I need a hero. I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night. He’s gotta be strong, and he’s gotta be fast, and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight. I need a hero. I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light. He’s gotta be sure, and it’s gotta be soon, and he’s gotta be larger than life. Gravely-voiced Irish singer Bonnie Tyler belted out these lyrics to the Jim Steinman/Dean Pitchford song back in 1985. Last night, another gravely-voiced celebrity passed away. And she WAS a true hero.
I first saw Joan Rivers perform at a small club in New York City about 5-years ago. In a world where our language has been distorted so far as to call someone with a disability differently-abled, a blind person visually impaired, and a dwarf a little person, it was wonderful to hear somebody – well calling a spade a spade.
Joan Rivers never pulled punches and told plenty of hilarious off-color jokes. The Millennial and Generation X audience, who grew up with the nonsense now known as political correctness was shocked and uncomfortable. I laughed my butt off. Joan Rivers had the balls to stand up to censorship and simply be funny. Who else could tell a joke – a series of jokes – about Auschwitz and have an entire audience in stitches.
In today’s environment, where freedom of movement, freedom of speech, and freedom of ideas are under constant threat, Joan Rivers was a true hero but for this alone.
I saw Ms. Rivers a number of times since then. She played often at small venues in New York City, testing new jokes and always honing her routine. She did this not to make money, for ticket prices were always low, and the revenues always went to her favorite charities like Guide Dogs for the Blind (http://welcome.guidedogs.com/) and Gods Love We Deliver (https://www.glwd.org/) an AIDS charity. This too made her a hero in my book.
Unlike many celebrities, Ms. Rivers never isolated herself from others. My wife remembers fondly hearing Joan speak for an hour about entrepreneurship (she was a very smart woman). After the event, she stuck around for another hour talking to attendees, signing autographs, and even letting people take pictures wearing her mink.
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to talk to another comedian who left us too early, Robin Williams, back-stage after one of his performances of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. I thanked him for all of the laughter that he gave me.
I wish I had taken the opportunity to thank Joan Rivers not only for laughter, but for being a true American Hero.
She will be missed.