J-Dubs Review of Last Girl Before Freeway The Life, Loves, Losses and Liberation of Joan Rivers by Leslie Bennett

Say that title 3 times fast :).  

Spoiler Alert – You have to know as a public figure there is nothing I can say here that you may not already know about the illustrious Joan Rivers.  But in case you’ve been living under a rock in the middle of nowhere, I added the alert.

A single word describes Joan: DRIVEN

She succeeded in a man’s world.  She gained and lost fortune and experienced devastating lows fighting her way back to the top.  Her husband Edgar committed suicide leaving her 37 million dollars in debt.  She amassed her fortune all over again; branching out beyond the comedy arena.  She worked right up until her death with no intention of retiring it is said.  The night before the procedure that would end her life, she gave one of her best routines yet.

I guess I never really understood how mean she could be.  And I am not talking about Fashion Police mean but cutthroat humor.  When she went on the attack; it was of people in the public eye “big boys and girls who can take it”.  And she refused to apologize no matter how tasteless the joke.  She was a comedienne, her job was to tell jokes and that she did.  If you didn’t like it then screw you.  I also did not realize her connection to Johnny Carson and her permanent guest host spot on the Tonight Show.  I also did not realize she was the host of the Late Show on the fledgling Fox network.  I guess I’m the one living under a rock during these years.  

Joan was known for her philanthropic works and despite the tough and biting exterior, she was a sad girl yearning for love and acceptance.  She was a heavy-set child, in the shadow of her older sister Barbara.  Joan wanted to be beautiful and was out-shined (in her mind anyway) by many.  Her struggles with eating disorders surprised me.  She may have been anorexic living on Altoids and lettuce leafs fearful of ever gaining the weight back.  She had disdain for women who “let themselves go”.  And all that plastic surgery – obsessed with the attainment of beauty.  Back in the day when getting a nose job was not exactly a safe thing to do, she did it.  A pioneer on many fronts.

The book was long, 432 pages.  There are some mundane parts about business but overall an interesting worthwhile read where you can play “Can you spot the celebrity or I knew her when?” The psychology of it all and what makes someone as larger than life as Joan tick was really very good.  My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. 


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