5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Joan Rivers

On September 4, 2014,  comedy legend Joan Rivers dies at age 81, a week after she went into cardiac arrest while undergoing a medical procedure on her vocal cords at a Manhattan clinic.  Here are five things you probably didn’t know about Joan Rivers...


Rivers Changed Her Stage Name Several Times Comedian Joan Rivers began life as Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn, New York and began performing stand-up comedy using the name Pepper January. Her agent, Tony Rivers, wanted her to change her name, so she chose Joan Rivers because she said it just felt right. Rivers believed her name was like putting on a party dress, which made it easier to perform in the nightclubs where she was working.

Her Husband Committed Suicide Rivers’ first husband was James Sanger whom she married in 1955 although the marriage was annulled that same year. Her second marriage was in 1965 to her manager Edgar Rosenberg. Rosenberg killed himself after Fox fired the couple from The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers in 1987. They’d been married for 22 years. Rivers believed he had depression due to medication he was taking to treat a prior heart attack.


She Made Her Fortune From QVC Comedy made her famous, but Rivers amassed her wealth thanks to QVC. Her clothing, beauty, and accessory lines totaled over $1 billion in sales during its 24-year run on QVC. Prior to the shopping network, Rivers was $37 million in debt. After joining QVC, Rivers’ Classics Collection “became a regular high-point on QVC earnings calls in the late ’90s,” reports Forbes. With an estimated income of $250 million over those 24 years, she made $10.4 million annually. 

Elective Surgery Ended Her Life In September 2014, during minor surgery on her throat, the 81-year-old comedian went into cardiac arrest. She spent about a week in a medically induced coma before passing away. Rivers’ daughter, Melissa, sued for medical malpractice after she found that a doctor, who wasn’t supposed to be in the operating room, took a selfie with Rivers during the procedure. A settlement was reached in 2016 for an undisclosed amount.

Film of Her Guest Host Appearance on “The Tonight Show” Was Destroyed There’s a reason you can’t find Joan’s first appearance as guest host with Johnny Carson on the “Tonight Show”. A former manager of Joan Rivers burned the tape of her first guest host appearance in spite of their broken tie. She appeared as the show’s first permanent guest host between 1983 and 1986, but once she left, she and her mentor Johnny Carson never spoke again. Rivers said Carson hung up on her when she called to say she was leaving.