Sep 11 2014

Another Star Fades, Joan Rivers Gone After Fighting Bulimia Her Whole Life

Joan Rivers opens the E4 Udderbelly Southbank ... Joan Rivers opens the E4 Udderbelly Southbank festival programme. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vol. 276     Sept. 11, 2014

We all know that as people get older that they are not going to be here forever. Joan River’s passed away on Thursday, September 4th, 2014 at the age of 81 following serious complications including a cardiac arrest during a procedure on her vocal chords.

Listening to a replay of a Terry Gross interview on stitcher Radio, I found out that Joan Rivers was an overweight child, who always wanted to be an actress. When she was nine years old she sent a picture of herself, still in the frame, to a motion picture house with a little noted saying ‘I think I would be a good actress.” She never heard back from them again, not even returning her picture.

Her weight was always something that she fought, starving herself all day only to eat Milk Duds through the night. She called herself a “closet bulimic.”  Joan said, that one of her doctors told her that by binging and purging her food, she found the only control she felt she had in her life. This, after her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, died of suicide on May 15th, 1987, three months after he, as the producer of her show, The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers and Joan were both fired from the show on the brand new FOX channel.

Being in the entertainment industry, one feels the pressure to look good all the time or they could very well lose their status and their careers. Joan said that as far as she was concerned, looking good is necessary for any woman in American society regardless of what they are doing to make a living.

I would like to point out here that because entertainers are artists, and artists by their very nature have deep emotions that are portrayed through the medium of their work. It is the emotional feelings that are brought to the audience’s awareness that makes art, art.

I wrote in my weblog of two weeks ago of Robin William’s suicide, because he too had suffered with a mental illness, bipolar in his case that made living so hard for him when he wasn’t doing his comedy. Joan stated that it didn’t matter what socio-economic background you came from, she coming from an upper middle class suburb outside New York City. Her father was a successful doctor. She noted that as long there was pain in the household there was comedy to be written.

Joan Rivers broke through many hurdles as a woman comic in her day feeling that she was competing with the male comics of her day. She never saw herself as a female competing with the men – Woody Allen, George Carlin, Dick Cavet, Richard Dryer, etc. She was just another comic who had to do better than they, in her own mind to be successful.

We the audience of these great talents need to understand where the great talent comes from when we experience these artist’s work. Comics are known to be some of the saddest people, because they are using their humor to let go of their pain. Many times as Joan did, they turn that humor on themselves with their being self-depreciating.

Let us start by understanding that these great stars that entertain us are only human and need the space to be who they are in reality. We need to respect that they too have families and all that goes with that, made more complex by the endless media attention, sometimes rather hurtful at times.

We need to be grateful for their having done whatever it takes to make it professionally to the place where we learn about their great talents. And, we need to allow them to be the human people that they are, just like the rest of us, dealing with the issues of the human condition which we may or may not be aware of depending on what the star may have shared publicly or not. For not all the stars shine brightly in every area of their lives. Let us remember that for what it is worth.


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