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Joan Rivers Dies At 81

Aired September 4, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, thanks for joining us. Tonight, the pioneering life of a woman whose trademark question, "Can we talk?" was answered nightly by millions of laughs, and by another question often the very next day. "Can you believe what Joan Rivers said last night?"

Joan Rivers who said a lot and said it with brutally, funny precision, who said things without fear often at her own expense died today apparently from complications of a surgical procedure last week. She was 81 years old.

Now in this next hour, we're devoting the entire hour to the life of Joan Rivers. We are obviously devoting time to the medical circumstances surrounding her passing but mainly, though, we're going to focus -- Kathy Griffin and I -- on how Joan Rivers blazed a trail for women entertainers and made us laugh every step along the way.

So on a sad evening here in Los Angeles, also in her hometown New York, and across the country, a chance to smile in appreciation starting with this from Nischelle Turner.



NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joan Rivers could always talk.

RIVERS: Do you know what it's like to go in the morning, to take off a facial mask and realize you're not wearing one? You don't know.

TURNER: With sometimes outrageous jokes, nothing was ever off limits.

RIVERS: I hate old people. I -- if you are (EXPLETIVE DELETED) old, get up and get out of here right now. Right now.

TURNER: Born in 1933, Rivers says even as she was growing up in the New York suburbs, she wanted to be an actress.

RIVERS: I never had a choice. I always say it's like a nun's calling.

TURNER: She joined the iconic Second City Comedy Theater in 1961. As her comedy career was taking off she married producer Edgar Rosenberg in 1964, who would manage her career and become the focus of so many of his wife's jokes. The pair had one daughter together, Melissa. In 1965, Rivers saw her

career get a huge boost when she appeared on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson for the first time.

RIVERS: He gave all of us our starts. My life changed. I went on the show the first time, seven years of struggling, coming out of Second City. And on the air, he said, "You're going to be a star." And the next day my life is different.

TURNER: It was the start of a 21-year professional relationship with Carson and the show. She made regular appearances, eventually becoming the show's substitute host in 1983. But Rivers' decision to launch her own show on the brand-new FOX Network in the fall of 1986 ended her relationship with Carson and "The Tonight Show."

RIVERS: The minute I became competition, it became out to kill me, out to kill me. And that's what came down. Forever. Never spoke to me again.

TURNER: The show was canceled in 1987, just a few months later, Rivers' husband, Edgar, committed suicide in a Philadelphia hotel room.

RIVERS: Some idiot called the house, and they said, where is your mother? Somebody from Philadelphia, and Melissa said, she's not here, and they said please tell her your father killed himself. How is that for a phone call?

TURNER: Rivers regrouped by doing what she always did, putting her life out in the open.

RIVERS: If you laugh at it, you can deal with it. That's how I've lived my whole life.

TURNER: Her career surged again when her withering take on red carpet fashion full of biting remarks and celebrity putdowns exposed her to a whole new group of fans.

RIVERS: I think I'm working the best I've ever worked now. Because I -- it's all been done to me. What are they going to do? Are they going to fire me? I've been fired. I'm going to -- audiences are not going to like me, a lot of audiences haven't liked me. I've been bankrupt. My husband has committed -- I mean, it's OK. And I'm still here. So it's OK.


COOPER: I love that. What are they going to do to me? The funeral is going to be on Sunday at Temple Emanuel Manhattan. The tributes, as you might imagine, they've been pouring in throughout the day. Too many to even list tonight. Sarah Silverman tweeting plain and simply, "My heart is torn in half. She wasn't done." And this from Kathy Griffin, "A legend, a friend, a mentor, an icon, and wildly funny, one of a kind. Rest in peace, Joan Rivers."

Kathy Griffin joins me now. Kathy, thank you for being with us and I'm so sorry for the loss of

your friend.

KATHY GRIFFIN, COMEDIAN: I'm going to try to do a good job but I feel my head is kind of jumbled because I'm grieving but I also really want to say respect must be paid to this woman. And she blazed the trail obviously for me, all the girls, and in the face of so much adversity, a lot of it -- before I met her, obviously, the -- her husband taking his life and being blacklisted by "The Tonight Show" must have been so difficult.

