Rivers Talks Mother, Humor at Reflections of Hope Luncheon

Marci Shatzman

Sun Sentinel

Mar 9, 2016

From the left, luncheon co-chairwoman Robin Rubin, guest speaker Melissa Rivers, and co-chairwomen Nancy Schiller and Isabel Friedman

Hosting E!'s "Fashion Police" isn't the only thing Melissa Rivers inherited from her mother Joan Rivers. So is candor.

"I think about my mother every day, and my father who is no longer resting in peace," Rivers told a record crowd of more than 700 at Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness: Reflections of Hope Luncheon for Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services.

"We all feel she is our daughter and she has grown up in front of our eyes," event co-chairwoman Marilyn Weinberg said to introduce Rivers as the guest speaker Feb. 25 at the Boca Raton Resort and Club.

"What you see on the red carpet is not what I see behind the curtain," Rivers said. "Everyone has doubts. Grace under pressure is something you need to do when you want to crawl in a hole. People respect you when you tough it out."

When she and Rivers started reporting on the red carpet in 1996, the concept was new and the reaction was "What were they thinking?" she said.

"After 20 years of watching the good, the bad and the ugly my gut instinct is, you know better than anyone. Ultimately you must listen to your own voice, Rivers said. "Anybody can shine when times are great. If you do anything courageous in any way, you will be criticized. You can't avoid it."

Her family had pillars of strength they called on when times got tough, she said, not mentioning the controversy surrounding her mother's death 18 months ago.

"My family has been through a lot, and laughter pulled us through," said Rivers, 48, a producer and author. "My mother gave me and her audience permission to laugh."

Three weeks after her father Edgar Rosenberg committed suicide in a Philadelphia hotel room in 1987, her mother visited her at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a student. She took one look around her dorm room and said, "'Thank God your father is dead rather than see you living like this,'" she said.

"My mother and I had a 20-year partnership and we didn't speak for a year," Rivers said. "After Edgar, we had to find a way forward."

Also making brief remarks at the podium were Judi Donoff, chairwoman of the board, and Danielle N. Hartman, JFS president and CEO.

Grand Benefactors of “Reflections of Hope” were Marilyn and Jay Weinberg. Additional sponsors included: Erma Brode, Meryl & Ron Gallatin, Anne & Norman Jacobson, Judy Levis Markhoff, Nancy & Marvin Schiller, Jill Viner, Shirley & Barton Weisman, CBIZ/MHM, LLP, Greenspoon Marder Law, Quality Family Care, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ticho Foundation, Vianna Brasil, Boca Raton Resort & Club, Boca Raton Observer and Sun Sentinel.

The next JFS fundraiser is "Great Golf for a Great Cause" golf outing March 21 at St. Andrews Country Club. Email jillw@ralesjfs.org or call 561-852-5013 for more information.

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