The time Joan Rivers didn’t become an NPR host

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Joan Rivers

Rivers (Photo: David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons)

With the death of Joan Rivers, Jay Kernis, former senior v.p. for programming at NPR, shared this remembrance of Rivers on his Facebook page yesterday. It’s reproduced here with his permission.

Between 2001-08, I was SVP for Programming at NPR and someone told Joan that she would be perfect to host a public radio show. I had interviewed her many years ago for NPR and I knew from producers like Amy Rosenblum just how smart Joan was. I was thrilled to be invited for lunch at her remarkable home on the East Side of NYC. Wore a suit, arrived ten minutes early with a notebook filled with Rivers research. A sort-of butler showed me into her study, which was over-flowing with books. Shelf after shelf of bestsellers, plus row after row of literary and historical and biographical volumes. I remember the house as being decorated in a melding of Versailles and Boca. We were having a great discussion until I realized she was serious about hosting a weekly program. So I asked her if she had any idea what NPR program hosts earned. She said she had no idea, but because NPR was so successful, she assumed it was worthy of our meeting. It was not…and after a very long pause, I suggested that she become a contributor to one of the NPR news programs, possibly discussing the books she was reading. She said she would think about it, and it never happened. But I do remember a wonderful afternoon — and what I was served for lunch: water, M&Ms and rugelach. Sweartogod. Joan, RIP.

Rivers’s death also prompted a remembrance from longtime friend Bohdan Zachary, s.v.p. for broadcasting, programming and syndication for KCETLink in Los Angeles. He writes on his blog:

The Rosenbergs [Rivers and her husband, Edgar Rosenberg] invited me to dine with them at Elaine’s restaurant whenever they were in NYC. Our conversations revolved our mutual passion of books, theater and culture. I sensed that Joan, a peer of Woody Allen, felt like an outcast from the New York City literati set; it pained her though she never dwelled on it. We had great times and hours-long conversations that would go on till Elaine said it was time to go home because the restaurant was about to close.