As mentioned in my previous post, comedienne and television celebrity Joan Rivers spoke with me about her frustration regarding airline security handling of Times Square terror suspect Faisal Shahzad, an individual who was on the no-fly list, got past airline security at the gates and made it on to a jetliner bound for Dubai. Fortunately, the pilot was notified of Shahzad’s no-fly status before takeoff, and Shahzad was arrested and taken into custody.
This case is particularly irksome to the comedienne, because she was barred from boarding a flight from Costa Rica to New York back in January:
JOAN RIVERS: I have been flying the last six weeks all over for my show, “How’d You Get So Rich?” because we had to get them all in by today, so I have been to Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco, L.A., Chicago, Texas, on, and on, and on. This is insanity. I am stopped every time. I am frisked every time. My ID is questioned constantly, because I have a passport that says “AKA.”
(Ms. Rivers is referring to her passport that reads: “Joan Rosenberg AKA Joan Rivers.” “Rosenberg” was her late husband’s last name.)
RIVERS: I find it ludicrous and pathetic that somebody can come in at the last minute, buy a ticket with cash, and slip through all of this, and they worry about me — that God forbid I might have a bagel taped to my waist. I find this outrageous. I mean … they wouldn’t let me on a plane in Costa Rica. I had a ticket. I had paid in advance. I had gotten there three hours ahead. I had luggage they had gone through, and I gave them names at Continental Airlines to call to verify. I asked them to call the United States Consulate, and they wouldn’t let me on a f*****g plane. Somewhere, there’s a big disconnect. A 76-year-old Jewish woman alone…’oh no…not gonna let her on.’
Ms. Rivers expressed concern about the quality of employees who check individuals at the airline gates. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents are the government employees who ask passengers to remove their shoes, cans of liquids and laptop computers. Horror stories about TSA agents have ranged from asking a passenger to drink her breast milk meant for her baby to a TSA agent planting drugs on a passenger and later saying it was a joke to a TSA employee stealing passengers’ belongings and selling the items on EBay.
RIVERS: And again … I don’t mean this in a bad way. Who are they hiring? Our lives … you get up on a plane, and that’s it. Your life is no longer in your control, and you are letting people at minimum wage who are angry and on power trips have these decisions … or who are bored. I think the system sucks, and I don’t want to hear anymore. If you are on a no-fly list, and we can’t get into the computer on time, then you know what, you check your manual records, which is how they finally got this guy.
PICKET: Do you think legislation should come from Capitol Hill about this?
RIVERS: Absolutely. Everybody should take a good look at Israeli Airlines … at El Al. They’re doing something right, and I think we should do whatever they’re doing. Everybody shut-up and listen to them.
While Ms. Rivers likes the idea of new legislation, she jokingly takes exception to including comedians.
RIVERS: And of course there should be new legislation for everybody… but comedians. What am I gonna fly with … a rubber chicken?
Seriously, I have been on a plane where they have took away my tweezers … my tweezers … like I’m gonna pluck you to death. I mean it’s so stupid, and then a man walked in with a big giant walking stick, which he said, was a religious symbol and they let him on. I went that time to the pilot and said, ‘You can take that religious stick and you can smack everybody in the head with it. I’m not flying with a man who has a religious stick. This happened about a year and a half ago, and I think it was on American [Airlines] coming back from L.A. Literally, they had taken my tweezers away on the same flight. I said, [of the walking stick] ‘You can swing that thing and knock nine people out.’ And they said, ‘It’s a religious symbol.’ And I said, ‘Well you know something, I pray to my tweezer.’ I never heard anything stupider in my life.
PICKET: Where were you on 9/11?
RIVERS: I was on the “Regis and Kelly” show, and so we saw it immediately, because they put it up on the screen as they were doing the show. They put it in the corner of the screen and it was very scary, because at first, they thought it was a local plane. Then when the second tower was hit, Kelly called. She said, “That’s enough. We’re outta here,” and she stopped it.
I saw them [New Yorkers] walking out of the subway covered in ash. I was there for the whole thing in New York, and then I went down there with my veterinarian, and we bandaged the [service] dogs’ feet, because they were walking through the hot cinders looking for bodies. It terrifies you, because it could happen again in a heartbeat.
Ms. Rivers was candid about her thoughts on what should be done at the airlines given her experiences. She continues to support reforming security measures at the airports:
RIVERS: You know something. Why don’t we figure out who is after us, and why don’t we look for those people? I feel like Thomas Paine. These are dangerous times.
