‘Ooh Grow Up!!’

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Joan Rivers, at her best: on stage (Click photo to enlarge).

Today, one year ago, Joan Rivers (Joan Alexandra Molinsky) died on Wednesday, September 4, 2014. In late August, Rivers had gone in for vocal cord surgery because of respiratory problems. Her health declined even further after experiencing cardiac arrest during the procedure. She eventually succumbed to these major complications.

Joan Rivers, born in Brooklyn, New York, 1933, was a mother, a wife, an actor of film, television and theater. She was a writer, producer and television show host. A pioneer and model for talented women who were willing to work (hard) to have the careers they always wanted and not let any man get in their way. She was also an avid philanthropist and one of the first, prominent celebrity HIV/AIDS activists.

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Joan Rivers host Johnny Carson (Click photo to enlarge).

First and foremost, she was a stand-up comedian. Rivers was one of the most successful comics ever, and not just of her own gender. We talk of women who break the glass ceilings of male-dominated industries. Joan was one of them, one of those game-changers who infiltrated and dominated the male fraternity of comedy.

This little old lady, with a face like a catcher’s mitt from her extensive cosmetic surgeries, was still legitimately funny as an octogenarian.  The workaholic and professional entertainer was still relevant at the end of her life.

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Joan Rivers (Click photo to enlarge).

As much as she roasted the culture icons around her -she was just as self-deprecating. There weren’t any sacred cows and any subjects that were considered taboo. After all, they were just jokes. She was a refreshing throwback in our day and age. Especially, in our current condition which is mired in political correctness, extreme sensitivity and backtracking-apology-culture. In a time where comedians are ludicrously held to the standards of politicians. She was a brash, brassy broad, in the best and worst possible ways, she said what was on her mind, said it loud and proud and shouldered the consequences as they came. Joan Rivers was honest, unwavering and unapologetic.

Joan Rivers began doing stand-up in nightclubs in the 1950s and immediately stood out because of her bold and irreverent comedy style. She was also in ‘Second City’ in Chicago. In 1965, she had a major breakthrough with her appearance on ‘The Tonight Show’ starring Johnny Carson. A comedy kingmaker, Johnny Carson, was instantly smitten with River’s wit and charisma and took her under his wing. Eventually, Carson would go on to have her occasionally guest host when he was on vacation. The episodes she hosted were events, in of themselves, and would usually surpass Carson’s viewership. In 1967, she appeared on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’. There were the numerous appearances on ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ in the ’70s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she hosted her own show, ‘The Joan Rivers Show’.

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Joan Rivers (Click photo to enlarge).

She was dealt a major blow when her husband Edgar Robinson fell into deep depression after a heart attack and committed suicide in 1987. Although a dark time, her husband’s passing inspired a reunion with their formerly estranged daughter, Melissa. She won an Emmy for Best Talk Show Host (Daytime) in 1990. During this time, she became a Las Vegas headliner and an outright television star in her own right.

If as she grew older Rivers developed a reputation for being more mean than funny, in recent months, she was criticized for, among other things, her remarks regarding Adele’s weight, Palestinians and the Holocaust. Nothing was sacred. On her husband’s suicide: “After Edgar killed himself, I went out to dinner with Melissa. I looked at the menu and said, ‘If Daddy were here to see these prices, he’d kill himself all over again”. Rivers made a name dishing dirt on celebs as her critics deemed her, “Caustic, cruel, mean, nasty, offensive, acidic, acerbic, shocking, raunchy and racy.” We would call her a fucking gangsta. No fucks were given by Joanie. Her scathing riffs on pop idols were hilarious. Her current show, E!’s Fashion Police, was a popular one and was a platform to unload her verbal haymakers and nuclear bombs on the Hollywood elite. Haters gonna hate but Joan did it in endearing and clever ways, so we couldn’t fault her for it. In fact, we loved it. Her comedy was brutally honest, demanding, critical and confrontational, with tag lines like “Oh, grow up!” and “Can we talk?

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Joan Rivers at home (Click photo to enlarge).

A documentary,  ‘Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work’ directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, came out in 2010. By then she had weathered 50 years in show business, appeared in thousands of TV shows, more than a dozen films and many nightclubs; written 12 books, raised millions for causes, including AIDS, Guide Dogs for the Blind and Cystic Fibrosis; and amassed about $290 million.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work Poster

Joan Rivers: ‘A Piece of Work’ poster. The documentary can be watched on Netflix.

(Click photo to enlarge)

The 81-year-old comedienne, included some characteristically breezy thoughts in her 2012 book, ‘I Hate Everyone … Starting With Me’.

On page 54, in a chapter entitled ‘Death Be Not Proud’, she conjures up a game plan for the surreal scenario. The paragraph is addressed to her daughter, Melissa Rivers. The book excerpt, perhaps fittingly, began to trend on social media in the hours after her death.

