Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Comedic Great Joan Rivers Was a Bada$$

She sat on the bed, the gun in her lap.  Everything seemed hopeless.  "What's the point?" she thought.  She couldn't think of one.

Only a few months earlier, Joan Rivers had everything she ever wanted:  fame and fortune, the job of her dreams, a loyal husband, a loving child, a lavish estate-and a future that beckoned with enticing possibilities.  After years of struggle, she had not only succeeded as a comedienne but had made history as television's first and only female late-night talk show host.

And now she'd lost it all.  The First Lady of comedy was fired from her job and publicity humiliated.  Her husband-unable to bear his own failure as her manager and producer- killed himself.  Their daughter blamed her mother for his death. 

Reeling with grief and rage, Rivers then discovered she was broke.  She had earned millions of dollars and lived a life of baroque luxury, but here husband had squandered her wealth on bad investments.  She was $37 million in debt, and her opportunities for making more money had vanished. "

These are the words of the great author Leslie Bennetts in her biography about Joan Rivers entitled, "Last Girl Before Freeway".  I had the great fortune of attending an event hosted by 'Her Wealth' of Bridewater Wealth and Financial Management at Congressional Country Club in Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago.  My friend and fellow 15 to Fit Pilates instructor Karen Palacios-Jansen is on the board of Her Wealth.  The mission of Her Wealth is empowering women with the financial confidence and resources they need to take control of their money and their wealth. 

Eye-opening, alarming, inspiring and motivating are just a few words to describe the night.

Some eye opening facts:

In matters of divorce a typical woman endures a 73% reduction in her standard of living.  Her typical ex-husband enjoys a 42% increased standard of living.

90% of women will be solely responsible for their financial matters due to divorce or death of a spouse.

Alarming facts:

One in four women over the age of 65 are in poverty or "near poor".  Near poor is defined as 150% of the poverty threshold or $15,400 annually.

Women are 80% more likely than men to be impoverished in old age. 


The story of the rise and fall and rise again of Joan Rivers is beyond imagination.  At the age of 55, after working incredibly hard and rising up in the 1960s through the grueling ranks of an industry completely dominated by men, Joan Rivers found herself with a dead husband and 37 million dollars in debt. 

Joan Rivers didn't kill herself.  She lived. She lived to keep her little dog Spike alive whom she credited with saving her life in that moment because he jumped on the gun.  She was worried about who would take care of him.  She lived to triumph in 17 different industries and in the process built a billion dollar empire in her 60s and 70s.  Pause and really think about that statement.  She built a billion dollar empire as a senior citizen, in Hollywood of all places.

As Leslie Bennettts states, "I don't think people quite realize that. They know she designed and sold jewelry and clothing on QVC, but building a billion-dollar company when you used to think you couldn't be trusted to read a contract is remarkable.  The other thing she did in her later years was she essentially invented the red carpet phenomenon as a television entertainment genre. That has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. She invented the formula: the commentary, the jokes, who are you wearing?"


Leslie said that throughout her career Joan's mantra which she often wrote down was "Never quit.  Never give up.  NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER!"  NEVER- written in large block letters eighteen times. 

Joan Rivers died on September 4, 2014.  Her estate was estimated at $150 million.  She lived a very extravagant, opulent life and enjoyed spending the money she so deservingly earned. 

Leslie told a story about an article she herself had written just before the contentious Presidential election of 2016. It was a controversial article.  She sent it to six major news outlets.  All of them rejected it.  Leslie got up, closed her computer and started walking away.  She then had a haunting thought,  "Joan Rivers would be very disappointed in you right now.  Never quit. Never give up.  NEVER. NEVER. NEVER."  She then sent it out to a contact that had a woman-owned media company.  Leslie got her answer later that night.  The woman responded, "This piece is brilliant.  I'm running it tonight."  Leslie thought, "Hmmm... Joan Rivers' mantra is something I need to adopt for my life too."

Listening to Ms. Bennetts speak I had a burning question about Joan Rivers.   At the end of the evening, Ms. Bennetts had a book signing.  When she signed my book I asked her,  "What drove Joan Rivers to be that motivated at 55 to come back from such personal and financial devastation?"  Leslie's honest-to-God answer said with all conviction  "Anger.  I think she was angry.  I think she thought FUCK THIS!  I can beat this stupid system."  I have to readily admit that I am a fan of the F-word.  Hearing this world-renowned author that's in her 70s exclaim it so definitively motivated me to my core. 

Don't all of us have some kind of system we are trying to beat?  Overcome some obstacle, competition, race within our selves,  a behavior change, a hatred of something we know we need to adopt, (exercise anyone?)

Remember Joan Rivers' remarkable life and example.  Never quit. Never give up.  NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER.

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