You don’t let everybody else go. You continue with everybody else, but also take a little extra precaution. What’s so terrible? And you know what? If you’re innocent, who gives a s***, frankly? When they stop me, I say, ‘Do anything, do anything you want,’ because I don’t want to get on a plane and have an occurrence.
Another issue Joan Rivers is known to talk about is money. Her show How’d You Get So Rich?, which is starting its second season on TV Land tonight at 10 PM, has the comedienne and fashion critic travel all over the country visiting self-made millionaires and billionaires who started their businesses from scratch.
PICKET: In these times, very often, we find that people vilify those with money … especially those who have made money from the ground up. There’s also the class envy issue. How does your show tend to deal with that?
RIVERS: I adore my show, because it’s about the American dream. My grandmother came here with 13 kids and no husband, and they all went to college, and they all made for themselves.
It’s the American dream. One person on that show had money to start with … Donald Trump, and then we talk about his father. It’s about, if you got the gumption and the drive, you can do it, and you can become not just a millionaire, you can become a billionaire. I think the show sends out such a positive message, which is build a better mouse trap … and it really works.
PICKET: Do you find very often that not so much those who inherit wealth but those that you cover tend to be vilified more? There’s a Thomas Sowell piece that talks about how society vilifies the wealthy who started from nothing more often than those who inherit their money, because those who have not made it yet feel almost insulted that they have not made those same strides.
RIVERS: I think the reason they are vilified is because they are much more up front with their money. When you’re first-generation money, you want to say, “I got a Mercedes and a Rolls and a Lamborghini. Take a look.” When you’re second-generation money, you’re very quiet behind your country club doors. I think that’s why people are much more aware. It’s the first-generation wives that have the huge rings and the second-generation says, “Everyone be quiet as we get on our yacht or our private plane.”
PICKET: In terms of government today, we’re seeing this share the wealth philosophy … this redistribution of wealth …
RIVERS: Yeah … really thrilled about that. Go f*** yourself. Could I be any clearer? I worked all my life…all my life, and no one has given me a penny. I have paid every tax. The whole thing, and I pay my way. I don’t want to give my money to a third-generation welfare family … sorry. Go out and go to work. I think the WPA (Works Progress Administration)is the best thing we ever did in this country, because you were given money for your work.
PICKET: So what are your thoughts on the Obama administration’s economic policy … the stimulus … and what not?
RIVERS: Well I can’t wait until he decides to tax me some more on my deathbed. I’m really thrilled about that. That’s called double taxation. I’m very angry about that. It’s starting this December. In New York, it’s beginning already. I just think, “Stop.” Help the people. Educate the people. Look what they’re doing in China. They are educating their children. They have smaller families, and they are educating them, and that’s what we should be doing.
PICKET: Their foreign policy … Do you feel the Obama administration is being too hard on Israel and too soft on the Middle East?
RIVERS: I think its [ridiculous]. I just don’t know what the plan is. I don’t get it. Israel is the only sane … We all know why we’re nice to Israel, because we know where Israel is situated, and I don’t know what this is supposed to be. I don’t get it. Tell Mr. Obama to stop doing so many jokes and get to work, and I voted for him.
I spoke further with Ms. Rivers about President Obama and the health care legislation recently passed in March.
RIVERS: Obama came in and said he was going turn everything around, and you can’t. Give the guy a break. But I question a lot of what’s happening. It’s certainly going to reflect in my vote, but who else is there? It’s a horrible time, because people vote party lines instead of what’s good for the country. I think the whole health care issue turned so ugly, because of party lines, and that’s not what that’s supposed to be about.
PICKET: How did you feel about the health care affair? Did you think the legislation needed to be passed?
RIVERS: I think we obviously need health care. Of course we need health care, but I think that it’s gone too far the other way, and I don’t understand it. It’s gotten so complicated. The minute they made a deal with the drug companies, you know something isn’t kosher here.
PICKET: Actually, Ivanka Trump was recently on Fox News, and she said she wasn’t particularly pleased with the health care debate.
RIVERS: Well, she’s very smart, Ivanka. Change her name from Trump to something else, and I think she’s going to be a real person to listen to.
Watch for Joan Rivers Wednesdays at 10 PM on TV Land’s “How’d you Get so Rich?”