And while we were friends, I saw her have to jump over so many hurdles and she was -- we just had dinner three weeks ago at her beloved Napa Valley Grill in Westwood. It was nice and quiet and we could really, really talk. And she was just a great living example to me and we had many, many deep conversations about how it's different for girl comedians. And we spoke in short hand and had a language and I said to her, you know, you're in a club by yourself. You're not just in a small exclusive club. You're really the one.

COOPER: It's interesting. I mean, you and I were talking about this a lot and you were saying that you spoke a language that really hardly anybody else can understand.

GRIFFIN: Well, I think, you know, when you talk about women in standup, it's really quite different than, you know, women who are comedian actresses or women that have had a tremendous support system of like big powerful producers or multi-million dollar network deals. You know, everything Joan did, she created by herself and --

COOPER: Fighting for everything.

GRIFFIN: Fighting for it. And she said something to me, I was, you know, whining about something and she said look, when you're a woman in this business, you have to hold on until your knuckles are white, until they chop your fingers off, then you hold on by your wrist, then you hold on by your elbows and you never let go. And, you know, we would joke about everything, appropriate and inappropriate. But she really lived that. And I don't think she should have had to fight that hard but she just did.

COOPER: Also, I mean, at the time that she started doing standup, the really -- I mean, Lucille Ball was a female comedian but it's different.

GRIFFIN: But not a standup comedy.

COOPER: And not a standup.

GRIFFIN: It's very different when you're talking about being on the mic by yourself.

COOPER: Right. All alone on that stage.

GRIFFIN: If you're all alone. And I thought it was so cool that the night before she went into the coma, she did an hour-long set. COOPER: Yes.

GRIFFIN: At a small theater in New York for the love of the game.

COOPER: Right.

GRIFFIN: She didn't have to.

COOPER: That's the incredible thing. I mean, the documentary that was made of her recently --

GRIFFIN: "A Piece of Work".

COOPER: If somebody hasn't seen it they really should see it.

GRIFFIN: It's a must-watch.

COOPER: I want to show our viewers just a clip from that because, again, she was out doing standup, I mean, repeatedly late at night in small comedy clubs just trying out new material.

GRIFFIN: Yes. And having fun doing it. And not, you know (INAUDIBLE) so much and taking breaks. And we would laugh about celebrities that would say this famous person, they want to off for three years and go to Europe in backpacks and find themselves. And then she would say, but they might not be here when you get back. And she really believed that and lived it.

COOPER: Well, she also in this -- I want to show this clip because she had every joke she told in these filing cabinets. Let's look at the clip from the film.



RIVERS: These are all my jokes. These are jokes over the last 30 years? These are just -- every time I write a joke, I try to remember to get it on a card.

Why should a woman cook? So her husband can say, my wife makes a delicious cake to some hooker?


And you wonder why I'm still working at this age.


COOPER: But, I mean, she loved to work, and she was more active than, I mean --

GRIFFIN: Anyone in the history of standup, male or female, living or dead. No one in the history of this business has ever at the age of 81, you know, people say, you know, she looked good for 81 or she was still doing her thing. She wasn't just doing her thing. She would go on a talk show and she would come out like a machine gun. She had three shows on at one time and still was doing QVC, and writing books but also, you know, not just kind of sitting back and being a legend, hitting the stage the night before her coma.

And by the way, did you like her categories? There was one file that said cooking and Tony Danza. I mean, she would make fun of anything and everyone.

COOPER: And herself, too.

GRIFFIN: First and foremost.

COOPER: Right.

GRIFFIN: And so I've been watching a lot of footage of her earlier appearances. You can see her having to jump higher and try harder. And she was very good about actually not letting that sort of overtake her with anger.

COOPER: Well, that's the thing I find amazing is that -- and, I mean, you face this as well, you know, you tell -- you have a style of comedy which --

GRIFFIN: That was her.

COOPER: People get offended by. You say things which a lot of people probably think, but you flat-out say them.

GRIFFIN: It's my job. I mean, she did it because it was her job.

COOPER: But she had to deal with the same stuff you have dealt with, I mean, a lifetime of people being offended by what she said and attacking her repeatedly.

GRIFFIN: Yes. I saw it many times. You know, I'm sort of have assigned myself with a mission, which is, you know, the fact that younger people may only know her as the TMZ lady or frankly even the red carpet, but what I -- what I grew up with looking at her going, oh, my gosh, she is the first and still only woman to host a network nightly talk show.

COOPER: Not cable network.

