Joan Rivers is being remembered as a comedic genius known for her brash humor, but those close to her remember Joan for her kindness and unexpectedly sweet personality.
Rivers, a trailblazer in comedy and television, has mercilessly fat-shamed everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to singer Adele to Lena Dunham. Despite her harsh, no-holds-barred jokes, colleagues and friends said she had a heart of gold and a soft side she rarely revealed to the public.
Joan was forced to go back to work to earn a living after her husband, producer Edgar Rosenberg, committed suicide in 1987. At the time, their daughter, Melissa Rivers, blamed Joan for Rosenberg’s death, causing an estrangement that deeply hurt Joan.
Rivers was so depressed that she briefly considered killing herself. A distraught Rivers said she had a gun in her lap but was pulled out of her suicidal thoughts after her dog abruptly jumped in her lap. Joan said she was worried that if she killed herself, no one would take care of her dog.
Over the years, Joan gave lectures on depression and suicide, encouraging depressed people to remember that life goes on, and tough times don’t last forever.
“I tell people this is a horrible, awful dark moment, but it will change,” she said. “You must know it’s going to change and you push forward. I look back and think, ‘Life is great, life goes on.'”
Throughout her life and career, Rivers overcame bankruptcy, depression, and numerous firings from entertainment gigs. She said she survived by moving forward no matter, and encouraged others to never give up. Joan detailed her struggles (and triumphs) in her book Bouncing Back: I’ve Survived Everything.
Rivers never held back on sharing her opinions on everything, from relationships to motherhood to aging and plastic surgery. She revealed those thoughts in her July 2014 memoir, Diary of a Mad Diva.
Unlike some celebrities, Rivers was always nice to her fans, and took time to sign autographs and pose for photos. She said she did this because it doesn’t take much more effort to be nice than it does to be stand-offish.
Joan had millions of fans, but also numerous detractors. But whether you loved or hated her, there’s no denying she was one of a kind and lived her life on her own terms. Rivers will be deeply missed. Rest in peace, Joan (1933-2014).
Related: Joan Rivers funeral: Melissa cries over Joan’s casket (video)