This Looks like a Job for Joan Rivers
By Jase Peeples
Originally published: The Advocate 5/22/14
One look at the résumé of Joan Rivers and you might believe she’s nothing short of a superwoman. Since the day she tickled America’s funny bone during a now-legendary episode of The Tonight Show in 1965, Rivers has been an unstoppable pop culture phenomenon. Over the years, she’s found success as an actress, comedian, producer, author, talk show host, and style icon. Now 80 years old, the spitfire shows no signs of slowing down and continues to run full speed ahead by cohosting E! Entertainment’s Fashion Police, hosting the online talk show In Bed With Joan, prepping for her upcoming comedy tour Joan Rivers: Before They Close the Lid, and voicing the fabulous superhero Fashionista in the new animated series Fashionista & Glamour Girl.
The animated series, which is a comedic take on both the world of fashion and the superhero genre as Fashionista and Glamour Girl save Hollywood’s finest from frightening fashion faux pas and red carpet disasters, was the brainchild of Rivers and the Fashion Police production team.
“We realized there’s currently no animated series of women with powers or one about fashion. We just thought it would be fun,” Rivers says — though she notes that superheroes are often the biggest fashion victims.
“Superman looks like an ass. Spider-Man looks like a moron. Most of the men don’t usually look that good, but the women look hot and great,” she says. “Especially Wonder Woman. She has those wonderful Chanel-like bracelets. She’s fashionable and patriotic, but if it were up to me I’d make her shorts much shorter now.”
Though Rivers says she enjoys playing one half of the designer dynamic duo, she claims it’s LGBT people who are the gifted ones. When asked if she believes women and gay men are the superheroes of the fashion world, Rivers chuckles and says, “Oh, honey, take women away. It’s all gay men. Every so often you hear a woman’s name come up like Carolina Herrera or Chanel, but come on. It’s Charles James, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior — it’s always been men, men, men.”
She adds, “Let me put it this way, I’m sure Marie Antoinette didn’t go to a woman for her fashions — and she looked snappy.”
But it’s not only the fashion industry Rivers credits gays with saving; the comedian also claims gay fans are the ones who supercharged her career.
“My gay fans have been wonderful from day one,” she says. “I remember when I was working at the Duplex in Greenwich Village in New York at the beginning of my career and the only ones who would laugh at my jokes were the gay guys. I think if I had started out in straight clubs and bars I never would’ve gotten anywhere.”
“Even today,” she adds, “when I’m on tour I always know if I get eight gay men in the front row it’s going to be a great show. Maybe it’s just me and I know they’re going to laugh at what I’d laugh at, but when my gays are in the audience it’s always a good time.”
In fact, Rivers attributes part of her success to the degree by which she has been embraced by LGBT fans.
“A lot of drag queens have impersonated me over the years and I think it’s fabulous,” she says. “When that happens it means you’ve become a part of the culture. I mean, nobody is going to walk out on stage as my aunt Shirley. People have to know who you are, and that means I’ve become a part of gay culture. I think that’s just great!”
As Rivers prides herself on being an ally of the LGBT community, she also makes no attempt to hide her frustration with lingering homophobia in Hollywood and some in the industry who refuse to come out of the closet.
“I get very angry at some of the women — a lot of talk show hosts — who are gay and aren’t out when they have no reason to not say they’re gay,” she says. “On the other hand, if you’re a leading man and you have to be a love interest to young teen girls and you feel like you can’t say ‘I’m gay,’ I get it. You’ve got to know what your business is. That’s why I thought Ricky Martin was so smart. He made his money and then he said, ‘I’m gay.’ But when it doesn’t make any difference in your career, I think it’s very bad not to come out.”
Still, Rivers has high hopes that she’ll see greater LGBT visibility in entertainment, and says she “can’t wait” to see a flamboyant gay superhero on the big screen. “I definitely want one, but I think he should only decorate your house,” she says with a laugh before she sets the scene in that classic outrageous Rivers style. “Hey Super-Fag, quick, my in-laws are coming. Help me fix this place up. ‘Not to worry, ma’am.’ Yay, Super-Fag!”
Her polarizing sense of humor hasn’t lost its edge over the course of Rivers’s decades-spanning career, but she’s quick to point out her over-the-top delivery and jokes jam-packed with shock value are a part of being a comedian.
“It’s one of the biggest misconceptions about me — aside from the fact that basically, I’m really very sexual,” she jokes. “But honestly, the biggest misconception is that anyone who takes me seriously on TV is an idiot. I’m a comedian, what do you think I’m going to say? I’m the one who says, ‘The emperor has no clothes.’ I truly believe that is my job on Earth. It’s my job to help people not take things so seriously and look at things differently and realize this is stupid.”
Indeed. This looks like a job for Joan Rivers.