We don’t generally blog about comediennes here, but Joan Rivers is the exception.
Joan Rivers, who died this week at the age of 81, was, in addition to being one of the funniest people on the planet, that rare creature: a conservative in the entertainment world.
In June 1999, Joan Rivers sat for an interview with The Women’s Quarterly, IWF’s old print magazine. In the interview, headlined “Getting Serious with Joan Rivers,” she spoke about “manners, Hollywood ‘intellectuals’ and why Sabina Forbes would be the perfect first lady.”
It was a terrific interview and, since it’s difficult to access the Quarterly online (1999 is like 1066 when it comes to internet advances), I am going to quote from Joan Rivers’ IWF interview.
Let's start with Joan Rivers on manners:
TWQ. What convinced you that decorum is so important?
RIVERS: Well, I think that comes from my mother. So much comes from my mother. My mother was extremely kind and extremely sensitive to other people, and she always seemed to know just the right thing to say to put whomever she was talking to at ease. That‘s a major gift. My aunt is another role model who, whether she had a lot of money-which she did at different times in her life-or when she was between husbands, always had those sterling silver bread-and-butter plates on the table. Even though every corner in her Park Avenue apartment was rented out, we sat down with finger bowls and servicetrays, and she just said, “That’s it. That‘s the way I live.”
TWQ: So that's why you use finger bowls?
RIVERS: Yes, and also just because it‘s wonderful to do so. Because it makes a dinner party a little special. Because it makes you stop and realize dinner is more than gobbling. Dinner is some-thing very pleasant and lovely and atime to be enjoyed with friends.
TWQ Are there times when it’s okay and, indeed, right to be rude to someone?
RIVERS: I don’t think so. I don’t think I’ve ever been. You walk away or you can be a little cold, but total rudeness, especially in someone’s house, never.
TWQ: Should men open doors for women in our egalitarian age?
RIVERS: Yes. And a gentleman should stand up when you enter the room and make you remember that you are a lady. I don’t understand why some women want to be strong as a man. I find that ridiculous. I never wanted to be a bellhop.
We also talked about childrearing:
TWQ To change the subject a bit, we live in a world where kids-and adults!-dress like slobs. Mayor Rudy Giuliani operates on the broken-windows theory: You clean up the brokenwindows and the crime rate falls. Could the same idea be applied to dress-dress better and people will behave better?
RIVERS: Absolutely! A friend of mine started a school in Harlem for kids from really poor, broken families. It’s for girls only and they have to wear uniforms. It‘s amazing how discipline follows from proper dress. Giuliani is right. I think the way we allow people to dress is totally wrong. Dressing sloppily shows a lack of self-discipline. It’s a lack of respect for yourself and the people you’re dealing with. Youfind that all over and it’s sad.
TWQ Getting children to dress properly can be difficult. What about with your daughter, Melissa? How did you handle the issue of dress?
RIVERS: I always told Melissa that she had to have good manners and look nice in case Queen Elizabeth showed up. When she was about six, she looked up from the dinner table and said, “But you don’t know Queen Elizabeth.” Laurence Olivier did come to dinner, though, and-to a lot of sobs-I insisted that Melissa dress up to meet him. We had a dress code, and Melissa observed it. It was not a big tragedy for her.
She also talked about her favorite presidential candidate: Steve Forbes:
RIVERS: It also makes me very sad that people aren’t getting Steve Forbes the way they should. They say, “Oh, he’s spending his own money.” Don’t they understand how wonderful that is? It means he’s beholden to no one. I think Steve Forbes flat tax is brilliant, so brilliant nobody wants to give it a chance. It does seem the fairest and most sensible system. Today, if you’re very, very clever and you have very intelligent and clever attorneys, you can get away with murder. The very rich are getting away with murder, and the poor middle class is getting screwed. We’re killing the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie iswhat makes this country and every other country work. It’s the middle class that made this country. I hope to hell the American public will wake up and see what Steve Forbes can do.
Maybe he has to take off his glasses and let down his hair.
Camille Paglia hailed Rivers as a feminist icon, and she was. RIP, Joan Rivers.