GRIFFIN: Correct. And the fact that that has never been done again, it shows that that struggle she was holding on like she said by the whites of her knuckles.

COOPER: You also pointed out something in your program on air is, I mean, she invented a whole new television programming, which is the red carpet stuff.

GRIFFIN: Yes. She took a bunch of celebrities walking into a building and turned that into two hours of entertainment. She put designers on the map before anyone knew who they were. Look, I owe my career to her, no doubt about it.

COOPER: Really?

GRIFFIN: Hundred percent. She went through so many things that when I experienced them, she was the only person I could call and say, what's your advice? What do you think? When you did this 10 times before I'm doing it for the first time, what can you tell me. The first time I went to perform for the troops, for USO tour, who else on the planet could I call because, you know, she gave me great advice.

She said when you're over there, no matter what rules and regulations you have been given, she said, don't hold back. These are young servicemen and women and they're in a war zone and they've heard everything. So they don't want a knock-knock joke. Bring it. Bring the heat. Go for it. And that's what she was all about.

COOPER: I want to talk more about your relationship with her and her importance. We're going to take a short break.

We'll have more with Kathy Griffin in just a moment. We're going to pick up the conversation after the break as we remember Joan Rivers.


COOPER: When you look at someone like Betty White who's 90 years old --

RIVERS: Don't talk about Betty White.




RIVERS: That old (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I was doing so well and from the dead she comes back. She's taking all my jokes.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the egg rival. The womb arrival. She was incubating, is what she told us.

RIVERS: I'm not going to say anything nasty. She came in an egg and some people will do anything to not have to speak to Ryan Seacrest.


I had to do a full disclosure here because I was supposed to be one of the people seriously that asked me to walk around in the entourage and hold the thing, but I got fired when I raised my hand after the first meeting. I said --

(LAUGHTER) Is it just me or am I the only one that thinks this is (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?



COOPER: Joan Rivers doing what she did so well in so many venues over so many years. I'm here in Los Angeles with my friend Kathy Griffin, remembering one of the few people that could legitimately be called one of a kind. Not only that, as we've been talking about, she worked hard and anyone who worked with her had to raise their game to match. I was lucky enough to have the chance on a CNN production we did called "The Queens of Comedy" to talk to her a little bit. Take a look.


RIVERS: And I used to sit with Woody Allen and Bill Cosby and me, and David Brenner, and Dick Cabbott. I was one of the guys. And when I was funny they loved me, when I wasn't funny, they didn't love me.

COOPER: But you look at someone like Betty White who's 90 years old --

RIVERS: Don't talk about Betty White.



BEHAR: Why not?

RIVERS: That old (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I was doing so well and from the dead she comes back. She's taking all my jokes.

BEHAR: She's taken everything. Your jokes or your parts?



RIVERS: When I was 21 my mother said only a doctor for you. When I was 22, she said, all right, a lawyer, CPA. 24, she said, well, grab a dentist. 26 she said anything. If he can make it to the door, he was mine, you know.

What do you mean you don't like him? He's intelligent, he found the bell himself. What do you want? Anybody that came to my house was it. Oh, Joan, there is the most attractive young man down here with a mask and a gun. Anything.


BEHAR: Forty years later, same face. Not.

RIVERS: It's good genes. I would -- I would do plastic surgery like keloids. They tell you that.

BEHAR: Yes. You're African-American.

RIVERS: Yes. These women look at you, they're talking through the part in their hair and say, I would do something but I scar easily.

BEHAR: Liars.


COOPER: How important do you think is being self-deprecating?

RIVERS: I think you have to let them -- well, everyone looks at me. You have to let them know, I don't think -- I think I'm terrible, so it's OK. You know what I'm saying?



COOPER: You make fun of yourself?

RIVERS: Always about myself. Always about myself.

BEHAR: But before she can take on somebody else, also. I mean, otherwise you just look like a real (EXPLETIVE DELETED). A little bit. Yes. I think humor is self-deprecating. Rodney Dangerfield, why is it that women get this label? And Rodney is I don't get no respect for his whole career. Nobody ever said Rodney was self- deprecating. Joan Rivers there, constantly putting it on her. I don't get it.

RIVERS: That's right. I'm sorry what I said about you. You're not such a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You're a wonderful person. What Barbara Walters says about you is not so.



COOPER: Joan Rivers on "The Queens of Comedy".

