Block Telesales Calls NOW
Receive no more
The Tonight Show
"Great names - if you're good-looking. If your sister, Rainbow, had been a pig...."
For Brooklyn-born actress and comedienne, Joan Rivers, the first association with the hugely popular and ground-breaking American chat-show The Tonight Show came in 1965 when she appeared as one of the guests of host Johnny Carson. As well as proving to be a major boost for her early career this appearance also eventually led to her becoming a regular stand in for Carson and she single-handedly hosted the Monday night edition of The Tonight Show herself from 1983 through until 1986.
It was towards the end of this run, in late 1986 that a young actor appeared on the show as part of his contractual commitments to publicize his latest movie, The Mosquito Coast. Accompanied by his agent Iris Burton, River, now growing at a tremendous rate is barely recognizable from his screen character, Charlie Fox. Indeed, without a script to recite, or in River's case in particular, a strong character to hide behind, River displays all the same mannerisms that any other young teenager might do as he fidgets relentlessly in his chair in a futile attempt to become more comfortable. With liberal use of "errm"'s and "yeah"'s River talks about his early life in South America as well as the time the family spent on the USA's west coast, perpetually broke, just a year or two previously.
To begin with though, the host predictably quizzes her young guest relentlessly about his name. River barely contains his frustration as once again he is almost made to justify his name to the world, but on this occasion, he suddenly realizes he can turn the argument around and quickly points out the name of the very person interviewing him. "Joan RIVERs," he spontaneously says, pleased that on this occasion at least he's been able to win this long-standing debate.
Although River is quite obviously not enjoying being on a live TV show one little bit, the host is still able to make him laugh, and as the interview progresses, the nervousness clearly evident in River's voice slowly dissolves away. Joan Rivers is interested to learn just what sort of personal life a young movie star leads, and whether or not River himself has a girlfriend of his own. Indeed he does, and at this point in his life, River's girlfriend is in fact his Mosquito Coast co-star, Martha Plimpton. Aware that the production staff have a clip from the movie featuring the two of them together all cued up and ready to play, River makes a gesture towards one of the studio's behind-the-scenes visual screens. Much to River's embarrassment though, Joan Rivers mistakes this for a gesture towards the large studio audience that is watching, and a shy-teenager not wishing to talk about his personal life in front of so many people. She soon figures it out though - "Look how show-biz you are! - 'Where's the clip?' "
River also talks about his desire to continue working in the movie industry as well as his other aspirations. The Phoenix family are living in San Diego at this point and haven't yet moved to Florida, so in these pre-Aleka's Attic days, River can only briefly mention an as yet unfulfilled desire to professionally pursue his musical ambitions.
Despite an age difference of nearly 40 years, both of the "rivers" featured in this old archive edition of the long-running Tonight Show shared much in common. Both were acutely hard working, both were regularly featured in the magazines of the day, and both were soon to face tragedy in one form or another. The following year, after a serious heart-attack, Joan Rivers' husband, producer Edgar Rosenburg would take his own life. They had been married for twenty-two years.
For River though, at least for now, the enthusiasm, the sparkle, the light itself, still clearly burns so very brightly in his eyes.