Comedy icon Joan Rivers mourned by celebrity friends, family

AP file photo‘Feathers and Filth: A Tribute to Joan Rivers’: Scott Capurro

AP file photo‘Feathers and Filth: A Tribute to Joan Rivers’: Scott Capurro

Joan Rivers' death Thursday came as little surprise, but the shock was real for family, friends and admirers of the 81-year-old comedy legend.

Exactly one week after Rivers was rushed to a New York hospital, she died surrounded by family and close friends, her daughter, Melissa, said in a statement. She suffered cardiac arrest in a doctor's office following a routine procedure. The New York state health department is investigating why Rivers' heart stopped beating after the outpatient throat surgery, The Associated Press said.

“My mother's greatest joy in life was to make people laugh,” Melissa Rivers said. “Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”

The tributes flowed freely for the comedian, who was still testing out new material at a stand-up show last week, from sources as varied as Kathy Griffin, William Shatner, Lena Dunham, Samuel L. Jackson, Barbara Walters, Danica Patrick and even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister noted Rivers' humor and pride in her Jewish heritage.

“I never saw someone attack a stage with so much energy. She was a controlled lightning bolt,” comedian Louis C.K. said in a statement. “I looked up to her. I learned from her. I loved her. I liked her. And I already miss her very much.”

“Our dear Joan is gone,” said Don Rickles, who worked some of the same stages as Rivers in the wild 1960s New York comedy scene. “Knowing her, working with her and enjoying the fun times of life with her was special. She will always be in our hearts. … Joan we will miss you.”

Rivers was notorious for savage jabs as a red carpet fashion commentator and other outrageous jokes.

Rivers could find humor “in most everything,” she told The San Francisco Examiner in 2011. “If I was at Auschwitz, I would turn to somebody and say, 'Do you smell gas or is it just me?'”

Still, she left an impression.

“Her heart was as big as her mouth was tart,” the AIDS Healthcare Foundation said of the longtime LGBT ally's fundraising works. Rivers became an outspoken advocate for AIDS issues after the disease claimed her hairdresser and friend in 1989. Rivers, who lost her husband Edgar Rosenberg to suicide in 1987, never lost her perspective.

“I have never wanted to be a day less than I am,” she said in a 2013 interview with The AP. “People say, 'I wish I were 30 again.' Nahhh! I'm very happy HERE. It's great. It gets better and better. And then, of course, we die,” she joked.

QUICK TAKES

Scarlett Johansson has given birth to a daughter named Rose. … Actress Rosie Perez and conservative commentator Nicolle Wallace are joining “The View.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Former Giants outfielder Candy Maldonado is 54. … Actor Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) is 63. … Singer Loudon Wainwright III is 68. …. College Football Hall of Famer Jerry LeVias is 68. … Singer Al Stewart is 69. … Director Werner Herzog (“Grizzly Man”) is 72. … Actress Raquel Welch (“Myra Breckinridge”) is 74. … Actor George Lazenby (“On Her Majesty's Secret Service”) is 75. … “Cathy” cartoonist Cathy Guisewite is 64. … Comedian Bob Newhart (“Newhart”) is 85.

Got scoops or Bay Area celebrity gossip? Email scoop@sfexaminer.com.

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