I'm here with Kathy Griffin --

GRIFFIN: Also your face was priceless when she yelled at you and said, don't talk to me about Betty White.

COOPER: I love that.

GRIFFIN: You looked legitimately scared.

COOPER: I was. I was scared of her.

GRIFFIN: Look, Betty White is on the table, when you're a comic, everything and everyone is on the table as it should be.

COOPER: But -- you know, and as we said before, people attack her for that as they attack you.

GRIFFIN: For doing her job.

COOPER: I don't know how she -- I mean, she just kept moving forward.


COOPER: She kept at it and did not back down ever.

GRIFFIN: I've never seen anything like it. Honestly. And I have met all the legends at this point as you have. And I've never seen a true force like her and she always kept current, as well. She had a Web show called "In Bed with Joan." She had over two million Twitter followers. She was always cognizant.

COOPER: She was in Twitter wars with like Rihanna.

GRIFFIN: Yes. And that probably wasn't so fun for her. So I actually had dinner with her in Vegas when that was going on and she was performing at one casino and I was in another one, and we met for dinner at her place, table outside, nice and quiet so we could really talk, and I didn't bring it up initially because I didn't know how wounded she had been by that but the online hate world is a whole other level.

And I kind of waited for 20 minutes and sort of said so, this Twitter war with Rihanna is pretty rough. I've read a few things that are little beyond the pale, how are you holding up? And she was cutting a piece of meat and she's, isn't it fabulous? Like she knew that that was a moment. And by the way, Rihanna recently tweeted something really sweet and supportive.

And her ability, and I saw it many times throughout our friendship, to take a celebrity with, you know, maybe no sense of humor or was brand new to fame, and eventually turn them around. You know, I know many celebrities personally that were offended by her or didn't get her and then give it a few years and then you get, oh, she's Joan Rivers.

COOPER: Right.

GRIFFIN: It's an honor to be in her act.

COOPER: Right. You had dinner with her recently.


COOPER: You talked about the last time you had dinner together.

GRIFFIN: Well, we closed the restaurant down and issued the rules. Nobody else, no friends, no staff, and she had this great joke in her act when she said, I have a staff. And sometimes I get lonely and I turn to them and I say staff, I'm lonely, whose going to blank me tonight? And she said things like that at her age that made it actually funnier.

COOPER: Right. GRIFFIN: And, by the way, there she is making a Lady Gaga joke.

COOPER: Right.

GRIFFIN: Which most 51-year-olds don't do or 61-year-olds.

COOPER: And again, the night before she was sent to the hospital, she was doing standup that night.

GRIFFIN: She did a full set.

COOPER: A full --

GRIFFIN: A full hour.

COOPER: Right.

GRIFFIN: You know, not just throwing out a joke or going to see someone else's show. She always put the audience first, which is your job and didn't worry about offending -- you know, I don't know if it really occurred to her. I think she was always going for the funny so much.

COOPER: Right.

GRIFFIN: That she stopped being startled when celebrities would be upset with her but thought it was kind of fun around the end.

COOPER: Personally, though, I mean, the few times that I met her and spend time with her, she was, I mean, a very kind of gentle person. I mean, there was obviously this hard exterior to survive and stuff in this cutthroat business that she's in, but there was something almost -- a kind of sensitive about her. The first time I met her, I was really kind of -- I was moved by how vulnerable she was.

GRIFFIN: She has been through everything and so much more than anyone else out there and overcome everything and tried imaginative new avenues to deal with all that adversity and always having fun, and she -- when we were having dinner three weeks ago, she just kept saying, aren't we lucky?

You know, sometimes I sort of get bitter and raise my fist to the sky, and she say no, we're having fun. And aren't we lucky to be doing this? And it's the best job in the world. And --

COOPER: I mean, you know --

GRIFFIN: She really lived that.

COOPER: To be -- she had that relationship with Johnny Carson for 21 years, to be then cut dead by him.

GRIFFIN: He broke her heart.

COOPER: For, you know, taking a job that she wasn't getting "The Tonight Show", it was a great opportunity for her. It's understandable why she would do it. Never spoke to her again.

GRIFFIN: Well, should we just cut the crap? That's because she's a woman. I mean, several men went on to take over "The Tonight Show" and other late night shows on network and never a woman. So I -- my -- you know, also, Joan was so gracious about still saying, as you saw in that very --


GRIFFIN: You know, he made me.

