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    Dear Joan

    karenDear Joan,

    Thank you so much for all of the laughs, the put-downs, the effervescent self-deprecating excitement that you consistently exhibited! How fortunate I am to have witnessed you live and in great comedic form, and to have performed on the same bill as you.

    Long long ago, when folks were scared of lesbian and gay people, you made fun onstage of the drag queens who made fun of you. How could I forget the time that you shared the stage with a guy who accented his bright red gown with a gigantic blonde beehive that made him appear to be seven feet tall.

    joanAs he walked out on stage, the top of his hairdo hit the huge silver disco ball that hung from the stage ceiling. The drag diva gracefully stumbled in his five-inch pumps, restored his balance and proceeded to walk towards you as though nothing had happened. At that point, you recreated the scene! You pretended to hit the disco ball; then fell to the floor shouting for your lawyers to come immediately. You’d been injured on the job and you were pressing charges for a lawsuit so you would own the theater, unlike disco drag guy who recovered himself and proceeded on with his act. Riff after hilarious riff poured from your fast-talking lips and the crowd went mad for you. I watched in awe as you milked the crap out of that routine, live, in living color, with the improvisational magic of a comedy queen. Queen Joan. We loved you that night! And you loved us.

    Thanks so much for everything you shared in your fifty years of outrageous contagious comedy and for the headstart you gave to so many women comics…like me.

    You’ll be missed, Joan Rivers. Keep ‘em laughing and looking good.

    In laughter and love,

    From a whole lot of us!

    In the early nineties, Joan Rivers hosted AIDS benefit events at Town Hall in New York City in concert with the Gay and Lesbian Center as part of “Joan & Her Funny Friends” revues. I was honored to perform in a few of them. The first time I knew that I would be onstage with her, I called forth my high fashion modeling days and dressed to wow. I had full knowledge that Joan Rivers stayed on Best Dressed Lists, so I aimed to catch her attention.

    I stepped out on stage as she was exiting stage left. She looked back, saw me and came up to me to tell me how fabulous I looked. As the host for the evening, I asked the crowd to give her a hand as an “Honorary Lesbian” as she was departing the stage. Joan quickly ran back out on stage, grabbed my microphone, and shouted to the gay and lesbian audience of about 2,000 people, “You’ll never know!” while she fake humped me and chased me around the stage. The crowd went crazy with laughter, I got to be fondled by a comic icon, and I relished the feeling that Joan totally enjoyed herself.

    Though modern day female comics may accuse Joan Rivers of putting herself down and even being mean-spirited in her comedy, I admired her story because it took a great deal of courage and raw guts to achieve her success in what was considered a man’s game. And just in case you’re not familiar with her work, here are a few quotes of Joan Rivers taken from Variety magazine that might strike your funny bone!

    “I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.”

    “I blame my mother for my poor sex life. All she told me was, ‘The man goes on top and the woman underneath.’ For three years my husband and I slept in bunk beds.”

    “I don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.”

    “I knew I was an unwanted baby when I saw that my bath toys were a toaster and a radio.”

    “My husband wanted to be cremated. I told him I’d scatter his ashes at Neiman Marcus—that way, I’d visit him every day.”

    “People say that money is not the key to happiness, but I always figured if you have enough money, you can have a key made.”

    “I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.”

    Thanks, Joan Rivers! May you rest in peace and not raise too much hell where you are!

    Karen Williams is a lover of words. Share yours with her and learn more about her at http://www.hahainstitute.com/