(Photo from GRAMMY.com)
It was the 47th GRAMMY Awards and we were just about ready to officially open the red carpet. I glanced over at the fan bleachers and several of them were donning paper masks on a stick of some celebrity. By the time I got to the bleachers, there were 150 GRAMMY Foundation kids and their parents donning Joan Rivers masks. I promptly let the producers of E!'s red carpet special know they had 14 seconds to kill the masks or watch the coverage from home. Within 5 minutes, the masks had been collected and I was thanking the E! producer for her understanding. Suddenly, from the E! producer's walkie talkie comes this voice of the devil (who sounded exactly like Joan Rivers): "WHERE THE F*** IS RON ROECKER, GD, HIM?!" As everyone turned to look at me and I turned to look for that poor bastard Ron whatever, the voice comes back and now it sounds like it's in stereo: "Never Mind, I've almost got 'em!" Who? Where? WTF? Before I knew it, this tiny gorgeous blonde woman grabbed me by the lapels and manhandled me like fresh meat in prison.
"I printed up 500 GD Joan Rivers masks that don't really look like me for some reason for a really great bit and you nix them 10 minutes before we go on the air? Come on, Ron Roecker, wanna hear the bit?"
I tell her that I'm sure it's hilarious, that she was right about the masks not looking quite right but there were a ton of other shows on which she could try out the bit. My answer didn't impress her and she aggressively kept coming at me with how ridiculous it was blah, blah, blah, producers were trying to get her to back-off a bit while mouthing "We're so sorry...you know, it's JOAN!"
Things were actually getting pretty heated up and the feisty broad was all up in my grill. I finally said, "you know why I am killing the masks, Ms. Rivers?" (her response: "Because you just like to kill fun?" touche)...I said (and I wish I was clever enough to realize what I was saying but this was just no self edit button...),
"Do you have any idea how tight they would have to pull that mask for it to actually look like you?" WTF...who said that?? I thought, this is where Joan Rivers takes me out...and it was silent...and she looked up at me and she said, "What did you just say, Ron-Roecker??" And as I started to sweat and apologize, Ms. Rivers says, "No, what did you say, word for word because that's probably the funniest f-ing joke about my plastic surgery that I've never told...now, I'm a Jew so how much for the joke, Ron-Roecker?!"
Needless to say, no money exchanged hands ;) -- but the priceless lesson she taught me was the value and power of humor -- it can stop the spiral, catch us off guard, make us think, force us to look at things differently...humor also puts us on an even playing field. To someone who was in a league of her own, you were a trailblazer and you were hilarious and you were classy and you were kind, despite what anyone thinks:) Thank you for that moment which has helped me navigate life more than a couple of times. God Bless you, Joan Rivers.