COOPER: Right.

GRIFFIN: I got to always give him that. But she also later on, years after that happened to her, she was able to articulate how much it just wounded her.

COOPER: But also, you know, to have lost her husband to suicide.


COOPER: Find herself raising a daughter by herself and have to, you know, move forward and make a living.

GRIFFIN: Absolutely.

COOPER: And earn money and do it without a protector, do it without a huge network of support.

GRIFFIN: There was never the behemoth maybe it will happen. There was never the --

COOPER: That's what you see in that documentary.


COOPER: It's like her and she has an assistant.


COOPER: And that's basically it.


COOPER: And it's like her -- she's making it happen.

GRIFFIN: Right. And there is a great scene where she's going to be one of the presenters when George (INAUDIBLE) posthumously get the Mark Twain Award, and she's so nervous because all the boy comics are there and they all have their, you know, staffs and success and she says, you know, it's kind of just me and I hope my jokes are funny. And I was watching that thinking well, you should be receiving the Mark Twain award.

COOPER: I want to just briefly this other clip from the documentary because to me it shows a side of her you don't often see about her fear of not having the next gig, let's watch this.


RIVERS: I'll show you fear. That's fear. If my book ever looked like this, it would mean that nobody wants me, that everything I ever tried to do in life didn't work. Nobody cared and I've been totally forgotten.


COOPER: I thought that was so moving. It really says a lot about her.

Thank you, thanks for being here. You take care.

We'll take a short break. We're going to have more on Joan Rivers, her life and the connection with Johnny Carson.



RIVERS: Any woman who has a child who doesn't yell is a fool? Don't you think? Didn't you yell?


RIVERS: Why not? It's your one chance to be noticed. When I was having my kid, you should, ah. Ah. And that was just during conception.


COOPER: Joan Rivers back when a female comic on network television was a rarity, let alone a female comic saying the kind of things that she said.

She did all the big-time shows but none bigger than the one.

Gary Tuchman has more on that.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joan Rivers became a queen of comedy with the help of the king of late night.

She is funny herself. Could you be welcome, please, Joan Rivers.

TUCHMAN: Joan Rivers has always said Johnny Carson was her mentor. Her first guest appearance on this two-night show was 1965. By 1983 she was Johnny's regular guest host.

RIVERS: Welcome, Lucille Ball.

TUCHMAN: The late, great Lucille Ball was promoting a movie. And she made a rare appearance on late-night television to talk with Joan Rivers on the "Tonight Show."

RIVERS: Yes. I didn't realize you are more time hours than anybody else.

LUCILLE BALL, COMEDIAN/ACTRESS: I didn't, either, until I heard you say it.


TUCHMAN: Joan Rivers thrived while filling in for Johnny with her self-deprecating humor.

RIVERS: I remember so clearly the day my daughter which is January 28 Is my daughter Melissa's birthday. And I mean, never so clearly the day she was born because it broke up my wedding reception and --

TUCHMAN: She often made fun of her home making skills.

RIVERS: Too bad. I do not cook. I hate to cook. Cooking is boring and it's stupid. The last time I had a hot meal, the house was on fire. I -- you know what?

TUCHMAN: And she didn't much enjoy cleaning either. And like much of the time was quite vivid about how she felt.

RIVERS: Not one woman here was ever made love to because she did the linoleum. The floor is immaculate, like damn, you have (INAUDIBLE)


RIVERS: It's Firday night and I'm very blue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we saved the best audience for last.

RIVERS: Yes, it is. It is.


TUCHMAN: Joan Rivers did so well on "The Tonight Show", that the new FOX network hired her to become the first female late night talk Show host making her Johnny Carson's rival. Carson felt betrayed and the two never talked again.

RIVERS: Fox came with this amazing offer and we took it, and he was the first one I called and he hung up. And as I said, he hung up and that really hurt me. All these years it always upset me.

TUCHMAN: The year after her show premiered was tough one for Joan Rivers. Her program was cancelled. Her husband committed suicide and she was banned from "The Tonight Show" for almost 28 years until this year when Jimmy Fallon took over.

She made a quick cameo in February, 49 years to the day after her very first "Tonight Show" appearance. Then she had a full segment in March.

JIMMY FALLON, TONIGHT SHOW HOST: I have a photo of you. This is you in 1965. You're a knockout, pal.

