As you’ve probably heard by now, the world lost a comedy legend on Thursday (September 4) when Joan Rivers, she of the sharp tongue, amazing work ethic, and fashion know-how, died at the age of 81.
We’re sad. A lot of people are sad. But people who might not know a lot about her outside of her scathing red carpet jokes might not know why we’re sad. All they saw is the Queen of Mean, ripping on Anna Kendrick‘s Oscar dress or Amber Rose’s VMA… non-dress. And they’re right — Rivers’ humor was mean, brilliantly so. She created a brand out of it, she never stopped working on it, and generations to come will thank her for making red carpet dress coverage a thing.
But for those who interacted with her in real life, Rivers was anything but. Even before she died, friends in New York and Los Angeles would tell me about how they ran into her at X, Y, or Z, and how smart, kind, funny, and generous she was. She’s officiated last-minute gay weddings for her fans. She flirted with flight attendants and brought them gifts. She even gave my friend from high school ten bucks, and my new Twitter friend a really kickass story to tell.
Read these stories — the real stories, from the real people she wasn’t blasting on “Fashion Police” — below:
Rob Rodriguez, Server At Sarabeth Restaurant, NYC
“Most of us called her Joanie. Sunday nights, 7pm, table 35. That was her spot. She never hesitated to kick someone out of her table and pose for pictures on their way out.
“Whenever you would approach the table you would hear talk of politics, education, and other worthwhile topics. She was always polite and casual. One night she was leaving and passed me pouring wine at another table and went to the table of ladies and told them how good of a server I was and to not forget to tip, as she slid a $10 in my back hand. Joan was always Joan, funny, quick, and down to earth. She was always a pleasure to have in the restaurant and honestly one of the best celebs I have served.”
Keith W. McAndrew, Flight Attendant, Dallas
“I remember her coming on [my plane] and making a point to stop and ask to meet our pilots for the short flight to DC. She shook their hands and said ‘Fly fast, I will have to pee right after take-off!’
“I was very shocked that she brought a plethora of very nice chocolates for us, her flight crew, and was gracious to have such a ‘very handsome crew.’ She introduced herself, instead of just assuming we knew who she was. I told her, ‘Ms. Rivers, it’s an absolute pleasure,’ and was immediately cut off with a quip by her: ‘Dearie, my face is Ms. Rivers. I am Joan.’
“We shared many more laughs on our forty minute flight about random things, such as TSA security, and her hatred for everything bland. She was very conversational — asked my name, how long I’d been a flight attendant, and even made the whole ‘I know you’re gay’ reference. She held my hand while we spoke of her life.
“Maybe 3-4 months later, I ran into her near her home in NYC. I said ‘hello,’ and told her that she may not remember, but I was her flight attendant a few months back. She immediately said
‘Oh yes, you’re the gay one.’ I laughed, thinking how many times she’d used that line before, and then the moment hit: She asked me if my airline got any better wine, remembering our conversation, and asking about my job; asking about how life in the skies were. I was floored. She remembered me… I have told and will tell this story for the rest of my life!”