There is a truth universally acknowledged among the better Jewish families of the late-American period: when a well-to-do and well-accessorized female relative has unfortunately passed, one really ought to wait an appropriately tasteful length of time before calling dibs on any of the deceased’s more valuable possessions. It’s as my mother says, “Why don’t we at least put the rest of the shiva kugel away before you start fighting over who’s getting grandma’s diamond tennis bracelet?”
Well, it’s been nearly two long years since beloved comedienne Joan Rivers was taken from us during a routine vocal chord procedure at an Upper East Side clinic. (Somehow, I still feel Joan must be disappointed it wasn’t a funnier operation, like a colonoscopy or vaginal rejuvenation, something that would have turned her death into a neater, better joke). And now, at long last, Christie’s auction house is previewing the full collection of her possessions that they will sell at from June 16-23.
Joan being Joan, ever attuned to fashion, the items are all wearable. There are delicate Victorian-era enameled flower brooches studded with cultured pearls or clusters of round garnets; there are grande dame charity gala-sequined jackets and kimono style wraps, designed to bring attention to the neck and shoulders while the rest of the body is swathed inconspicuously in something nondescript and black (a good trick, but one you probably already know.)
There are several lots of various Chanel purses and Fabergé items, and look: for any of my obsessive superfans out there with cash to burn who are wondering how they could lure me into their own version of Room, a classic quilted Chanel 2.55 that belonged to her is probably the best way to accomplish this. I’ll even be pretty cooperative about it, provided we can set a few simple ground rules about bathroom facilities, central heating, and cable plans first.
The nicest thing about the Joan Rivers auction, however, is that there is no sense of the residual garage sale ghoulishness you can sometimes feel going through another person’s belongings, seeing if there’s anything you might deign to buy (or in the case of Christie’s auctions, anything that would deign to be bought by you.) But with Joan’s stuff, you know there’s nothing she’d rather have you do.
Joan was a groundbreaking comedian who broke the glass ceiling for women in comedy again and again, but she was also a born saleswoman, one who almost singlehandedly put QVC and other home shopping networks on the map. One of the first celebrities to lend her name to a signature line of products (a practice that is now so commonplace we forget there was ever a time when this wasn’t the case), she hawked jewelry, clothes, Melissa, herself. She did this all to willing buyers looking to own a little piece of her uptown savoir faire and yenta confidence, the kind that tells other people exactly what they should be doing with their lives (and their hair) without a modicum of doubt.
Nothing would make her happier than seeing you in one of her Vera Wang velvet jackets. After all, it would look a hell of a lot better than that schmatta you’re wearing.