joan rivers dies at 81 Television personality Joan Rivers arrives for the Banana Republic 2005 Spring Collection at the New York Public Library October 25, 2004 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images Television personality Joan Rivers arrives for the Banana Republic 2005 Spring Collection at the New York Public Library October 25, 2004 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images

 

Comic legend Joan Rivers died Thursday at Mount Sinai Medical Hospital in Manhattan following complications during a routine throat procedure. She was 81 years old. Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky, the show business legend once shared with Metro that her foray into the entertainment industry was fraught with challenges from the very start. “My parents threw me out of the house when I told them I wanted to be a comic, so I had to sleep in my car and shower at the Y." “Of course,” she later quipped, “once I became famous they were happy to take credit.” [embedgallery id=450436] Rivers’ big break came in 1965 when, after her first appearance on “The Tonight Show,” host Johnny Carson said “you’re going to be a big star.” How right he was. Following a stint as the permanent guest host of “The Tonight Show,” Rivers became the first woman to host her own late night talk show. She later won an Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host for her daytime gabfest “The Joan Rivers Show.” The Tony-nominated actress has also written 12 best-selling books, appeared in numerous films and was the subject of a critically acclaimed 2010 documentary, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.” Never one to hold anything back, Rivers told Metro she took the job on the red carpet in 1994 because she needed the money. “I was broke and I was poison in the business.” She parlayed the one-time appearance into another career as the queen of the red carpet, coining the phrase “who are you wearing?” “It’s a hard job. Everyone’s tried it. Even Oprah. Fifty years in this business and I didn’t know who the hell half these people were,” she said. Rivers later said, “If you’re really lucky you get one moment in this business when you’re white hot. I’ve been very, very fortunate, I’ve had a few.” Her latest successes included being at the helm of E!’s “Fashion Police,” where she critiqued celebrity fashions for 10 million loyal viewers known as Joan Rangers; a reality show with daughter Melissa “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?”; and a Web series “In Bed With Joan.” When we spoke to her in 2009, she was promoting “Celebrity Apprentice,” which she ended up winning. We asked her if she ever thought she was too old to try anything new. Her response was so telling of who she was. “I’m 76 years old and let me tell you, if you ever meet someone who's still drawing a breath that thinks they’re too old to try something new, tell them Joan Rivers thinks you're a f—ing idiot.” The caustic comic was a master of self-promotion but she never mentioned that she used to deliver meals to homebound AIDS patients in New York in the 1980s. She worked closely with that charity, Gods Love We Deliver, until her death. In a November 2013 appearance at the Wilbur Theatre, Rivers joked about her own mortality. “Imagine if I died here tonight. You could tell all your friends you were there. ‘Her face didn’t move, but the rest of her dropped right to the floor.’” She is survived by her daughter Melissa and grandson Cooper.