You have no doubt heard that Joan Rivers died today.
I did not know her. Never met her. But I spoke with her twice.
Let me explain.
920 CJCH became a talk radio station on March 6, 1995. A Monday. It retained that format until it became part of a sports talk network in May of 2001. In between, CJ had many talk shows on to fill a broadcast day.
For a year or so in... I'm gonna say 1999 because I was still in my apartment, they carried a Joan Rivers radio show, which originated out of 710AM WOR in New York. I enjoyed it a great deal. She would have guests on and interview them like she was a ballsy, brassy Larry King. She'd rant about people who had pissed her off. And she would have open lines and invite people to call in and ask her whatever they wanted.
The show was syndicated throughout North America, so I never dared dream that I could ever get through to her. But one evening, the show was pre-empted in New York, but still sent out to the affiliates. Perhaps other affiliates had chosen not to run the show that evening as well. But Joan mentioned that her number would work in Canada, so I called the supplied toll-free number.
Her producers answered after the first or second ring. I explained that I was calling from Canada and that I didn't really plan to go on the air. I was just ensuring that the number worked. They explained the situation I described in the previous paragraph and all-but begged me to go on the air. I said fine, that I would discuss the then-current news event about Michael J. Fox's admission to having Parkinson's Disease.
During the maybe 2 minutes I was on hold, I came up with another subject, though. When she greeted me on the air, I begged her indulgence and asked if I could inquire about a film she had been in in the 1960's. She kindly allowed me to do that.
Joan didn't do many movies for some reason. Perhaps her comedic style did not lend itself to character acting even in a comedic film. Hard to say. But she was in this film called The Swimmer, starring Burt Lancaster as a middle-aged man who navigates his way through his neighbourhood to his home not by walking or driving or running, but by swimming through everyone's swimming pools. It was her film debut. I was intrigued enough to finally see a copy of it, and to buy a copy of it on vhs many years after I had first heard of it.
She revealed to me and her other listeners that the film was very boring and that she had not liked Burt Lancaster that much. His interpretation of his character did not jibe with the director's, or the screenwriter's, or even John Cheever's, the man who had written the short story upon which the film was based. We talked for another moment and I rang off.
The show was soon thereafter replaced by one hosted by Susan Powter, a today thankfully-forgotten motivational speaker. I hated that show. But CJ did bring back Joan Rivers for another spell, and I listened intently.
Another evening I called in and got through and on the air. I told Joan that I had spoken with her before about The Swimmer, and she was kind enough to say that she had remembered speaking to me. I then asked her about whatever else I had called about and once again rang off a moment or two later.
I may have spent a total of 5 minutes speaking with Joan Rivers, all those years ago. That isn't much, but it was enough to give me an impression of her as being a nice woman who put on a show of being a bitch. Her character was that of an irascible, argumentative woman who would take nothing from nobody, but beneath that I found her to be a warm and gracious radio host whose show was cancelled far too soon for reasons that had to do with the very traits that made her so popular in the first place.
Afterward I made a point of watching Joan Rivers in everything I could, and could always see through her persona to the person beneath it. She had a twinkle in her eye. She never meant the things she said. And she was a bloody genius. And while we were better off for having had her around for 81 years, we are worse off by her passing. We need people out there who speak their mind and don't give a shit about the consequences.
There is no way anyone in her family will read this, or anyone who even knew her, but I extend my condolences to those people, anyway.
Rest in peace, Joan Rivers. You are now free to call Burt Lancaster a no-talent asshole all you want. And if that long-haired creep Jesus Christ gets in your way, let him have it.
See you tomorrow.
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