“When I die (and, yes, Melissa, that day will come; and, yes, Melissa, everything’s in your name), I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action….I want Craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way. I don’t want some rabbi rambling on; I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents. I don’t want a eulogy; I want Bobby Vinton to pick up my head and sing “Mr. Lonely.” I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive. I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag. And I want a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyonce’s”

As we said goodbye to the Queen of Snark, we still mourn the passing of a pioneer, a comedy genius and a Hollywood/New York legend. Joan Rivers is still missed.

by Jean Amr

A Life Devoted to Supporting Charity

Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014) was an American actor and comedian. Starting as a stand-up comedian in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, he is credited with leading San Francisco’s comedy renaissance. After rising to fame as Mork in the sitcom ‘Mork & Mindy’ (1978–82), he went on to establish a career in both stand-up comedy and feature film acting like some great classics: ‘Popeye’ (1980), ‘The World According to Garp’ (1982), ‘Goodmorning Vietnam’ (1987), Hook’ (1991), ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ (1993), ‘The Birdcage’ (1996), ‘Good Will Hunting’ (1997), ‘What Dreams May Come’ (1998), ‘Night at the Museum’ (2006) and a coúntless more…. He was known for his improvisational skills, on stage and on the set. But above all, he is remembered for his big heart….

Robin Williams photographed in 1999

More than just a comic genius, Robin Williams was also one of the world’s great humanitarians (Click photo to enlarfge)

Robin Williams supported also 28 different charities over the course of his life, using his fame and wealth to raise funds and his personality to boost morale.

In 1986, Williams teamed up with Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal to found Comic Relief USA, an annual HBO television benefit devoted to the homeless, which has raised $80 million. Williams and his second wife Marsha founded the Windfall Foundation, a philanthropic organization to raise money for many charities. In December 1999, he sang in French on the BBC inspired music video of international celebrities doing a cover of The Rolling Stones ‘Ít’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)’ for the charity Children’s Promise

Disaster relief was a high priority for Williams. In 2001 he took part in a benefit concert to raise money for the victims of 9/11. Years later, he donated all profits from his stand-up shows in New Zealand to help victims of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

In response to the 2010 Canterbury earthquake, he donated all proceeds of his “Weapons of Self Destruction” Christchurch performance to help rebuild the New Zealand city. Half the proceeds were donated to the Red Cross and half to the mayoral building fund

He toured the Middle East five times with the United Service Organizations (USO), where he would entertain the troops and their families with his infectious sense of humour.

Williams was renowned for his work with the St.Jude Children’s Research Hospital. By recording commercials and sending letters on its behalf, he helped to raise awareness and money for patients battling cancer. A spokesperson for the hospital claimed that the actor never once charged a fee for his services and devoted a lot of time to the children. Kelly Schulz of St Jude said: “Whenever he had an opportunity to meet patients and families he would do it. When you have a person of Robin’s calibre, it helps sick kids forget about their diseases for a while.”

As a close friend of Christopher Reeve, Williams famously supported the Christopher and Dana Reeve ‘Spinal Cord Injury Resourse Centre’. From the start he joined the board of directors and was honoured in 1998 with the Human Spirit Award. He was subsequently honoured again in 2007 and was often credited for a surge in support towards the foundation.

Reportedly, the actor faced financial difficultly in recent years and the current value of his estate is unknown. Regardless of this, his charitable work was still a going concern up to his death.

by Jean Amr

It’s what Marie Antoinette would have done, if she had money

Joan Rivers’ apartment sold to Middle East royalty

The 1903 John R. Drexel House -- No. 1 E. 62nd Street

The 1903 John R. Drexel House, No. 1 E. 62nd Street (Click photo to enlarge).

She was known for her vivacious personality and love of the glitz and glamour as it’s no surprise that Joan Rivers’ Upper East Side condo reflected that. It’s a palace that was fit for the Queen of Comedy.

Joan Rivers apartment

And now you’ve got the chance to looking inside the late comedienne’s incredible $29million property (Click photo to enlarge).

Joan, who passed away after undergoing what was expected to be a routine endoscopy. on August 28th last year, spent her days when she was at home surrounded by floor to ceiling windows and gold plated walls, yes you read that right, ….gold walls.

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Queen of Comedy Joan Rivers (Click photo to enlarge)

Joan Rivers’, lavish Manhattan triplex apartment has sold to ‘Middle East royalty’ after multiple offers from several parties, sources close to the comedienne’s family told CNBC. The deal closed earlier this week for the asking price of $28 million. It was on the market for $29.5 million in 2011, when she told The New York Times: “Qaddafi wanted to rent it for that whole U.N. thing. People said it’s blood money. I said, ‘Oh, I can easily wash blood off dollar bills.’ But they didn’t like it. It was too close to a synagogue.” The apartment, on the Upper East Side, was listed again in February of this year. Rivers died unexpectedly while undergoing an endoscopy on September 4, 2014.

Joan Rivers apartment

Sources declined to reveal the identity of the buyers and where they reside in the Middle East

Rivers’ 11-room condo incorporates the top three floors of a seven-story, the mansion built was in 1903 by Gilded Age millionaire John Drexel, the son of Anthony Drexel and grandson of Francis Martin Drexel. In 1837, Francis founded the banking house of ‘Drexel & Company’ in Philadelphia.

