I was heavily into politics when I was younger because I was scared about my future and angry at the world. My friend Gino and I got involved in different political campaigns and protests. One of our targets was a measure on the 1982 California ballot, Proposition 9. This measure would have built the Peripheral Canal that would divert water from the Sacramento River to Central and Southern California. This would have been destructive to the environment. (It also wouldn’t have done us any good these days when there is no water to be had anywhere in California.)
Joan Rivers did several TV ads in favor of the proposition. When she performed at the L.A. Cabaret in Encino, Gino and I decided this was the perfect opportunity to make our opinions known. I created the flyer you see to your left. While Joan was doing her act, we placed the flyer on every car in the parking lot.
Why do I bring up this story while the world is mourning her death?
It’s because Joan expressed herself fearlessly. She said the things we feel, but are too scared to say. She had no respect for pretense or false modesty. She never let herself become awestruck or intimidated by wealth, celebrity, and power. Anyone and everyone could get cut down to size by her sharp tongue, including herself. Even her personal pain became a source of her humor. Her bluntness caused her to lose friends and gain enemies. Still, she didn’t give a damn. And not giving a damn made her stronger.
How many of us can muster the courage that Joan Rivers did? How many of us can say what needs to be said? How many of us can say, “I’m going to tell the truth, and damn the consequences!” Most of us are too afraid of hurting people’s feelings to tell them what they need to hear. Or too afraid that people won’t like us that we don’t speak up to protect ourselves. Not Joan. By building the strength to speak candidly and boldly, Joan Rivers empowered us all.
In a way, that empowerment helped Gino and I decide to protest her performance.
I heard a story that someone showed Joan a copy of the flyer, and she was not pleased. I hoped she expressed her displeasure with a few choice swear words and snarky criticisms about my fashion choices. (I have plenty to criticize.)
Most of all, I hope Joan’s example inspires us to speak the truth, live fully, and challenge everything, including our own sense of self-importance.
Thank you, Joan. May your memory be a blessing.