While watching the recent embarrassing season of “The Apprentice,” it struck me that the bond between Joan and Melissa Rivers is very similar to that of Big Edie and Little Edie Beale, who are once again popular because of the recent wave of television and theatrical productions surrounding the famous “Grey Gardens” story. For those of you who don’t know, The Beales were a mother and a daughter who lived in squalor for many years in their slowly decaying house in the Hamptons. The decline of the house and property has forever come to symbolize the physical and mental decline of the Beales themselves, whose combative relationship was perhaps the only thing that helped them survive the tough and uncleanly conditions. They also happen to be relatives of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, which is how they became notoriously famous in the first place.
At any rate, watching Joan and Melissa Rivers walk and talk on screen is like witnessing two animatronic wax figures moving about in real life. Their lack of facial expressions is only part of the strange plastic mass that makes up their reconstructed heads. To me, they look more like puppets than people…two marionettes fully capable of some sort of movement, but without the ability to do much with their faces, except open and shut their eyes and mouths. And even then, it doesn’t look quite natural.
In her heyday, Joan Rivers was one of the funniest women alive. I remember growing up thinking she was bitchy and catty, but in a fun way. Then came the red carpet years, which to me were embarrassing and painful. She wasn’t good at interviewing people, she didn’t know who most of the celebrities were, and she could be downright nasty…which is not the same thing as being funny. And with sidecar Melissa attached to her like some kind of unwelcome barnacle, Joan spit her way through years of boring and uninspired red carpet routines, and probably just as many plastic surgeries.
On this season of “The Apprentice,” she is both funny and sad. Sometimes her self-righteous attitude and over-protective motherly instinct drain a lot of the energy out of the mostly apathetic cast, but it is her relationship with her daughter that is most disturbing. They seem to balance each other’s neurosis with the kind of chemistry you mostly find in Petrie dishes. And though Melissa will tell you at any opportunity that she is more than just her mother’s shadow; she also has umpteen years experience as a major producer of quality television (Though she neglects to mention that most--if not all--of those shows featured her mother as the lead. Methinks she doth protest too much, no?)
And so, like Big Edie and Little Edie, the Rivers women will scratch and claw their way through delusional lives while the rest of watch as if we are witnessing a car accident that never ends.
But that’s just me. What’s your opinion of Joan and Melissa Rivers?