Joan Rivers apartment

The centerpiece ballroom and music room have gilded antique boisserie paneling, crystal chandeliers, antique columns and two fireplaces. The ballroom alone can comfortably accommodate 125 people (Click photos to enlarge).

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Melissa Rivers: “My parents started acquiring Fabergé animals, frames and boxes in the 1980s. I think there was a kinship between the craftsmanship and how mom labored over her work for her appearances. She’d say, ‘Look how amazing. Art is in the details” (Click photos to enlarge).

The building was converted to condos in the 1930s. The 5,100-square-foot home features a Louis XIV-inspired ballroom/music room with Greek columns, 23-foot ceilings painted with clouds, gilded antique paneling, beautiful antique French furniture and crystal chandeliers. The music room, which doubles as a dining room, features three French doors opening onto a south-facing terrace.

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

The dining room has three French doors that open to a south-facing terrace, large enough for al fresco dining (Click photos to enlarge).

The condo also includes:

  • Four bedrooms, 4.5 baths.
  • Central Park and Manhattan skyline views.
  • Private elevator.
  • Wood-paneled library.
  • Huge master suite.
  • Separate two-bedroom guest apartment with living room and kitchen.

The four-bedroom, 4 ½-bathroom condominium spans the top three floors of the building at 1 E. 62nd St. Its ornate décor, soaring ceilings and gilded balcony prompted Rivers to joke, “It’s what Marie Antoinette would have done, if she had money.”

And as expected of this comedy gem, every inch of her stunning home is covered with index cards with jokes spanning her entire career.

The home was sold by Rivers’ daughter Melissa, who had her own apartment within the triplex. The buyers, who closed on the deal unusually quickly, likely paid cash.

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan-Rivers at home Ruth Fremson The New York Times

Joan Rivers apartment

The second floor has a mezzanine overlooking the ballroom (Click photos to enlarge).

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

Joan Rivers apartment

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Deborah Cox returned as Josèphine baker

Powerhouse vocalist Deborah Cox has been an amazing year..

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Cox has had a dozen No. 1 dance hits and may be best remembered for her 1998 song ‘Nobody’s Supposed to be Here’. She starred on Broadway in ‘Aida’ and the recent revival of ‘Jekyll & Hyde’, She also provided the singing voice of Whitney Houston in the recent Lifetime film ‘Whitney’, as well, as released a brand new single entitled, ‘Kinda Miss You’. Now she has a brand new role on Broadway to add to her already busy year!

Grammy-nominated R&B singer and Broadway actress Deborah Cox will plays the iconic star and civil rights activist in “Josephine,” an original musical that focuses on five key years of her life in France.

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Deborah Cox as Josèphine Baker

The show, inspired by Stephen Papich’s book ‘Remembering Josephine’, focuses on 1939-’45 when Baker was the leading star of the Folies Bergere in Paris. Baker was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, Zouzou (1934) and to become a world-famous entertainer.

At the Folies Bergere she ‘was on top of the world’ when the audience screams for her, but in the morning, she wakes up still this nappy-headed girl who was thrown in the ‘mud’. Baker moved to Paris to avoid the racism she experienced back home. She refused to perform for segregated audiences in America , and she was the only official female speaker at Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington.

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Josephine Baker (1951), signed: ‘Votre, Josephine Baker, 1964’ (Private collection) (Click photo to enlarge)

She was involved in what was considered a scandalous affair with Swedish Crown Prince Gustav IV and active in the French Resistance against the Nazis in World War II, and received the Frech military honor, the Croix de guerre and was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by General Charles de Gaulle. During Baker’s work with the Civil Rights Movement she began adopting children, forming a family she often referred to as ‘The Rainbow Tribe’. Josèphine wanted to prove that ‘children of different ethnicities and religions could still be brothers’. Baker lived with her children and an enormous staff in a castle, Château des Milandes, in Dordogne, France, with her fourth husband, Jo Bouillon. She died on April 12 1975, four days after her last performance.

The musical brings John Bettis back to Asolo Rep, where he collaborated with composer Frank Wildhorn on ‘Svengali’ in 1992. The Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated lyricist wrote several hits for The Carpenters, including ‘Top of the World’, ‘Only Yesterday’ and ‘Yesterday Once More’. With Dorff, a composer of more than 20 Top 10 hits, he wrote Houston’s ‘One Moment in Time’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’. Dorff, the father of actor Stephen Dorff, also has written numerous TV themes, including ‘Murphy Brown’, ‘Growing Pains’ and ‘Murder, She Wrote’.

‘Josèphine’ will run April 27 through May 29, 2016.

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Grammy-nominated singer Deborah Cox, a star on the pop and R&B charts and in the Broadway revival of “Jekyll & Hyde,” plays Josèphine Baker in original musical that is presented at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in 2016. Mike Ruiz Photo/Provided by Asolo Rep

Behind the scenes with the spellbinding Deborah Cox 

Wow Miss Deborah looked FABULOUS!!!! The hair, makeup, her wardrobe and of course the Mike Ruiz photos look fantastic!! Mike, Sam, Oscar….awesome talent, all of you.

by Jean Amr