Comedian and red-carpet spitfire Joan Rivers has died at 81 after several days on life support at Mount Sinai hospital in New York City, her daughter Melissa revealed Thursday.
“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers,” she said in a statement. “She passed peacefully at 1:17 p.m. surrounded by family and close friends.”
Rivers was rushed to Mt. Sinai from a Manhattan doctor’s office Aug. 28 when she suffered complications during an outpatient throat surgery. The “Fashion Police” star had stopped breathing during the procedure, according to the New York Fire Department.
Born Joan Alexandra Molinksy in 1933, the Brooklyn native graduated from Barnard College and worked various odd jobs before breaking into show business. She logged a half-century in show business and is known for her red carpet commentary.
She cut her comedy chops in New York City clubs, including The Bitter End and The Gaslight Café, at a time when women weren’t stage regulars.
Her website describes Rivers as “the first woman to break the glass ceiling of Late Night Television,” touting her role as the only permanent guest of The Tonight Show for three years in the early 1960s. She went on to start her own talk show, “That Show With Joan Rivers.”
Rivers was a best-selling author and has made countless cameos in television shows and movies.
In 2009, she won the second season of NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice and was honored by her colleagues in a Comedy Central roast.
Most recently, she was the host of “Fashion Police” on E! and was performing stand-up the night before she was hospitalized.
Michael Lucas, who was in the audience for Rivers’ show at New York’s Laurie Beechman Theatre Aug. 27, told CNN that she joked about death.
“She said, ‘You know I’m 81 years old, and I could drop dead at any moment and you would be so lucky because you will have a story to tell your friends for the rest of your life,’” Lucas said. “Then she mimicked people talking about what it was like to see her drop dead on stage.”
Rivers was in fine form, he said.
“There was no sign (Wednesday) night that she was declining. Her show was over an hour long and she never stumbled or even paused to catch her breath.”
See the full statement issued by Melissa Rivers below:
It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers. She passed peacefully at 1:17 p.m. surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother.
Cooper and I have found ourselves humbled by the outpouring of love, support, and prayers we have received from around the world. They have been heard and appreciated.
My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.