Joan Rivers enters 10th year of red-carpet commentary

Published: Saturday, January 13, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 12, 2007 at 11:42 p.m.
Joan Rivers wants people to know that she's misunderstood. She claims her reputation as the raspy vixen of the red carpet is unmerited and that she has never driven a young, impressionable starlet to tears by verbally butchering her choice of an evening gown.
"I've never heard one celebrity say 'Oh, she hurt me' or 'Oh, I can't talk to her because she's so mean,''' Rivers says on the phone from her office in New York. "Really, they're still alive. I didn't kill them with cruelty.''
Rivers, 73, is entering her 10th year as a red carpet commentator. She and daughter Melissa will be cornering the glitterati on Monday at the Golden Globes for the TV Guide Channel, and despite the abrasive barbs in her standup routine, Rivers says her fashion commentary is an entirely different beast. What she says on the red carpet is intended to reflect what people are saying in their living rooms, she explains.
"I think I earned the reputation because I tell the truth,'' she says. "My obligation was and is always what I would say at home to a friend. It's always about the audience. So you have to ask very blunt questions, but you have to know who to ask them to. As I said to Isaac Mizrahi, 'You have to know whose boobs to push, you idiot.'''
Rivers, who has been a guest on "The Love Boat,'' served as a Hollywood Square, narrated on "The Electric Company,'' and hosted her own late-night talk show after famously abdicating as a guest host on Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show,'' says she has always had a strong fashion streak. But because comedy has always been the realm of bad jeans and Rita Rudner hair, her fashion acumen was generally overlooked.
"When I hosted the Emmys, I changed my dress six times,'' she says. "When I hosted Carson, I always wore Valentino, or Escada, or Dior. I've always loved clothes, it's just that nobody cared. Let's face it, I've never been considered a sex symbol, and when you're a comedian, you don't talk about your own clothes. But it's always been there as something I've always liked about myself.''
Rivers worked as a buyer for a department store before starting her comedy career, and although she has yet to design her own clothing line, she has added glamour to middle America with a line of jewelry that she designs for the shopping network QVC.
Melissa Rivers can't claim the same credentials as her mother given the limited fashion potential of "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!'', a reality series she used to star in.
"What qualifies anyone? You know what you like, you know what you don't like, and you have the guts to say it,'' Melissa says. "Like anyone, I depend on instinct. People say 'What gives you the right?' I just have an opinion, and you can take it or leave it.''
When it comes to their own dresses for the red carpet, the mother-daughter team takes a nonchalant approach. Joan Rivers says she follows the tenet that the hostess should never out-dress the guests, so she tends to stay with less flashy designs. She's also mindful of the fact that she's working the entire broadcast, which entails running after celebs and occasionally shoving the paparazzi to reach Jennifer Lopez.
When she started as a red carpet commentator, Rivers was called shallow for asking "Who are you wearing?'' Now that everyone asks the question, she said she also tries to ask the questions that she suspects are on the minds of viewers at home. Making too much nice-nice equals too much "bo-rinnng,'' she explains.
"There was one year when I was talking to Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and behind them was Tom Cruise and Robin Williams waiting to be interviewed. It's become a rite of passage. You talk to us, you survive, and you go on to do bigger and better movies.''

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