Joan Rivers Better Work

Thanks to Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, rapt audiences are learning that there’s a lot more to Joan Rivers than E! red carpet critiques, QVC jewelry, and plastic surgery punch lines.

BY Brandon Voss

June 24 2010 7:25 PM ET

JOAN RIVERS 3 X390 (IFC FILMS) | ADVOCATE.COMLike Betty White, who sort of outed Cary Grant on The Joy Behar Show last week, you’ve surely encountered some closeted celebrities through the years.
Yes. But it’s a business. If everyone had known that Cary Grant was gay, he wouldn’t have been the great romantic idol, and that would’ve been the end of his career. Same with Rock Hudson, who was a very good friend of mine. He had a partner named Tom for years, and when you invited Rock, you invited Tom — there was no question. But if the world had known, maybe they wouldn’t have wanted to see him make out with Jane Wyman. It makes sense, in a way. If you’re looking at someone who’s your idol, thinking that maybe one day they’ll come ring your doorbell, you don’t want to hear, “There’s no chance in hell, honey, but still buy a ticket to the movie.”

Should young gay performers still keep their sexuality a secret?
It’s part of the game. If you’re going to be a romantic idol and try to get every teenage girl to love you, then you’d be an ass to come out and say you’re gay. That’s why Ricky Martin was so smart — he did what he did, he made his millions, and then he said, “Guess what, everybody? I’m gay, I’m having this life, and here are my children.” It didn’t matter anymore because he didn’t have to bring in 16-year-old girls.

Since we’re getting into Newsweek territory here, did you buy Sean Hayes as a romantic lead in Promises, Promises?
I thought he was adorable. What’s there to buy? It’s a musical, for God’s sake. We already know the plot, we know they get together in the end, and there’s singing and dancing. What, we’re looking for reality here? It’s so stupid.

Betty White is starring in another sitcom at 88. After your reality show, Mother Knows Best, would you like to do a sitcom?
I’d love to do a real sitcom — or a movie. I’m hoping Meryl Streep will get sick somewhere along the line, just for a minute, so they’ll give me her part.

You worked with Ryan Murphy when you played a fictionalized version of yourself on Nip/Tuck. Would you like to appear on Glee?
Ryan is a genius, so I’d do Glee in a second. Anyone who doesn’t want to go on the number 1 show is an idiot. I’ve only seen it once, so I don’t know what I’d play, but it would probably be somebody’s curmudgeon grandmother. I’d leave it to Ryan to come up with something clever. After all, he’s the one who came up with the idea of my wanting to go backwards on plastic surgery.

In the late ’50s you played a lesbian opposite Barbra Streisand in the off-off-Broadway play Driftwood. If you played another lesbian role today, whom would you want cast as your love interest?
My daughter Melissa. Let’s really make it good.

Betty White’s too old for you?
And also not my type. She’s too Midwestern for me.

What do you make of the cadre of female comics who have come out as lesbians later in their careers?
Well, with comedians it doesn’t mean a damn thing, because there’s not the same romantic thing involved there. No single guy ever had Ellen DeGeneres’s or Rosie O’Donnell’s picture up on the wall and thought, Maybe one day I’ll meet her and she’ll marry me. No one cares what a comedian is. All you’re thinking about is if they’re going to make you laugh.

It’s not too late in life for you to come out, Joan.
I’ll probably do it right before my new show comes out. You should only come out when you need the publicity.

Have you ever experimented with another woman?
I always liked men. I wish I could say, “Gee, there was this counselor ... ” But it never happened for me. Will it ever happen? Who knows? If Lily Tomlin had shown up with a ring, who knows what might’ve happened? But it would’ve had to be a big ring.

Tags: Film

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