Name at birth: Joan Alexandra Molinsky
In its 2014 obituary of Joan Rivers, The New York Times called her "the raspy loudmouth who pounced on America’s obsessions with flab, face-lifts, body hair and other blemishes of neurotic life, including her own." A graduate of Barnard College (1954), Joan Rivers started off as a serious actress but quickly found her niche doing sharp-tongued stand-up on New York stages. By 1965 she was appearing on Johnny Carson's late night talk show, and by the end of that decade she was one of America's few nationally-known female comics. Rivers appeared on Carson's The Tonight Show nearly 100 times and served as the show's only "permanent guest host" between 1983 and 1986. By then she had written best-selling books, performed on Broadway, wrote and directed the movie Rabbit Test (1978, starring Billy Crystal) and had her own late night talk show on television, The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers (1986-87). In the late '80s her TV gig was cancelled, her husband committed suicide and her career seemed doomed. But Rivers bounced back with a job hosting a cable TV shopping channel and a daytime talk show. She and her adult daughter Melissa also became famous for their snarky asides on celebrity fashions as sometime hosts for TV's E! and TV Guide channels (1996-2007). In later years Rivers retreated to New York, where she ran a jewelry business, performed stand-up routines, had a lot of well-publicized plastic surgery, and continued to appear on national TV in her self-appointed role as a fashion critic and semi-lovable loudmouth. She died in 2014 after losing consciousness during a procedure on her vocal cords. A 2010 documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, explored her career in comedy.
Joan Rivers married James Sanger in 1955; the marriage was annulled the same year… She married Edgar Rosenberg in 1965, and he became her manager. They had one child, Melissa Rosenberg (later known as Melissa Rivers), born in 1968. Edgar Rosenberg committed suicide in 1987, and Joan Rivers never remarried.