Claire Black’s week: Joan Rivers | Celebrity leaks

Let’s face it, Joan Rivers was wickedly rude – and hilarious
Like her or loathe her, acid-tongued Joan Rivers was a pioneer in comedy. Picture: GettyLike her or loathe her, acid-tongued Joan Rivers was a pioneer in comedy. Picture: Getty
Like her or loathe her, acid-tongued Joan Rivers was a pioneer in comedy. Picture: Getty

ONCE everyone has got over the “why do celebrities have nude pictures of themselves?” hoo-ha, it’s nice to see another, more interesting point has emerged in relation to the releasing of private images of 100 celebrities by a hacker or hackers (the FBI is investigating). More troubling than tawdry, the incident further entrenches the idea that women (and one man, though apparently no nude photos of him have been released), are easy prey, totally available with no rights to privacy or much else. Clickbait has made voyeurs of all of us, or it’s trying to. There’s something ironic that the moral dilemma – to click or not to click – has emerged mainly because we sit in private, or at least we feel that we are alone because it’s just us and our screens and we’re sheltered behind anonymous IP addresses, and so we do things that we wouldn’t do if we were being watched. A hashtag (#NoGawping) popped up in response and other voices are coming to the fore. My favourite is news analyst Sally Kohn (left), who said we’ve got to start taking responsibility for what we click on. “If you don’t like the 24/7, all Kardashian all-the-time program­ming, you’ve got stop clicking on the stories about Kim Kardashian’s side boob,” is how Kohn put it. Makes sense to me.

To click or not to click…

I’VE got to admit I found it hard to like Joan Rivers. Too acerbic, too out of order on Palestine and too much of her face was made of plastic. Call me old-fashioned, but to like a face, I generally want it to be able to move. Are you appalled by my insensitivity? After all, Rivers died last week at the age of 81. But to be truthful I don’t think she’d give two hoots – being nice wasn’t what Rivers was about. Not when she started out, not a couple of weeks ago when she was still presenting E!’s Fashion Police, spectacularly slamming the red carpet appearances of those attending the MTV Video Music Awards.

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The other reason she wouldn’t care is that I found her funny. Not always, she played it too close to the bone for that, but she pricked the pretensions of those whose shoulders should be broad enough to cope and made the unsayable not just sayable but hilarious.

Rivers’ career spanned six decades, and I have lost count of the number of times that people decided that was it for Joan Rivers, picked on the wrong topic or the wrong person. A couple of years ago, she called Adele fat. After meeting the singer at the Academy Awards, Rivers explained to David Letterman, “She was very scared because she was singing at the awards. She kept saying, ‘My throat, my throat – I don’t know if I can swallow.’ And I said, ‘Oh, yeah! You can swallow’.” Then, when Adele complained, Rivers was suitably unabashed. “It’s not mean,” she said. “She’s a chubby lady who’s very, very rich, and she should just calm down – or lose weight! She wanted an apology, so I took an ad out on her ass. I said, ‘You are not fat.’ And then I had room for a lot of other ads. Adele is beautiful and successful and has what, $100 million? Let’s face reality: she’s fat!”

The fact is, Joan Rivers was a pioneer. You only have to read the review from the New York Times in 1965, to realise the full horror of the climate in which she triumphed: “Joan Rivers, a new comedienne of ripening promise… an unusually bright girl who is overcoming the handicap of a woman comic, looks pretty and blonde and bright and yet manages to make people laugh.” Rivers had been gigging for more than ten years by this point – and people say she was vicious?

“Can we talk?” was the catchphrase she used to signal that the real gossip was going to begin. And no one was spared. The Queen was “Nice looking. Not at all like her stamp. Wears her watch over her glove, though – tacky.” And when Charlton Heston revealed he had Alzheimer’s, “Surprise!” quipped Rivers. “He’s been wearing his wig sideways for 19 years.”

The great and the good have been paying their tributes. No one’s said it openly, but I’d bet a roll of tit-tape that there are a fair few people relieved to know that without Rivers, Fashion Police may be no more. “It’s in my will,” Rivers said in an interview in 2010, “I am not to be revived unless I can do an hour of stand-up.” So I guess we’ve got to accept that she’s gone.

All choked up over Tony

LAST year, the GQ Awards garnered some column inches by ejecting Russell Brand, who noted during the ceremony that the event’s sponsor, Hugo Boss, once made uniforms for the Nazis. This year, they’ve gone one better. No, seriously, better even than having named George Osborne Politician of the Year. Twice. How have they done it? They named Tony Blair philanthropist of the year. Have you dropped your toast? Choked? I’m sorry if you’ve choked, do have a sip of water. In a statement after the event, GQ clarified that the award had been made in lieu of Blair’s charity work rather than for political strategies, ie for spearheading an illegal war in 2003.