Picks and Pans Review: Enter Talking

updated 06/30/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/30/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Joan Rivers with Richard Meryman

Joan Rivers' feisty, fascinating and occasionally moving autobiography begins when she was chunky Joan Molinsky, a doctor's daughter whose parents lived in "pathological fear" of poverty. (The family motto, she says, was "a good epidemic means meat on the table.") Rivers' compulsive irreverence is mixed with insight into her painful adolescence: Her mismatched parents fought frequently, and Joan lived in the shadow of a pretty, accomplished older sister. Rivers recounts every setback to her dream of becoming an actress. She begged the slimiest agents to take her on as a client, refusing no work; billed as Pepper January, she once emceed in a Boston strip joint. Ultimately she became a comic, and for a while found herself in the bomb-dropping business: "I was giving birth to a baby, and somebody had my knees tied," she writes. Her parents, of course, wanted her to settle down, and a year out of college she married Jimmy Sanger, the son of a department store exec. The marriage fell apart in six months. Rivers is wonderfully frank about the jealousies, underhanded agents, depression, even a flirtation with suicide, that marked her scrappy climb to the top. Besides club spots, there were stints writing for the Phyllis Diller show and later Candid Camera. (She describes Candid Camera creator Allen Funt as a tyrannical man who once noticed somebody standing idle and fired him—only to find out it was a delivery boy.) Finally there was her pivotal first guest spot on The Tonight Show. Above all, the book is a must-read for anybody contemplating a show business career: Only the strong, masochistic and neurotic survive. (Delacorte, $17.95)

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