In 1990, when he was in the middle of a very public divorce from Ivana Trump and having an affair with the much younger Marla Maples, a certain gangster from Queens appeared on The Joan Rivers Show in an hour-long episode. He told Rivers that he was done with marriage, yet like everything else with his life, however, the truth was more elusive than he made it sound: Three years later, he and Maples had a daughter that they named Tiffany, and they got married. In 1997 they separated, and the next year Trump met Melania Knauss, a second-rate model from Slovenia who would become wife number three.
Rivers relished ribbing Trump about his legendary womanizing during this interview, a quarter of a century before the leaked Access Hollywood recording where he told Billy Bush that he could ”… grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
In his 1990 interview, Rivers jokingly says to Trump: ”If you had slept with every woman the media claimed you slept with…”
He interrupted: ”I’d be dead. One way or the other, from whatever or from whatever”.
Rivers: ”You have a big smile on your face.”
Trump: ”Happy but dead.”
Rivers: ”But you did fool around, seriously.”
They dished about his political aspirations, with Trump telling Rivers:
I don’t think I’ll be running for public office.
During the show, Mary Trump called in and Rivers asked her what kind of child little Donnie was. Mary Trump:
Always very aggressive. Always.
The Joan Rivers Show ran for four seasons and ended in 1993. The show was nominated for several Emmy Awards, with Rivers winning Outstanding Talk Show Host in 1990. Rivers had previously hosted a late-night talk show entitled The Late Show With Joan Rivers, an attempt at competing against NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where Rivers had been Carson’s permanent guest host since 1983.
In 1986, top executives at NBC, thought it was possible that Johnny Carson would retire after reaching his 25th anniversary on October 1, 1987. A confidential memo listing about 10 possible successors in the event of Carson’s retirement the next year was leaked. Rivers was shocked to see that she was not on the list.
Rivers said that NBC offered her only a one-year contract in 1985 as permanent guest host while Carson’s contract had been renewed for two years, which signaled to her that her future was uncertain because her previous contracts had run the same length as Carson’s. Rivers noted numerous snubs from NBC over the years, such as not being invited to the annual Carson party, and taking the fall for a controversial joke that was approved during rehearsals. Rivers received higher-paying offers from other networks in prior years but declined them out of her loyalty to Carson, but in 1986, NBC was unwilling to give her assurances about the future.
A new network called Fox was looking for a host for a late-night talk show for the network’s launch in October 1986 and offered Rivers the job at a salary higher than what NBC was paying. She accepted, and Carson felt blindsided by the news when he saw the press conference on television. When Rivers called him at home, he refused to take the call.
Carson was furious. He stated that he felt betrayed by Rivers, not because she dared to compete with him, but because she had not been honest with him about her intentions and did not ask him for advice and/or his blessing. Rivers was adamant that her problem was with NBC and not with Carson, who was like a father figure to her. She stated that she didn’t want to tell Carson before the announcement was made because she was afraid Fox would cancel the deal if word leaked out. She had been ordered by Carson’s producers and lawyers not to go to him with her problems, as they kept Carson completely insulated since he was a major source of NBC profits, and that is why Carson had been completely unaware of Rivers’ problems with NBC.
Rivers did not appear on The Tonight Show again during the remainder of Carson’s tenure or during the Jay Leno years or Conan O’Brien’s until 2014, when she appeared briefly on Jimmy Fallon‘s first show.
Rivers spoke highly of Carson the night he died in 2005, but revealed that he never spoke to her again.