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Joan Rivers Threatens $50 Million Libel Suit, Demands Retraction

December 2, 1987

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Comedian Joan Rivers is threatening to file a $50 million libel suit against Gentlemen’s Quarterly and demanding that it retract a story claiming she wished her husband was dead before his August suicide.

The story was ″not just inaccurate but 100 percent false,″ she said at an emotional news conference Tuesday.

″I do not understand the lack of humanity on the part of Gentlemen’s Quarterly to publish an attack like this on my family or what is left of my family,″ she said, reading from a statement. ″Each day for my daughter and me is a struggle for me to get through. This vicious article has ripped open emotional wounds that had just barely started to heal.″

A spokeswoman for GQ in New York, who asked that her name not be used, said the magazine would release no statement before receiving court papers.

Miss Rivers said the magazine has admitted the name that appears over the story, Bert Hacker, is a pseudonym. She offered $5,000 to the first person who could give her agent the author’s true identity.

She said that on one night the author claims he had dinner with her in Los Angeles, she was actually in the emergency room of a hospital in Dublin, Ireland, with her late husband, who had become ill.

The story, in a column called ″Off the Cuff″ in the magazine’s December issue, claims Miss Rivers said her late husband, Edgar Rosenberg, had turned maniacal and was driving her insane before his August death of a drug overdose.

She was quoted as saying after his death that he had tried to control her from the grave by leaving detailed instructions on how to invest her money.

The writer, who said he knew Miss Rivers for more than 20 years, claimed to have visited with her before her husband’s death and afterward while she was sitting shiva, the Jewish week of mourning after a funeral.

During the first visit, Hacker quoted Miss Rivers as saying: ″I think things are just about finished with Edgar. Since (20th Century Fox chairman Barry) Diller ended my show, he’s been all over my case like a maniac. ‘Do this,’ or ‘Do that.’ ‘Call so-and-so.’ ‘Don’t spend so much money.’ ‘Watch who you’re seen with.’ He’s making me (expletive) insane.″

During his visit after Rosenberg’s death, Hacker said Miss Rivers told him: ″Can you believe that Edgar left instructions about what to do when some bonds mature in nine months and just what I should do with the money? Exactly where to reinvest it and what to do with it and what interest rate to get?″

Miss Rivers said both she and Rosenberg knew, because they were public figures, they would have to expect negative reports about themselves, but she added, ″lies like this have to be stopped.″

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