RIVERS: Second night that I was on and I had been working eight years in Greenwich Village and nothing -- and he said, God bless him, you're going to be a star. It changed my life.

TUCHMAN: Acknowledging the support of Johnny Carson, even after all they had been through.

FALLON: I got to say, it really means a lot to me that you're on the show tonight. I love you so much.

RIVERS: I'll be back, my darling.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Really it's hard to believe that she is gone. Joan Rivers making history there on "The Tonight Show." Recently, she stopped by another night-time talk show, "Watch What Happens Live" on Bravo. She wasn't afraid of any topic when it came to a punch line. Listen to what she told host and my friend, Andy Cohen.


RIVERS: I will tell you the big joke that really people say she shouldn't have said on television.


RIVERS: Was my husband came home and I wanted to be sexy so I wrapped myself in saran wrap and he said left overs again?


COOPER: I spoke to Andy earlier this evening.


COOPER: Andy, you've known Joan Rivers for years, first of all, when you first heard she passed away today, what did you think?

COHEN: Just so sad. I don't want to live in a world without Joan Rivers and I think that no one does, I mean, she was such a life force and though she was in her 80s, it's still shocking.

I saw her at a wedding a few weeks ago. I was pitching a show with her right now. She was just on mine a month ago. She was someone that you thought would be around forever and I mean it.

COOPER: She was also a professional. She's been doing it so long that, you know, there is a lot of people, as you know, who show up to a talk show like yours and don't -- they expect you to do all the work.

COHEN: Yes. COOPER: She was there with her own material and gave you, you know, the setup basically.

COHEN: Absolutely. Absolutely. It was a great joy. I remember we really got to talking on the after show about her relationship with Carson, and though I think you could tell that there was still so much hurt there, she was still hurt by the ending of that relationship.

But she still had so much love and she had so much thanks for him and she talked about the most important thing she learned from Carson was to listen, and -- actually, there is a clip of that I want to play because it's exactly what you're talking about --


COOPER: -- on your show.



COHEN: What was the most important thing you learned from Johnny Carson?

RIVERS: I think there was no one like him. He listened and when you would tell him an answer, he came back with a question about what you just said. Now you talk to some other people and you say I just killed my mother and they will say, you like rice?


COHEN: Amazing. That was a month ago.

COOPER: You and another friend of ours, Michael Rork, producer, were pitching a show with her right now?

COHEN: Yes, we were. We had a meeting with Joan a couple months ago, just kind of an informational meeting. We went to her as producers and said what could we come up together because we're Joan fans?

And we came up with a show that was like, it was called "What's Your Problem?" and it was Joan kind of acting as a Judge Judy type and she was resolving kind of housewives-like issues.

Like, you know, my mother-in-law hates me or the wedding ring you got me was too small or kind of fun, kind of social -- you ruined my parties. And Joan was going to kind of preside over those, and we were taking it out.

We had a pitch meeting set for next week and again, never in my universal was I thinking that Joan wouldn't be around to do this show. She was such a life affirming person.

I was sitting across from her at my friend Liza's wedding a few weeks ago and at the end she pulled out a plastic bag and she put the meat in her plastic bag and she thought it was hilarious for her dog. She's one of a kind, one of a kind.

COOPER: I also found that there was something, you know, as kind of involved she was on stage, I remember seeing her in a restaurant and somebody coming up and she was sitting with a group of people and one of them came up and said, you know, will you come over and say hi to Joan Rivers.

And it would never occurred to me to go over and say hi to her because she's a big star and I was shy to do that, but there was something kind of -- I found really touching about it.

And once you actually interacted with her one on one, there was this other side to her. You know, she lived in this apartment, which was very kind of grand and used to say it was like what Marie Antoinette lived in if she had taste I think that was one of her lines.

COHEN: And though she was so uncensored and shocking on stage, she really was this other person.

COOPER: You actually, which I hadn't realized, but I saw on your Instagram, you shot a pilot with her in 2006. You and her together.

COHEN: Yes, it was called "Straight Talk" and it was a pilot for Bravo and the concept was Joan and three or four gay guys. It was like a "View" kind of thing and it didn't get picked up, but for me, I grew up in St. Louis watching Joan subbing for Carson.

And I was -- she was one of my first kind of divas that I associated with and loved and so for me to sit down next to her on a show that I was one of the hosts of, it was so surreal and she was so kind.

