A recent New York Times trend piece argued that when the aw-shucks type won American Idol, it signified a return to niceness in our culture. Funny, I saw it as the country uniting to hatefully vote the gay guy off the show.
But just in case there was some truth to the resurgence of smiley-faced behavior, I called barb-slinging TV veteran Joan Rivers—the spiritual godmother of motormouths like Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman—for an acidic update of breezy bitchery, which warmly comforted my soul, or at least would have if I still had one. I needed to immerse myself in some amusing vitriol before going back into the streets and continuing my good works, like pushing old ladies into traffic. (I mean out of traffic. Oops, my mistake.) And my acerbic mission was accomplished. Our memorable exchange went exactly like so:
MM: Hi, Joan. I used to love seeing you do your act at the Cutting Room, but that place is kaput now. JR: (sarcastically) The very smart landlord said, “I can get big money for this place!” MM: Well, you’ve moved on to the Gramercy Theater, where you’re doing a Gay Pride Week show on June 25. Are you gonna come out? JR: I’ve done that, but nobody cares. I tried to come out as a gay man, I tried to come out as a lesbian. I was even a trannie for a while. But no group wants me. My parade is one person! MM: But it’s fierce, girl. What’s the show going to be like? The usual hilarious hate? JR: It’s gonna be vicious. I’m in that kind of mood. Throw out a name, and I’ll go after them. And don’t think Michelle Obama is going to get off, either. I voted for them, and I didn’t even get a “Thank you”!
MM: Me neither! By the way, did you know that your opening act that night is a drag rock band named She-Dick? JR: No, but it sounds right. It’s times like this that I’m glad my mother is dead. I don’t have to explain to her, “I don’t think you should come to this performance.” I can’t wait for my grandson, who is six, to come: “Granny, come take a picture with She-Dick.”
MM: In other refreshing gender news, you recently won Celebrity Apprentice. JR: I beat Annie Douche! [Meaning Annie Duke.] MM: Could you have beaten Omarosa? JR: With a hand tied behind my back. Annie Douche, at least, is smart. Mean as a snake, but smart. Omarosa I could have given tips to on how to wear berets.
MM: The show had you doing a variety of tasks all by yourself. Didn’t you miss the beloved entourage? JR: Of course! It’s so much nicer to call someone and say, “I need this printed. Go out and take a couple of Kodak moments, and I’ll choose.” But it was great to see I could do it, and I loved beating them all out at this age. They were like, “Go sit down and drink some liquid paper. Granny doesn’t know liquid paper from milk.” MM: Does the show have any larger meaning aside from prime-time filler? JR: For me, it became like Dante’s Inferno: good versus evil. MM: And which were you, pray tell? JR: I’m not sure. I look better in red.
MM: Speaking of evil, did you agree with Donald about retaining Miss California’s crown on her empty head? JR: No. Just shut up. You got your new breasts—smile and shut the fuck up. Why do you think that the fact that you look good in a bikini means you should have an opinion? MM: I know, but I guess she was asked. JR: They shouldn’t ask. MM: You’re right—just easy stuff like, “What’s your middle name?” JR: And “How much do you weigh?” and “What’s in a cheese sandwich?” You stupid bitch. How dare you! Meanwhile, you’ve been showing your vagina in the wind. That’s moral!
MM: Don’t hold back, Joan. By the way, who do you hate more: E! or the TV Guide channel? JR: I’m not bitter about E! at all. I adore E!. We walked out on E!. They were crushed when we left. TV Guide made a mistake. The shits that made the mistake are now out. An old saying of mine is “Don’t learn the executives’ names. They’ll be gone.” When I won Apprentice, I got letters from the new people saying, “Come back.” MM: And you would do so? JR: Michael, I am a whore. I’m playing with She-Dick, and I’m 75 years old! If the money is right, I’d be on the Hitler channel.
MM: I’m already there for free. Hey, what was the feud between you and that stuck-up Gillian Anderson? JR: She’s so gone now. The nice thing is, you just wait around and they all disappear. Coming down the red carpet was always so fascinating. You think, “Who is hot to get this year?” You look back five years and say, “I wanted to thank them?” She was very grand. She always had the attitude of “I smell shit.” She turned out to be a very good actress. She did some well-received Henry James things. But maybe she can’t act and she did nothing, and everyone said it was deep! MM: Like me in bed. Didn’t you also have a tussle with Janeane Garofalo? JR: The poor thing’s getting older and chubbier. You look at her and go “Brazilian wax”!
MM: Moving on to Swiss bank accounts: Your feelings on Bernie Madoff? JR: I saw that show Oz. I want to be the woman waiting outside the jail for him with a big bowl of kosher food. MM: Did you invest with the zhlub? JR: I was dying to be on that list. Think of the publicity. I called The New York Times, begging them to say I was on the list. This way, people could say, “Joan isn’t cheap—she just doesn’t have any money anymore.” It would have solved all the times I have to pick up the check. MM: That reminds me—put me on the list for your show at the Gramercy. I’m living for it!
When You Dish Upon a Star
But back to dimples and lollipops for a New York second. At a party for Page Six glam queen Paula Froelich‘s novel Mercury in Retrograde, Froelich insisted to me that niceness never really went away: “I always thought Manhattan was a small world,” she said, “so you can’t piss off too many people or it’ll bite you back.” As usual, I’m the exception to every rule.
The nicest celebrity? “Diane Sawyer!” she gushed. When pre-Post Froelich worked at the Lobster Club and everything was going wrong one night, Sawyer was so comforting that “she made me cry. I think she even tipped me a tenner.”
And the worst? Pause. “It’s hard for me to deal with sheer narcissism and nastiness,” admitted Froelich. “You see a lot of that in the celebrity world, with people who are insecure and haven’t been raised properly to know how to behave.” Yeah, but names, darling, names. “I was never impressed with someone like Kimora Lee Simmons,” she complied. “You watch her show and go, ‘Wow. This is a self-absorbed person.’ Or Russell Crowe, who brained a hotel worker with a telephone. Picking on the little person isn’t a good thing.” That’s bad news for Annie Douche.