Joan Rivers remembered by historic Austin theater

AUSTIN (KXAN) — People in Central Texas and all over the country are remembering comedian Joan Rivers. She died Thursday afternoon at a hospital in New York City with her family by her side after complications from throat surgery.

Austin’s Paramount Theater, where Rivers performed just four months ago, took special time to remember her, and even changed their marquis. It reads, “Comedy Legend and Our Friend: Joan Rivers 1933-2014.”

The Paramount Theater on Congress Avenue is no stranger to big acts and names. And every now and then, a true legend comes through.

“You don’t frequently have the chance to have an icon,” said theater CEO and executive director Jim Ritts. Rivers performed at the Paramount in 2011 and most recently this past May. Ritts couldn’t have been more impressed. “You just have enormous respect for her public persona, for how hard she worked. She delivered to the audience. She gave them Joan Rivers.”

He says that big, often off-color personality sweetened off stage.

“To get to meet her in person, you wanted to pick her up and put her in your pocket,” Ritts added. “She was so diminutive. She was so pretty and she was so gracious.”

Rivers broke barriers.

“She came into the boys’ club and busted the boys club up pretty well,” said Ritts, “and was extraordinarily successful.”

Ritts says she will not be forgotten.

“We are all better in this theater for having her in here two times, and [Rivers] had this house laughing in ways I hadn’t heard laughter in a long, long time,” Ritts said.

Even backstage, behind the scenes, a note signed ‘Joan Rivers’ will forever mark the historic walls of the Paramount Theater–a wall where hundreds of other big names and acts have also signed.

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