Joan Rivers may have been a sharp-tongued comedian, but it was not just her quick wit that endeared her to so many — it was also the fact that she was an activist who was unafraid to share what she believed in.
Rivers was pronounced dead on Thursday at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. She had gone into cardiac arrest during surgery to her vocal cords a week earlier and had been in an induced coma ever since. While she will be remembered for many things that she accomplished during her life, perhaps one of her greatest accomplishments was the fact that she was one of Hollywood’s most vocal supporters of LGBT equality.
1. She believed in gay marriage
Joan Rivers believed in equality for all and previously criticized politicians for their cowardice on the issue. “It is outrageous. The politicians are all such ass-kissers. No one is saying the truth. They are saying what they think people want to hear,” she told the Huffington Post in 2012.
Not only did Rivers believe that gay marriage should be legal, she also had the opportunity to officiate at not one, but two gay weddings.
Rivers was an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church and most recently performed the honors for gay couple Jed Ryan and Joe Aiello during her Barnes & Noble book signing of Diary of a Mad Diva in New York.
2. She was proud to speak about gay culture on her TV shows
Rivers used The Joan Rivers Show to address topics of gay culture, and when the documentary Paris Is Burning came out in 1990, the comedian invited the cast of drag queens to her talk show to discuss gay culture.
She also joked that she was gay at a time when talking about homosexuality was unheard of, and she appeared in a short-run play, Driftwood, where she played a lesbian with a crush on a character played by a then-unknown Barbra Streisand. Recalling her time in Driftwood, Rivers joked that Streisand had been a great kisser.
3. She believed in helping others
Rivers was involved in several charities, including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Wounded Warriors, Guide Dogs for the Blind and the National Osteoporosis Foundation, as well as serving on the board of God’s Love We Deliver, a charity that provides meals for AIDS sufferers and others who are too ill to prepare their own meals.
4. She was proud to be a part of the LGBT community
The Celebrity Apprentice winner had spoken out about the LGBT community on numerous occasions and credited her gay fans for making her famous.
“My gay fans have been wonderful from day one,” she told The Advocate in a recent interview. “I remember when I was working at the Duplex in Greenwich Village in New York at the beginning of my career, and the only ones who would laugh at my jokes were the gay guys.
“Even today,” she added, “when I’m on tour I always know if I get eight gay men in the front row it’s going to be a great show. Maybe it’s just me and I know they’re going to laugh at what I’d laugh at, but when my gays are in the audience it’s always a good time.”
5. There is no shame in asking for help
Despite her take-no-prisoners style of humor, Rivers had written more than a dozen books on humor, self-help and her own life. In one such book, Bouncing Back, Rivers described how she developed bulimia nervosa and contemplated suicide. The fact that she publicly addressed her own issues allowed people to realize that there is no shame in asking for help.
And while Rivers hated being referred to as a pioneer, she truly was one and will be missed by many.