January 21, 2018

Rivers and a Bey

I interviewed JOAN RIVERS on live television, PEOPLE ARE TALKING, back in 1988. She was delightful, quick and had an easy access to that ability I always strove for, to punch through and actually make a real connection with the viewer on the other side of the screen. To turn live TV into LIVE TV! She was also, I think, the most insecure person I’ve ever interviewed. From the moment she arrived she nervously and repeatedly asked what questions I had, expressed concerns about the format and suggested topics for which she had jokes pre-planned (skiing was one!). By the time she was in make up I put a reassuring hand on her shoulder and assured her I would set her up as the perfect straight man, that she was so good at this and that I wanted her to look her best. She also was an attractive woman in person back then, much more so than she appeared in photos or on TV and when I told her so, she nervously denied it and joked about that.

On air I mentioned that unlike many TV celebrities she was more than gracious and friendly with fans off air. I’d seen her spend time talking with on-lookers, signing autographs, answering questions from fans and in a way that was down to earth rather than self-aggrandizing. I turned to the camera and said to the viewers: “You should know, not everyone is like this. A lot of people seem friendly and gracious on air but they’re not so in real life…” Immediately Joan jumped on it and demanded to know who this was. “Name names. Say it? Who was mean to you?” When I demurred, she insisted. “Oh, come on, don’t be a wimp. The way to get famous if you’re a little fish is to attack the big fish.” I kept refusing. “Look, if you ever want to get out of Secaucus say it. Who was it? They want to know!”. And I blurted out “Regis Philbin!” Someone once introduced me to him at a buffet table and he kind of waved me off. Joan turned to the camera and declared: “Regis! He hates you!!! Why were you so mean to Richard!” Live. On the air. I tried to make excuses for Regis and he certainly deserved them but Joan just kept on: “Tell him the truth! You hate him now! Regis, he hates you!” The audience both in the studio and home loved it. And it was another example of Joan punching through the screen on live television. Afterwards, Regis’ producers called to find out what I was upset about and I apologized profusely and a few months later I ran into Regis again and he was as apologetic I was. He didn’t remember meeting me at all, which was understandable under the circumstances And over the years, he’s always been gracious and personable with me. Even helpful with advice.

Since her death, there have been a lot of reports about how Joan’s drive to work continuously was motivated by a fear that it would all stop at any moment, that she might suddenly lose a way to support herself with her talent. Joan was funny and self-deprecating but she was also fearlessly honest and unguarded. For someone so intrinsically insecure this was a feat of great bravery.

Twice we were competitors. Her radio show aired against the one I hosted with Steve Malzberg on WABC. Her TV show aired against THE RICHARD BEY SHOW on WWOR. And once, we had a row on THE HOWARD STERN SHOW where Joan promoted her show as #1 in the time period (It wasn’t. My show was #2 after the PRICE IS RIGHT and Joan was far behind both shows in the NYC ratings). Two hours later as I prepared to leave home, Howard was still on the radio and I heard him tease: “Richard Bey, Joan Rivers is #1. Do you hear me? She is #1, Richard Bey!” I smiled. Howard had millions of listeners but now he was talking just to me! And now, I’m just one out of the millions who will miss Joan.

Joan Rivers was NOT #1 in our time period. But in so many other ways Joan Rivers WAS #1.


The TSA outrage is a scandal place filler until we get to ‘They’re Stealing Christmas Again” after Thanksgiving… I took Kyle to see The Beatles recreation ‘Rain’ on Broadway. Guess which Beatles song they never played? The musicianship was good, the impersonations kind of creepy and weird. These were THE BEATLES if they had been the session band on Sesame Street. John and Paul were best buds complimenting each other on how great they were, happy and smiling the whole night. They even charmed the audience, telling us how much they loved us and how great we were. We were a bunch of old geezers with our kids! It was fun but I suspect if John had lived he would have set fire to the theater (or more likely, brought a bed into the lobby and slept in as a protest)… If Reagan taught us one thing its that deficits of attention don’t matter…When the weathermen all scream that a CAT 5 hurricane is heading your way you brace for it. If it turns out to be a CAT 3 (or a tropical storm) instead it’s almost a relief. That’s the way I felt after last week’s election. For me the loss most dearly felt was Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin. I always regarded him as MY senator. … Why don’t they revive the ‘Big Brother’ franchise with Carl Pallodino, Christine O’Donnell, Alvin Greene and Sharon Angle. Allow baseball bats and guns into the house. And thorazine. I’m telling you, impressed with ratings for ‘Palin’s Alaska’?—this is a bigger hit!…The toxology reports came back for Charlie Sheen but the police couldn’t charge him. He only had enough drugs in his system for 2 and a half men… I had a great time filling in at Sirius. I ran into Howard Stern the first day. He was genuinely friendly and nice. I saw Denise Richards who was absolutely stunning but almost unrecognizably thin in real life. I watched the great actor, Ian McKellen through the glass separating our studios, his Magneto powers obviously in the off position. The callers on Sirius are also impressive, far more knowledgeable and coherent than those on terrestrial radio… Did you know that: 1. Rep.John Boehner, the new Majority Leader in the House used to be a salesman for and then president of a plastic company? That he was a Democrat until Reagan ran for president? That he claims to have never been inside a sunbed? I didn’t. Now we both know…I saw the Houdini exhibit at the Jewish Museum in NYC. Now I also know how Houdini escaped when bound tightly by ropes. You will too if you go…I just bought my next book after I finish Jonathon Franzen’s FREEDOM. Its SCORPIONS: FDR’S GREAT SUPREME COURT JUSTICES by Noah Feldman. The title was inspired by an observation that the justices acted like scorpions sealed together inside a bottle. Evidently they didn’t get along as well as our court. Antonin Scalia : My best friend on the Court is and has been for many years, Ruth Ginsburg. Her basic approach is not mine, but she’s a lovely person and a good loyal friend.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg : “Despite our sometimes strong differences, we remain good friends and people who respect each other and genuinely enjoy each others’ company.” Perhaps there is more our nation could learn from the court beyond its legal pronouncements! (Actually, another good idea for a TV show!)… If you really want to be sure about getting smaller government next election write in Verne Troyer for Congress…and why do the days in Florida seem so short? Go and read this detailed bb gun reviews by SA on their official website.