COOPER: You know, honestly, as a kid, I didn't like her because she actually made fun of my mom and some jokes and as a little kid, I found it upsetting to see her making fun of my mom.

But as an adult, once I got to know her, I came to really like her and appreciate her and I do think that there was something about her, which you talk about this pilot with other gay people, she had a big appeal in the gay community.

It's often hard to understand why some people have that appeal in the gay community and I think she beyond her acceptance of people, there was something about the fact that she had overcome all these obstacles that, you know, her husband committed suicide.

She -- you know, she had a child to raise and she was cut off by Carson and yet, she persevered and something about that was part of the appeal.

COHEN: Well, I think from the beginning, she was an underdog from the beginning. She was a female standup comic who made it big. And, you know, gave people like uncensored divas and she certainly was and she was larger than life and she was just consistently funny, too. I mean, we love a funny lady.

COOPER: Andy, thank you. Thanks for being with us. Appreciate it. COHEN: Thanks.


COOPER: Just ahead, we want to look at the medical side to this story. New York State Health officials launched an investigation into the clinic where Joan Rivers was having outpatient surgery. The medical examiner is also investigating her death. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me ahead.



RIVERS: Someone needs to sit him down and say you are not a big black thug. You are just like your shoes, ordinary and completely white. So stop --


COOPER: Well, nothing was off limits certainly to Joan Rivers. She said so herself. She said what was on her mind, no filters, no pulling punches whether she was taking aim at herself or others. Here is more of the Joan Rivers so many will miss.


RIVERS: My hot flashes are so bad, I was hit by a heat seeking missile. You don't know. If I want to see sweet people who make tons of money and have no talent, I will not watch you guys, I will watch the Kardashians and --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened to your eye? What happened?

RIVERS: I scratched it on Al Roker's zipper.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now it's time to bring up the man of the hour, comedy legend Joan Rivers.

RIVERS: I do an upside down glass because I haven't seen cups this empty since I did shots with Dena Lohan. I'm sure some of you out there are wondering if my breasts are real. OK, let me just explain it to you, thank you. This one is, this one isn't.

What we do is a calling. We make people happy. It's a calling.


COOPER: Well, Joan Rivers' calling never lost its pull on her. As we've said just hours before having outpatient surgery last Thursday, she performed at a comedy club in Manhattan that she did many nights. People that saw her that night said she was funny as ever, full of energy.

She even joked about her age and mortality. River's family has made few details public about what happened at Yorkville Clinic. We know that she had some sort of throat procedure and at some point suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest.

She was taken by ambulance to Mt. Sinai Hospital about a mile away and put on life support. Today the New York State Department of Health says it is investigating this clinic and the New York medical examiner will investigate Rivers' death as well.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins me now. So the fact that the health department is investigating this clinic, what exactly are they looking for?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, ultimately, they want to really find out what happened here, specifically obviously the cause of death, but also what happened at this outpatient clinic.

What medications were given, what sort of emergency plans were in place. Really, a thorough evaluation. I should point out the fact that an investigation is happening is not that surprising when there is an unexpected complication, unexpected death at such a center.

An investigation is often performed because these types of deaths are really rare. We talk about it, obviously, in the tragic wake of something like this, but we're talking at 0.5 percent even less than that of having these type of complications. Because they are that rare, that's in part what prompts on investigation -- Anderson.

COOPER: The reports are she was in cardiac and respiratory failure. What does that tell you and mean?

GUPTA: Typically what that means is the respiratory failure and arrest usually comes first. You mentioned earlier that she was having some sort of elective throat procedure.

I should point out a couple of things, you know, because it was elective, because it was done on an outpatient setting, there is often a thorough medical evaluation that takes place beforehand.

Is this person ready for this type of procedure? That's the question they are trying to answer and then it's scheduled. This isn't urgent or emergent things. They take their time with this and make sure someone's lungs and heart and bleeding -- the blood factors are all normal.

And they all obviously because it was outpatient expected her to go home. I tell you that a little bit of context in terms of what that day was supposed to go like. What may have happened and sometimes is the concern is that if you lose the airway.

And that's how they describe it, lose the airway, meaning you no longer have -- the patient isn't having the ability to breath and you have no way of opening that airway and it could be because of swelling, because of bleeding, we don't know.

