Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Christine DeSouza
Assistant Editor 

Remembering Joan Rivers


Joan Rivers

The sad news came in over the media networks around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 4-Joan Rivers had died. She was 81 years old. Was there anyone who hadn't heard of Joan Rivers? Ears perked up when she would say "Can we talk?"

On March 14,1999, she asked 750 people in attendance at the Dorothy Morrell Cultural Series that question and then told us about her recent knee surgery that had us all in stitches. She didn't tear her ACL or anything like that. She had fat taken out from the area around her knees and now they were swollen. We couldn't see though, her dress came down tastefully below her knees. For about an hour and a half, this Jewish community enjoyed her brash humor, extremely honest jabs at herself, and sincere revelations about life, losing and getting right back up on course – which she did several times in her life.

She was a tiny lady, but only in physical stature. I stood beside her in the elevator at the Orlando Marriott Downtown Expo Center as we went up to the after-show dessert reception. I'm short, only 5'1", but Joan was shorter (to my surprise) and meticulously dressed. She stood quietly as we rode up a few floors. Just stood there looking straight ahead. Didn't talk or make jokes. One arm was at her side, relaxed; the other clutched her small purse. She was off stage. She almost seemed shy. The elevator doors opened and she was back on-the broad smile, the quick wit, the self effacing banter was in full swing. But mostly, she was gracious.

That was 15 years ago, she was 66 years old (young!), but it seems like yesterday – as all special events seem to be in our memories. Pictures were taken – The Heritage ran two of her: one with Mardi Shader and Susan Shapiro, who were co-chairs of the event; and the other with the Series staff.

During her talk at the Morrell Series, Rivers not only made us laugh, she shared with us some of her most terrifying moments and spoke with compassion and insight about the hardships we all endure, and showed us that even in the hardest situations, there is humor and triumph. As she titled one of her many books, "Bouncing Back: I've survived everything... and I mean everything... and you can too!"

We related to her. We will miss her.


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