Look Who’s on the Red Carpet Now
COURTESY IFC FILMS
Comedian and red carpet connoisseur Joan Rivers needs no introduction, but in the gratuitous spirit of the great lady, we’ll give you one. She’s had ups (including a primetime TV show), and she’s had downs (when that TV show was cancelled due to her late husband’s bad behavior, and his subsequent suicide). She has no shortage of fans, and no shortage of enemies (in the form of celebrities with their ballgowns between their legs). Above all, she has got a lot of hussle—no one’s doing this comedian any favors, especially not booking agents. And now, Joan has a new documentary, A Piece of Work, chronicling a year in the life of show business’s hardest working woman. Stylist and mega-fan Mel Ottenberg chases her down mid-publicity tour, hoping to get her to talk about who looks fat on the runway. Strangely, Joan’s more interested in talking about small insects and baked potatoes:
MEL OTTENBERG: Joan, you’re so busy today. It’s great.
JOAN RIVERS: No complaints.
OTTENBERG: What’re you doing?
RIVERS: What didn’t I do! I wrote jokes, I wrote a foreword for a friend’s book, I just picked out some costumes for Vegas, and I’m getting ready to go to the film festival tonight.
OTTENBERG: Your film’s showing tonight?
RIVERS: It’s showing tonight.
OTTENBERG: At Tribeca tonight?
RIVERS: Well, one of the showings is tonight.
OTTENBERG: That’s fantastic! Lets talk about the movie. I watched the preview online; it looks really amazing.
RIVERS: Oh, thank you, thank you. That’s great to hear. We didn’t know what the reaction was going to be.
OTTENBERG: Well, I want to watch a year in the life of Joan.
RIVERS: Yeah, but we’ve seen a lot of those “in the life of” stories, and you learn nothing about the person, you see nothing about the person and what the person really is about.
OTTENBERG: And do you think you got something different?
RIVERS: Oh, I think that she got something different. That’s causing the stir, because I don’t think they expect it to be what it is.
OTTENBERG: And what do you think they got?
RIVERS: I don’t know what they got. I’m always very honest. What’s kept me going for 46 years in this business, is don’t ever lie to your audience. And if you hate something, you hate it, and if you like something or somebody, you like it, but tell the truth. And most celebrities have that thin veneer that they will not break for you.
OTTENBERG: You’ve offended the country so far that they can’t deal with you, and you’re still there to tell the truth, and people do need that.
RIVERS: The emperor has no clothes. And at different times people get very angry with me, and that’s where my expression, “Can we talk?” came from, because I used to turn to the audience and say, “Can we talk, here?” And I never realized I was saying it, but that always meant—
OTTENBERG: Straight talk.
RIVERS: Come on! No, so-and-so isn’t gay! What’re you, crazy? Can we talk here? That’s the kind of stuff. Yeah, so-and-so isn’t a Nazi. Mel Gibson—really good person? So that’s what’s kept me going, I think.
OTTENBERG: Who came up that I’m thinking about in the tabloids these days? It’s all about Suri, Lindsay, the Kardashians—
RIVERS: It’s all about poor Lindsay, which is so sad. Poor Paris Hilton, who’s been totally forgotten.
OTTENBERG: She has.
RIVERS: She’s just been overtaken by the Kardashians. I think they’re fascinating because there’s three of them, and so there’s always something happening. Tiger Woods was a joy. God gave all comedians Tiger Woods. That was our Christmas present from God.
OTTENBERG: Um, what’s your diet?
RIVERS: My diet, which is coming up as soon as I finish with you… I eat a lot of baked potatoes, they’re wonderful, full of minerals, and not that fattening. And then I throw stuff on them, so you’re very full.
OTTENBERG: So you’re not on South Beach or low-carb?
RIVERS: I can’t be bothered with that.
OTTENBERG: Are you into sugar? Do you cheat or are you really hard-core?
RIVERS: I cheat all the time. I’m an M&M girl. They should send me money.
OTTENBERG: Amazing. Did you get any new work done for the premiere tonight?
RIVERS: No! [LAUGHS]
OTTENBERG: Can we talk about it? Lets talk. I mean, what’s up? Nothing new?
RIVERS: Nothing new, nothing new. I’m wearing a lot of jewelry tonight, and I can’t wait because Rex Reed is going to interview me, and he’s an old friend, so I know it’s going to be fun.
OTTENBERG: Are you wearing Joan Rivers QVC, or something else?
RIVERS: If it isn’t real, it’s Joan Rivers.
OTTENBERG: Amazing. And wait, which one are we going with tonight? Real or Joan Rivers?
RIVERS: I don’t know, but probably Joan Rivers. Because the Joan Rivers, you know, fake is always bigger and flashier!
OTTENBERG: I love it. Who’s fat? Lets talk fat. I really want to hear you talk who’s fit; I really want to hear you talk who’s fit on real-time. This is my dream.
RIVERS: On what?
OTTENBERG: On real time. I mean, I’m on the phone with Joan Rivers. I want to talk some shit.
RIVERS: I’m very in to ants now.
RIVERS: I read a wonderful excerpt from a book on ants, and I am now throwing food all over the place onto grass to take care of the poor ants. Very boring, but…
OTTENBERG: Boring, but you know, whatever, life changes. Your interests change. The red carpet is boring, but it has to be discussed.
RIVERS: No, the red carpet’s wonderful. Constantly new people.
OTTENBERG: You love it. I miss you on it.
RIVERS: Yeah, but I love the way we’re doing it now. We do a fashion review the next day. You can be so much more honest! Because you don’t have to lie to Gwyneth Paltrow’s face and say, “Don’t you look nice,” and then the next day just knife her in the back. I mean, that’s just wrong, and I found it very upsetting. I will be on the carpet, at BAFTA, which is the international awards, in England.
OTTENBERG: How did you feel having the lens turned on you? What did you think about having people in your face all day long for a year? That’s a long time.
RIVERS: Well, they become invisible, and they become family. When they finally left, I couldn’t say goodbye. I was so upset because they were just there the whole time. I’d get up in the morning and Seth, the sound guy, would hand me my mic, and Charles, the photographer, was right there.
OTTENBERG: So warts and all, the embarrassing moments, all there.
RIVERS: That was the deal I made with them. It’s got to be the truth. Some of the shots, I don’t know if I would have put that in, but otherwise what’s the point in complaining? Then go on the Biography Channel and have a bunch of people say how wonderful you are. You can always find someone that’s gonna say you’re wonderful.
OTTENBERG: And what’s your mood like these days? Are you happy? Sad?
RIVERS: The glass is always half empty. All good comedians are manic-depressive. I just read today that Sarah Silverman growing up was on like 16 Valiums.
OTTENBERG: Any parting words of wisdom, Joan?
RIVERS: Parting words of wisdom are: trust nobody.
OTTENBERG: I love it. I love it, and good luck to you with this movie.