Joan Rivers is a collector of careers. She's been a stand-up comic, a late-night talk host, a Hollywood square and a Broadway star.
She's seen each career collapse and her personal life crumble, left in shambles by the suicide of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, in August 1987.All of which entitles her to a new career: lecturing on survival.
"What we've all learned is you get by by doing exactly what you think you should do. . . . Do what you want, see who you want, do not worry about convention," she said recently.
After her husband's suicide, Rivers found herself unemployed and unemployable. The failure of her Fox talk show made her persona non grata on TV, and her personal tragedy made her unwelcome in nightclubs. Who, nightclub owners told her, wants to laugh at a widow?
She saved her career by taking any job she could find. She went on "Hour Magazine." She took a square on "The Hollywood Squares." And she forced people to confront her tragedy by joking about it.
"If you're going to be funny with people, you have to let them know you know what they're thinking."
When she stood on stage and joked about her husband having his ashes spread over a department store, to make sure she'd visit, the audience gasped. But they stopped seeing her as a victim.
Her comeback was cemented by the success of "The Joan Rivers Show," a daytime talk show. The Daytime Emmy she won this year as best talk show host was, she says, the most meaningful award in her life, because she won it on her own.
Rivers says she still has a lot of anger - at the press, at Fox and at her husband. Anytime a spouse dies, she says, there is anger.
"(But) when it's suicide, the anger is five times as strong, because the person chose to leave you."
Her advice to others in similar situations?
"Use the anger, use the rage. Go forward. Get a face lift, get a tummy tuck."
Times still aren't easy, Rivers said. She misses her husband every day; she cries "at nothing." But she's making it through, and so can you.
"You can do it; you can be just fine. Even though I'm standing here crying, I'm a very happy lady."