Melissa Rivers spent a lot of years interviewing celebrities on the red carpets of the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes and other award shows and events alongside her famous mother, Joan Rivers. Then shortly after the polite chit chat was over, the Rivers team would team up with a fashion expert or two and give their no-holds-barred opinions on who was hot and who absolutely was not. They began the act at E! for several years then were lured over to TV Guide Channel where their lucrative contract was not renewed in 2007.
Melissa, 42, has stepped out on her own to write a book about her experiences and other life lessons called ‘Red Carpet Ready: Secrets for Making the Most of Any Moment You’re in the Spotlight’ out this week. She’s doing several book signings including one on Thursday at the Columbus Circle Borders in New York City and will also be appearing on various talk shows.
Her mom, who has written several books herself, warned of the signings and promotional commitments: “Be ready to be tired.”
“She is throughout my book, different bits of advice she had given me,” Melissa said.
It’s a busy time for the single mom of a 9-year-old son. After a seven year absence, she is back at the E! Channel producing post-award show fashion specials that once again star her mother. She called to chat with Fancast before leaving for New York to talk about the book and other topics like her “Whore Pit Viper!” comment on ‘Celebrity Apprentice‘ last year.
Why did you decide to write a book now?
It was just the right time. I had a few years off the red carpet and got some perspective on my time there that wasn’t just all about fashion and shallow stuff. There are some things that I learned along the way. It isn’t just about standing on the red carpet, it’s really a time when everyone is looking at you good, bad or indifferent. We all have all these moments in life where everyone’s looking whether it’s a presentation at the office or running into an ex at an event. It’s also about being grateful and understanding that you are not getting to that moment by yourself.”
At so many of these book signings, the stores are so concerned with keeping the line moving that they don’t allow authors to personalize books or even pose for pictures.
If people are nice enough to wait, I’ll do anything they want including standing on my head – unless I’m wearing a skirt.
Does your book have lots of celebrity dish?
There’s some good dish in there about people who were particularly rude and people who were abundantly nice. I finally get a chance to say about certain people, ‘Do you realize what a jerk you were?’ It was always so shocking. It’s never the big ones. Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, big, big stars are never the ones who are rude and those are the ones you would expect to be. It’s the third or fourth down on the newest hit show, the whole thing is way too painful for them and they say they’re too shy. We’re all insecure, we’re all nervous, we’re all shy in certain situations. My favorite is when they say, ‘It took me an hour to get ready.’ Yeah, an hour that day after 20 hours of fittings and getting your hair colored the week before.
So Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks are class acts. Can you name a few names of celebrities who aren’t? I was promised dish!
One of the things that stuck with me through the years actually predates the red carpet. In a section about gratitude and handling things with a little sensitivity is Arsenio Hall. My dad [the late Edgar Rosenberg] was the first to put him on TV and when my dad passed away, he sent a buckslip with his photo on top and wrote ‘Sorry for your loss.’ It was maybe two sentences. Even at 17, I knew that was wrong. That’s about gratitude. We’ve never crossed paths but I talk about that on the book, how no one gets to where they are on their own. And when you fail, it’s about owning it and taking responsibility.
What are your experiences with failure?
TV Guide [Channel] not renewing our contract. We’ve all lost jobs. We all want to be Ellen Barkin and throw a drink in out ex’s face. And we’ve all been Jennifer Aniston where we have to hold our heads up. And she does it with the eyes of the world on her.
Why did you and your mother leave E! for TV Guide Channel in the first place?
At the time, it was such a difference scenario at E! than it is now. They went through a battery of hosts after us and before they got to Ryan Seacrest. They used Kathy Griffin and Star Jones at one point. The president of E! told us they probably weren’t going to continue red carpet programming. I remember leaving a Bel Air Hotel lunch with the higher ups and my mom and I getting into the car going, ‘Holy sh*t!’ And I was making less than minimum wage per hour, ridiculously little money, not the crazy money people are getting now. We were told there is no more money and we were told there was a good possibility they were thinking about cutting red carpet programming. TV Guide was saying, ‘We’ll give you money too.’
Then TV Guide replaced you and your mom after a few years with Joey Fatone and Lisa Rhinna. Was it hard not to do it anymore?
The first year is the hardest. I’d been doing it for over 10 years and my body would go into hyper award season mode. Starting Jan. 1, you are booked through March. It’s three months straight of production. That first year [off], I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t watch that first year.
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Now your mom is back doing ‘Fashion Police’ for E! and you are again a producer on those specials. How did it come about that the two of you returned?
Time passed. You go back and look at when the numbers were the best and what was a winning combination. I think they didn’t want to lose the team they had which I respect but they realize I was one of the creators of the show and for the five years we were at E!, I produced them and it worked. I grew up on E! and transitioned into doing different things. You go away and come back and you do have a skill set.
You started your career hosting a show on MTV and have been working in television for a long time. Do you mind still being so closely identified with your mom?
It’s always a tricky thing. Someone referred to me as talentless and that my mom tried to make me a star. Yet I still manage to keep working. You just gotta put it out of your head.
Speaking of your mom, she won NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice last year while you went out in quite a blaze of glory.
Of course you get completely wrapped up in it, you totally do.
You famously called some one a whore pit viper. What exactly is that?
I’m quite proud that I’ve added something to the destruction of the English language. I only wish I had been clearer. I meant, ‘Whore! Pit viper!’