Last Girl Before Freeway

Last Girl Before Freeway

The Life, Loves, Losses, and Liberation of Joan Rivers

Book - 2016
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A portrait of the influential comedian explores her enduring cultural legacy, discussing subjects ranging from her husband's suicide and her feud with Johnny Carson to her numerous cosmetic surgeries and her controversial death in 2014.
Publisher: New York :, Little, Brown and Company,, 2016
Edition: First edition
Description: ix, 419 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
ISBN: 9780316261302
Branch Call Number: 792.7028 Riv


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Jun 02, 2019

“It’s the bad that teaches you, makes you think. Good takes care of itself and only gets better”. -Joan Rivers

She was $37 million in debt. Her husband had committed suicide. Joan’s daughter blamed her for his death. She was fired from her dream job of the first female night time talk show host and was feuding with Johnny Carson, the King of late-night. What next?

This biography opens with Joan Rivers at her lowest point, contemplating suicide herself. It unflinchingly explores Joan’s relationship with her parents, daughter Melissa, lovers, and comedic peers. This book reveals much about Joan River’s start in among other places, the USO and opposite Barbra Streisand early in her career in an off-Broadway show.

This book also reveals her own body insecurities and how in her later years she tried through her “humor” to apply those insecurities to other women before fat shaming had a name. The author explores Joan’s evolving comic style – in the early years self-effacing to later snarky sarcastic cracks for the sake of publicity. Joan’s relentless pursuit of beauty lead to her unexpected death at 81.

At the time of her death, critics wrote about Joan River’s work ethic, how she would record her live shows in order to preserve any off-the-cuff remarks that got a laugh for future bits. Joan believed that “perseverance was going to propel her to the top.” And it did.

The reader, Erin Bennett, brings believability to this story with her matter-of-fact delivery. She has great pacing and tone. Her reading really supports the author’s words and Joan’s own story.

Not a fluff piece. Not a cover up by any stretch. This book is a brutally honest telling of the determination and drive of a comedian I was not a particular fan of until I heard her story from this unbiased source. Not at all what I expected, it was engaging and worth the listen.

Aug 26, 2017

This was a terrific and thorough telling of Joan Rivers' life. I didn't expect much after reading the reviews here, but it was entertaining and inspiring as it illustrated the reasons behind her drive and work ethic, and the unending barriers that were put in her way. While I enjoyed some of her humor and thought some of it was a bit too pointed, I was very impressed and inspired by her indomitable spirit as she hit bottom several times but just continued doing whatever she could to continue working and trying anything and everything she could think of to succeed.

I'm also extremely impressed with all the sources the author found, talked to and used--both those who thought the world of Joan Rivers and those who couldn't stand her. Very well done and a very good read!

Apr 16, 2017

I was never a huge fan of Ms. Rivers' humor but was interested in how she began her career. This book was filled with too much detail for me and since I have no interest in having a career in entertainment, most of the info was useless. Rivers comes across as abrasive and rather impolite - I was left with a more unpleasant view of Rivers than I had before reading the book. I'm sure she had many charming and lovely attributes, but I had/have little interest in digging thru this very large book to find them. This is a book for fans only.

Mar 13, 2017

I started reading this book and soon realized that it was full of Joan's quotations from some other books. I was taking mental notes of those titles in case I decide to read them. I prefer to read originals rather than interpretations. The book gives a very thorough account of Joan's performances and failures. Too thorough, from my point of view. I saw Joan in her Fashion Police and her sense of humour was fabulous but often sarcastic. Having read this book, I went on You Tube to watch her stand ups...oh boy. The book explains how hard it was for her to build her audience and make people laugh and I get it - I didn't find her jokes about her body and aging - in that combination - funny at all. I found them quiet embarrassing in fact. However, I admire her perseverance and hard work.

Feb 08, 2017

I remember the young(er) Joan from her tv appearances on classic variety series like The Ed Sullivan and Flip Wilson shows and of course her stand-up and chats with Johnny Carson on the old Tonight Show. I liked that self-deprecating Joan and found her quirky looks attractive if not conventionally pretty. She was a lot more interesting to me than the caustic Fashion Police diva who went on to have so many plastic surgeries she came to resemble a caricature of herself.

Nor was I particularly a fan of Rivers's evolution into the potty-mouthed and mean-spirited comic she became, the first example of this being the Elizabeth Taylor fat jokes, which were relentless, got old fast, and seemed pointlessly cruel. Thus one of the most entertaining passages of Leslie Bennetts's bio chronicles the deliciously funny revenge taken by La Liz, now svelte and ravishingly beautiful again, the night she showed up on the arm of invited guest George Hamilton to an elegant dinner party given by Joan and her husband Edgar Rosenberg. It's so wonderful of you to invite me!" Taylor purred, and the speechless, mortified Rivers was a nervous wreck throughout the entire evening. ("It was done so deftly," Hamilton recalled. "Joan felt more humiliated than Elizabeth ever felt.")

Bennetts also explores, in almost exhausting detail, the traumatic effects of the debacle that was River's first talk show on the then-fledgling Fox network in 1986, a career move that effectively ended her marriage and sparked a legendary feud with former mentor Carson; and Edgar's shocking suicide a year later. Her husband's decision to end his life in a Philadelphia hotel room led to a lengthy estrangement between Rivers and their daughter Melissa, who blamed her mother for her father's death. (Their appearance together in the 1994 tv movie "Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story" remains one of the more bizarre episodes in the annals of showbiz.)

All that said, there's something truly touching about Joan Rivers, who all her life was a walking monument to insecurity. It's impossible not to admire her moxie and her work ethic, her uncanny ability to rescue and reinvent herself in the wake of so much emotional devastation.

Dec 06, 2016

Really enjoyed this account of Joan River's life. Was never a huge fan, but definitely found her funny and crass at the same time. One has to appreciate what a hard worker she was her entire life.

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