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Joan Rivers Dead At 81

Joan Rivers
Photo by NBC Universal/ Getty Images

Legendary comedy diva Joan Rivers is dead at the age of 81. Rivers, best known for her caustic humor and outspoken candor, passed away after suffering complications during surgery on her throat at a New York clinic. Reports say Rivers stopped breathing during the procedure and was rushed to Mount Sinai hospital in cardiac and respiratory arrest. Melissa Rivers issued a statement today saying, “It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers. She passed peacefully at 1:17 p.m. surrounded by family and close friends.”

Born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn New York in 1933, Rivers first rose to fame appearing as a frequent guest on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show” in the mid-1960s. Rivers established her comedic style targeting celebrities with her punchlines but also made fun of herself, especially with jokes about her appearance and numerous plastic surgeries. She became known for her famous catchphrase, “Can We Talk?” a set-up line, which often led into gossip-driven joke telling. Rivers’ work also included writing credits on “Candid Camera,” several books, comedy albums, a handful of movie roles and even her own late night talk show. In fact, it was Rivers’ foray into late night in 1986 that apparently bittered her relationship with mentor Johnny Carson. The “King of Late Night” was apparently not supportive of the idea and banned her from future appearances on “The Tonight Show.” Upon his death in 2005, Rivers revealed that Carson never spoke to her again.

Rivers was married twice. Her first marriage to James Sanger in 1955 ended in annulment that same year. Her second marriage to Edgar Rosenberg ended in tragedy as Rosenberg took his own life after Fox fired both him and Rivers over the failed “Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.” Rivers blamed his suicide on the “humiliation” he felt from Fox. The couple had one daughter, Melissa, who became Rivers’ frequent sidekick in later years, appearing together as red carpet co-hosts for numerous award show events. They also appeared as contestants on the second “Celebrity Apprentice” and co-starred in the reality TV series “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?”

Rivers was also known for co-hosting the E! show “Fashion Police,” which she began co-hosting in 2010. She released her latest book “Diary of a Mad Diva” in July. (Metro Networks Inc.)

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