One of Joan's favorite questions, after delivering a possibly inappropriate joke, was "Too soon?" Those last two words, in my opinion, describe her passing today. Too soon. I had the pleasure to first meet Joan in early 1968, just before she gave birth to daughter Melissa. She was headlining at The Riviera in Las Vegas and was a guest on one of the talk shows at our station, then with the call letters KSHO-TV (Channel 13). It was a cold early January day (Yes, it sometimes gets VERY cold in Las Vegas in January), and Joan entered the studio bundled in a heavy coat, accompanied by her husband, Edgar. The talk show on which she appeared was THE JOE DELANEY SHOW, hosted by my friend and Channel 13/Las Vegas SUN colleague,of the same name.
Joe had been manager of The Dukes of Dixieland, and an A&R (advance PR) man for RCA records. He was a New Orleans native, justifiably admired by every star who ever appeared on The Strip and downtown. Joan was one of those who admired ("loved") Joe, thus the appearance, even just three weeks prior to giving birth to Melissa. About fifteen minutes before her appearance, she, Edgar and I chatted during that time. Her demeanor was uproariously frenetic, the signature part of her personality, but far from rude. I was lucky enough to have conversations with Joan prior to and after her several appearances on Joe's show during the following two years, until I left Las Vegas for KSTP-TV in November, 1970. Joan was truly warm and the antithesis of her nightclub act, but that "act" was reflective of Joan's strength to just "go for it", regardless of traditional propriety, and Brava to her for so doing.
The next time we were actually scheduled to be together was in Washington, D.C. She was doing her act in suburban Maryland and was slotted to appear on my WJLA-TV evening weathercast, in studio, one night prior to her opening night, but a major thunderstorm flooded streets that evening and she was unable to make the weathercast. A few days afterward, I received a fun 8 X 10 photo from, and picturing, Joan, on which she wrote: "Dear Barry: I promise to be on your weathercast sometime in the future, if it doesn't rain!" She signed it and it's hanging on one of my basement walls.
We kept in touch occasionally thereafter, but had a wonderful in-person reunion for a few minutes of reminiscing in her dressing room at Mystic Lake when she appeared there last year. I reminded her of our "Joe Delaney days" in Las Vegas. She said, "Oh, I LOVED Joe. Those were the best days ever. And those of us who were starring on The Strip actually had coffee together often, after our respective shows, in some quiet little coffee shop. It's so sad those days are gone". Eye-and-earwitnesses to the conversation were one of my granddaughters (Maritsa, now in her late 20s) and her husband. My granddaughter idolized Joan and was devastated regarding today's sad news.
There's speculation among some friends with whom I spoke this afternoon that had she survived the horrific consequences of the throat procedure, she would not have been happy to be limited in performance energy. Joan even indicated that to Tavis Smiley on a recent television interview with him. She said she wanted to "die on stage, but only if the show was more than half over so Melissa would be able to receive the performance check". Joan also said on that program if the family knew she'd live life as a "vegetable" following some unforeseen life-threatening occurrence, she'd want them to "pull the plug", right away. That sadly became a self-fulfilled prophecy.
Her often irreverent, but always irrepressible stream-of-consciousness, free association, quick-on-the-trigger mind was a characteristic of her natural genius. She was also, when not doing her act or on television as a guest or hostess, as warm, caring, philanthropic and deeply analytical about life and living as anyone could ever be. It was an honor and privilege to have occasionally experienced personal times with that truly wonderful lady. She was the best and broke the glass ceiling for comediennes. Her passing is tough to swallow.
Thanks for taking the time to read these thoughts and memories and allowing me to share.