun. It’s better than just—ugh—stepping up and stepping down. Anything that makes exercise fun. I love it when the hour is over. But I never say, “Oh, wow, I can’t wait to exercise today.”

I have to tell you, besides being a journalist, I also teach group fitness. And I teach the step-up-and-down classes.
And I do it! I do all that crap. But I can’t tell you I look forward to it. I’m thrilled when it’s over. I’m so proud of myself when it’s over. But I don’t say, “Oh boy oh boy, let’s get started.”

I saw you in a Snickers print ad. Can we expect to see you in a TV commercial like Betty White and then hosting “Saturday Night Live?”
Who the hell knows? I’m thrilled for Betty White. How great, at 88, to have everyone be thrilled to have you again? And she’s a lovely, nice woman—there’s very few of them in our business. I have a documentary coming out, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, and there’s a scene where I’m talking to my agent saying I’ll do anything. So, I’ll do anything.

Was there anything in the film that surprised you about yourself?
Nothing, because I was there. You can’t say, “Oh my God, did you see where she said that?” Yeah, I was there, I said it. I thought it was put together brilliantly. Edited brilliantly. They took a year and a half of film and put it into 83 minutes.

That’s a long time to have cameras following you.
After the first week they become part of your family. We’ve been using the cameraman and the sound guy now to film How’d You Get So Rich? You get attached to people. It was a very strange dynamic that happened.

You’ve also got a number of gay pride appearances coming up.

One, gay audiences are the best audiences. It’s that simple. Gay audiences are willing to go out and willing to go into areas that a lot of people are scared to go in to, so that’s great. And I’ve always been very grateful—they were the first ones that thought I was funny in the Village in the late Sixties. And you don’t forget that. And I enjoy them! I look around at my friends…I’m going to the country for Memorial Day weekend and I’m having a party for 14 people. Ten of them are gay men! But that’s who my friends are.

Do you think Kathy Griffin might be upset you’re getting in to her market?

No, no. Or vice versa. There’s enough for everyone. There are a lot of people out of the closet now, thank God. (laughs)

Your birthday is right about the time you’ll be here in Orlando…

Let’s forget it. I hate birthdays, I’ve always hated birthdays. I hate Mother’s Day. It’s like, “Oh, let’s remember somebody once a year. Oh gee Mom, we’re gonna take you out.” Well, you should have taken that poor ol’ bitch out to lunch two weeks ago. (laughs) If you’re over 12, I’m very anti-birthday. I just had a friend who turned 72—she was upset when people didn’t give her gifts! You’re 72! And you’re very wealthy! What the fuck do you want? Maybe a certificate to a doctor’s office—or a choice of caskets.

Here’s a certificate for a free upgrade at the funeral home.

Exactly! Free upgrade! (laughs)

Hey, thanks for talking with me again, and thanks, too, for not berating me for what I’m wearing or not wearing.

Oh I’m delighted. I’m just glad you’re out of your jammies. And give your mother my love.

see+hear
What: Joan Rivers
Where: Hard Rock Live, Orlando
When: 7 p.m., Friday, June 4
Tickets: $45-$55 at HardRock.com

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