Joan Rivers’ second husband Edgar Rosenberg was found dead in a hotel room in Philadelphia in 1987.
Her first marriage lasted only six months and was annulled on the basis that husband James Sanger didn’t want children but had not informed Rivers of that before the wedding.
Rosenberg and Rivers were married in 1965, a decade after the divorce. He was a German-born American film producer who worked on multiple projects with his wife. They met in New York City, after she had scored on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
“Edgar’s sophistication—the education at England’s Rugby School and Cambridge, the superb English tailoring, the omnivorous addiction to books, the impressive breadth of knowledge, the flair for elegance, the obsessive commitment to show business—hit Joan between the eyes,” People magazine reported.
“Moreover, he had mastered the machinery of the show business world that was her consuming ambition. He was the No. 1 assistant and virtual son to the legendary public relations consultant Anna Rosenberg (no relation). He had worked as an assistant producer for NBC, and had produced five feature films, including The Poppy Is Also a Flower. For 31-year-old Joan, incurably wounded, permanently insecure from years of rejection and failure in her struggle to become a comic—’a battered child,’ as she puts it—here was Mr. Right.”
“It was a good match,” Joan says. “We filled each other’s gaps like two pieces of a puzzle. I gave him warmth. He gave me style.”
Rosenberg was found dead at age 63 in a guest room of the Four Seasons Hotel on August 15, 1987.
Police told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Rosenberg appeared to overdose on Valium.
He was best known by his first name–as the butt of his wife’s jokes on television.
Rosenberg left a suicide note and three tapes on which he recorded messages–one for his wife, one for their daughter Melissa, and one for his business manager.
Rivers’ spokesman said that Rosenberg had “suffered a major heart attack in October 1984 and underwent quadruple bypass surgery, has been in poor health recently and greatly depressed.”
Rivers’ told People magazine that she was trying to deal with the death by throwing herself into her work.
“I can say exactly what I think onstage,” she said. “And on a good night when 500 people have said, ‘Yeah, we think the same way’—I come off feeling wonderful.”
She remembered Rosenberg’s impact on her.
“I was losing everything – my best friend, the only stability in my life, the only person I totally trusted, my rock. Suddenly I realized that I drew all my strength from Edgar.”