But if you lose the airway, that's the respiratory arrest part of things. The problem is you don't get enough oxygen to the blood and as a result of the oxygen -- not getting enough oxygen to the blood that can cause problems with the brain and heart -- Anderson.

COOPER: Is this something, for people going to have a procedure at an outpatient clinic, should people be concerned about this?

GUPTA: You know, I really don't think so. I was looking up some of these data. I'm talking to some colleagues. I mean, tens of thousands of these types of procedures are performed at these outpatient centers every year, this upper endoscopy type of procedure.

And the risk of complication is really small. We don't know precisely what happened here and that's going to be a very important piece of this. But you know, I think you want to obviously make sure that you're checking out the center that you're getting the procedure in.

Seeing if there is an anesthesiologist who is going to be part of this, finding what the emergency plan is, should it be needed and obviously making sure this is a doctor that you're comfortable with. Again, keep in mind, this is done every day thousands of times and usually without any problems.

COOPER: All right, Sanjay, it's so sad, thank you very much. Appreciate it. We're going to have much more on the mark that Joan Rivers made on the world of comedy. So many moments that made us laugh.


RIVERS: You're 30 years old, you're not married, you're an old maid. A man is 90 years old and not married, he's a catch.



COOPER: Long before she became a comic legend, Joan Rivers aspired to an acting career. You may not realize that. She became a standup comic to support that dream and she did act in some Hollywood films, but her talent for making people laugh that was her true genius.


ANNOUNCER: Here is Joan Rivers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Want to come with me?

RIVERS: Where?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Along a river by the pool.

RIVERS: I never heard anyone talk like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come with me, be my love.

RIVERS: That I heard before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not from me. RIVERS: You're not different from any other guy.


RIVERS: I will never remember my reviews on comedy, but I can tell you every good review I got as an actress.

When I was 21 my mom said only a doctor for you. When I was 22 she said a lawyer, CPA. At 24 she said well, grab a dentist. At 26, she said anything. If he could make it to the door, he was mine, you know. What do you mean, he found the bell, what do you want?

In his book he says the minute you have a kid, if you start talking to it, do you know this, the minute its born you talk and talk and talk the brain develops faster and the minute I had Melissa, I would talk to her in the carriage.

And when I change her and she spoke at seven months, which is incredible and her first words, will you shut up already? Doctors when you're a comic, we'll joke and joke and joke. I have an urologist. He sent me an invitation to a party and said RSVPP.

I love fashion for the wrong reasons. You know what I mean? People love fashion to look stunning. I love fashion because you can have so much fun, because it's fun to wear a pretty jacket. It's fun to put a flower on your shoulder. And you should enjoy life and it's an easy way to enjoy life.

The outfit is almost as tacky as Amber's seat when she got up at the end of the show. What she was thinking?


RIVERS: I watched "Grow Up" my darling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We did "The Tonight Show" in the early '80s.

RIVERS: And your feet weren't touching the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, they weren't.

RIVERS: All my life I'm at the mercy of networks, bosses being told what to say, what you can say. It's -- stupid.

They just bleeped that you know.

I just got bleeped and that's why we're going into the internet. You wouldn't be -- out of the -- internet. Life is tough and if you make a joke, you can make something easier and funny, do it and maybe you take the worst thing in the world and make it funny, it's a vacation for a minute from horror.


COOPER: Well, it's not surprising that Joan Rivers had some pretty strong opinions about her own funeral. She's going to get the last word on that next.


COOPER: We leave you tonight with what better than the words of Joan Rivers. They are from the book "I Hate Everyone, Starting With Me." In it, she writes a letter to her daughter, Melissa, about her funeral and what she wants. It's priceless and perfect and Joan Rivers to the core.

She writes, "When I die and yes, Melissa, that day will come and yes, Melissa, everything is in your name, I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, camera, action.

I want Craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene. I want it to be Hollywood all the way. I don't want some rabbi rambling on," she writes.

"I want Meryl Streep crying in five different accents. I don't want a eulogy. I want Bobby Vinton to pick up my head and sing "Mr. Lonely." I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive.

I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag and I want a wind machine so that even in the casket, my hair is blowing just like Beyonce's."

Joan Rivers, what a life, what a remarkable career. We'll see you again at 11:00 Eastern, another edition of 360. The CNN documentary "LADY VALOR" starts now.