She was the highest-paid entertainer on the Vegas Strip and Johnny Carson’s permanent guest host on the Tonight Show, until she was lured away to Fox to host her own late-night talk show. Edgar, she says, was a toxic presence on the set of her show, fighting bitterly with Barry Diller and Rupert Murdoch over everything from office furniture to money. Joan and Edgar were fired after only seven months, and the fallout was devastating. She was excommunicated by Carson, her mentor, for leaving; she was effectively banned from late night, hardly ever invited to appear on Letterman, Leno, Conan. Her marriage fell apart and then Edgar swallowed a bottle of pills.
We are talking about the peculiar turn of events her life has taken recently, how she is suddenly squarely at the center of the culture again—something that has escaped her since her Fox debacle. At the age of 76, it seems, she has been rediscovered.
Though she calls herself an independent and voted for Obama, she is constitutionally Republican. Friends with Nancy Reagan. Thinks we should just bomb the shit out of Iran. Ambivalent about feminism. Detests whining and victimhood and laziness. Hated Precious. “I got very annoyed,” she says. “I thought, Oh, get a job! Stand up and get a job!” (…)
Rivers has always got her nose in a book. She devours them, several at a time. On this trip, there is Game Change. “Hillary comes off as furious and rightfully so. And you hate Obama in the end. He’s weak. Michelle is the tough one. Palin is a moron. McCain is an egocentric fool.” The other she is reading is George Carlin’s Last Words. “It reminds me why I hated him,” she says. “The arrogance, the self-congratulatory tone, the superior attitude, and then the selling out for any shitty award.” (…)
Rivers will take the piss out of anything. Shortly after I had lost a big job, she called, and when I answered the phone a bit too quickly she said, “Really? The first ring? So desperate.” And then she hung up on me. A few days after 9/11, she called and asked me if I wanted to meet her for lunch at Windows on the Ground. She pushes as far as she can as soon as she can. It’s compulsive.