Read an Excerpt
My Old Friend
One morning three years ago, in the middle of a golf course, I asked God to strike me dead.
"Take me now," I whispered, "with a little lightning. The sun is out, but You don't need rain. It'll look like an act of God."
And I saw the headline: Joan Rivers Goes Golfing.
At that dark moment, I thought I had excellent reasons for wanting to move to a higher realm. Sally Marr . . . and Her Escorts, the Tony-nominated play to which I'd given my heart for seven years, had just closed without warning after only five months. Because the whole world had seemed to like the play, I had expected it to run forever and had given up my day job, an Emmy-winning TV show.
Suddenly, for the first time in thirty years, I found myself out of show business, facing days whose highlights would be lunch. Suddenly there were no offers, no job opportunities. After thirty years of incessant work and splendid success, I was what actors like to call "at liberty." Paraphrasing Patrick Henry, I thought: Don't give me this liberty, give me death.
In late-night TV I had the future of a mosquito. David Letterman and Jay Leno continued to enforce their ten-year refusal to book me. And things were just as rosy for a new Joan Rivers Show. CBS had commissioned a pilot; CBS had approved the pilot; and then CBS had said, "Sorry, Joan, demographically you're too old." Chronologically, too, and I was getting older by the minute in a business that prefers you to go in the other direction.
At about the same time, Joan Rivers Products, the jewelry company that I had started and operated with great success, wasforced into a bankruptcy mess, created by its parent company, Regal Communications. Regal's creditors told me that if I didn't raise the thirty-seven million dollars the company owed them, I would have to design and sell my jewelry exclusively for them until the year 2023 to pay off this debt.
There wasn't a day that the ringing of the phone didn't bring me bad news. And then the phone stopped ringing.
Yes, I thought that day on the golf course, my handicap was now life, and a kindly bolt of lightning would release me from the game. Enough was enough. How long can you keep fighting back? How often can you start again?
But with the speed of lightning, I suddenly knew that I could do it again: My alternate career had been pulling myself up from rock bottom. I had survived being fat and poor and unwanted. I had survived being called a bitch, a no-talent, and a has-been. I had survived being told that I was unfunny, that I was too funny, that I was too young, and that I was too old. I had even survived tumbling from the top of the world into a unique hell when first the Fox network canceled my late-night talk show and then my husband Edgar committed suicide.
And when still more blows befell me, I began to envy the good luck of Job. After Edgar's death, fate tossed me not only a heartbreaking estrangement from my daughter, Melissa, but also a move to the brink of financial ruin.
I had gotten through all those ordeals. I had repaired my bond with Melissa, rebuilt my career, and created a new life for myself in New York; and so, on the day when I was hitting both a golf ball and rock bottom, I knew that I could recharge my life one more time if I used the strategies I had found seven years before.
"Excuse the call," I said to God. "I'll be staying in touch."
And I went on. In doing so, I regained full ownership of my jewelry company, which is now global; I signed a long-term contract to do specials for E! Entertainment Network; I wrote another play; and I now have concert bookings all over the world. My life in the last three years has confirmed my belief that you can get through anything. Moreover, I've been able to figure out how I survived (twice) and how you can too.
With this knowledge I began giving self-help seminars all over the country. In the last three years I've told thousands of people how I rebounded from an installment plan of tragedy and not only reinvented my life but made the invention worth patenting. And now I want to share the patent with you.
We all do learn from one another. One Ohio woman told me that her mother had just died after a long illness and, in addition, she was going through a bitter divorce.
"I was at my wit's end," she told someone who, in 1994, had felt that her life should be called the Wit's End. "But then I heard you speak and I realized that, just like you, I could pick myself up and start over again."
After one of my talks in Florida, a man said to me, "I've been depressed for many years. Nothing ever seems to go right for me. But tonight, for the first time, I really believe that I can turn my life around and find happiness again."
When rejecting a script, Hollywood producers have a particularly idiotic phrase: "It's in turnaround." Does this mean that the script has been put on a carousel or in a blender? However, a life in turnaround has joyous meaning, and I can tell you how to do it, no matter what kind of loss you've hadnot because I'm so smart but because I've been there and I took notes: the Cliff Notes that'll keep you from going over one.
Perhaps your husband has just left you for another woman, one who doesn't yet know that he snores like an outboard motor. Well, I can help you start a new life, either happily single or with a man who will want to hang around. Or perhaps your home was just destroyed by a fire. I'll show you how to accept that loss as fast as your insurance company does, and how to decide on the next steps that will lead to happiness.
Whatever kind of loss has laid you low, however despondent you may feel, your pain is a very old story for the human race. Loss has been the way of the world since Adam and Eve had to leave their Garden apartment. Half of all marriages end in divorceand then there are the really unhappy ones. Eighty percent of women will be widowed in their lifetimes. Last year one in five new businesses failed, and one in twenty Americans lost his or her job. No wonder that Prozac is our favorite snack.
There are many self-help books by Ph.D.'s, but I hold a different degree: an I.B.T.I.A.I've Been Through It All. This degree comes not on parchment but gauze, and it entitles me to tell you that there is a way to get through any misfortune. In these pages you'll read my no-holds-barred account of the hell I intermittently went through and how I kept surviving; and you'll meet other people who insisted on surviving too.
The fact that you've picked up this book instead of The Wit and Wisdom of Snoop Doggy Dogg means that you have the will to bounce back. By the time you've turned the last page, you'll have the way.
Who Dealt This Mess?
"Mommy, Daddy killed himself."
I sat in stunned silence as Melissa broke the news to me: My husbanddead? Had committed suicide?
Suicide? Edgar? Surely it had to be some kind of mistake. Edgar and I had spoken many times about suicide, and he had always believed it to be a permanent solution to temporary problems. Could this man who had once loved life and adored his daughter have taken that life and left Melissa fatherless?
Like many people who hear bad news unexpectedly, I was in a state of disbelief. Maybe they meant another Edgar Rosenberg. Maybe this was someone's idea of a very sick joke.
How was it possible that Edgar had sunk so deep into depression that he saw no way out other than taking his own life? I wondered. How had we tumbled so very far, so very fast?
The year 1986 had begun on a high note, with the launching of The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers on the new Fox-TV network. Edgar and I were both ecstatic. The show was our reward for twenty-five years of hard work. It was the payoff for my long years in tiny comedy clubs; the endless one-nighters, alone in hotel rooms away from my family for weeks at a time; and then my slow, steady climb to stardom. It was the return on all the planning and wisdom and love Edgar had poured into my career.
My husband and I had always worked wonderfully together, I on stage and Edgar behind the scenes. And so, when Fox offered me my own late-night talk show, he and I assumed that our partnership would continue to be as fine as ever. However, Edgar and Barry Diller, the chairman and CEO of Fox, disliked and distrusted each other from the start. When the show didn't quickly live up to the network's expectations, Diller and his colleagues graciously blamed Edgar.
A proud man's pride had been shattered, in spite of my efforts to protect both Edgar and the show. In June, Fox canceled The Late Show With Joan Rivers and issued press releases that were a family two-cushion shot: They vilified Edgar and humiliated me.