Hey, Joan Rivers

Can we talk?

by Barry Koltnow

The Orange County Register (MCT)

23 April 2007


It had nothing to do with Sanjaya.

You were mistaken when you heard that collective sigh of relief after the 17-year-old kid with the great smile and no singing talent was voted off “American Idol.”

You were wrong to assume that the world made sense again because of Sanjaya.

Rather, it had everything to do with Joan and Melissa Rivers.

The world - or at least the world of show business - is back on track because the broadcasting team from hell was canned from their red-carpet duties at the TV Guide Channel.

This bit of happy news, which was announced late Wednesday, was overshadowed by the demise of Sanjaya on the same day. And what a pity that was. It could have made your day. It certainly made my day.

I’ve been waiting for someone at the TV Guide Channel to fire this annoying mother-daughter sideshow since it offered a lucrative three-year contract to the Rivers clan. I had never heard of the TV Guide Channel before the signing, but I instantly disliked it because they gave these two women a job after they left E! Now. I don’t dislike the channel anymore. I may even watch it, if I could find it. Or knew why it existed.

I know my happiness is short-lived. By the time you read this, Joan and her daughter probably will find another place to work. That’s the way it works in show business. Nobody ever leaves for good.

Faced with the prospect of them landing someplace else, I am going to savor this moment.

I am going to imagine never hearing those women screech again. I am going to imagine never seeing them pass themselves off as fashion experts. I am going to imagine never wondering how desperate some cable channels could be that they would hire these two people.

You’re probably asking yourself: “Hey, Mr. Columnist, what have you got against Joan and Melissa Rivers?”

It’s a fair question, and one that deserves an answer.

I have nothing against Melissa, the Sanjaya of television personalities. She was lucky enough to be born to a famous mom who gave her a job. There’s nothing wrong with that. There is a great show business tradition of giving your untalented kids a job.

Joan is another matter.

While I respect what she has accomplished as a pioneer among women comedians, I have a problem with her on a personal level.

Like Johnny Carson, I believe that Joan done me wrong.

First, here’s Johnny’s story.

In 1986, Rivers was one of Carson’s permanent guest hosts on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” For those of you who are too young to remember, being a permanent guest host on that show was a big deal.

Being the king of late night, Carson had certain expectations of loyalty.

The king felt that Rivers stabbed him in the back by negotiating a secret deal to host her own talk show called “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.” Carson believed that she had betrayed him by not coming to him first, and banned her from his show. She reportedly tried more than once to reconcile with him but Carson would have none of it.

I understand how Johnny felt, although my sense of betrayal was not on such a grandiose scale. I only suffered a loss of time and dignity.

It happened more than 20 years ago. I was a new entertainment writer whose beat included the comedy club scene.

Rivers was scheduled to perform at a local club, and she wanted to generate some publicity for the gig. Her manager called me to arrange an interview at the club. A few days later, the manager called again, saying that Rivers would not have time to drive down, but asked if I would mind driving to the San Fernando Valley to speak with her. She offered to do the interview over dinner.

I accepted immediately, even though it meant driving for almost two hours in rush-hour traffic. I was in no position to turn down an entertainer of Rivers’ stature.

After making the long drive to the nightclub, I was greeted by her manager, who apologized again. He explained that Rivers was too busy to meet me for dinner but, if I would hang around the club for the next five hours, she would gladly do the interview after her show.

Once again, I accepted her terms because I was a nobody and she was a “star.”

After the show, I waited at a table while the club emptied. I sat alone until I was joined by her manager. He lowered his head in embarrassment, and informed me that Joan had driven home to help her daughter with her homework. The interview was off.

I’m not Johnny Carson. I can’t ban Joan Rivers from anything. But I can certainly gloat.

//Mixed media