Melissa Rivers, the only child of the late comedian Joan Rivers, spoke for the first time in public about her mother's death. "For me the last three months and six days - not that I'm counting - have been different to say the least," Rivers said in a nearly seven-minute speech at the Hollywood Reporter's annual Women in Entertainment breakfast.
Joan Rivers died at 81 in early September following what was supposed to be routine surgery at a New York clinic. In late October, Melissa Rivers hired a law firm to investigate the circumstances surrounding her mother's death, possibly setting the stage for a wrongful death suit.
But , Rivers focused on her mother's life, sharing an early anecdote from Joan Rivers' childhood: When she was 8 years old, Joan mailed MGM a photograph of herself in an early bid to launch what she assumed would be a glorious Hollywood career.
"In her mind, this little girl was clearly a star and she sent the photo - frame and all," Rivers said, "My grandma was not pleased as it was a $50 frame."
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Rivers noted that this was the first time speaking in public about her mother's passing, adding, "every single person in this room could hire me, and a few have actually fired me.
You know who you are but I don't want you to feel bad ... but technically I am now an orphan."
Attendees at the breakfast included Shonda Rhimes, who received the Sherry Lansing Leadership award; Angelina Jolie; Geena Davis; and Sarah Silverman, who was a friend of the late Rivers. "Joan Rivers was not done," Silverman said at the breakfast. "At 81, she lived a life that could jam-pack 10 lifetimes. She wasn't the average person. She wasn't done. She left us unfinished."
Another anecdote from Melissa Rivers: Joan's grandparents had to pick her up from summer camp after she organized a bunk strike over the casting of the camp's summer play. The counselors at the camp "apparently told (Joan's grandparents) that they either raised the next Hitler or Eleanor Roosevelt - they weren't sure which."
Rivers also spoke of the superlatives (and sometimes, insults) many have thrown at her mother over the course of her career. "It's hard for me to really think of her as any of those things because the bottom line is, she was just my mother," she said, adding, "I guess it's true that most of the women who are here - and we all have powerful voices in our respective fields - wouldn't be here if it weren't for that brave little girl who sent her photo in."
There was one word, however, Rivers did seem to embrace about her mother's legacy: she was "brave."
"My mother was fearless and I don't mean she didn't have any fears. I mean that although she was only 5(feet)2(inches), she stood tall and walked through them. That is what made her such a brilliant performer," Rivers said. "She was willing to say what others were thinking and too frightened to admit. She never apologized for a joke and no topic was taboo and she was fine with that."