Billy recalls his mentor, Joan Rivers

Rivers-CloseThis week, I celebrated a milestone. I have been writing this column for 19 years. Yes, I know I barely look a day over 90, but that’s not the point. The point is, if someone told me that I’d be writing this very column week in and week out for close to two decades, I’d have not believed it.

But then again, nothing in my life has gone as planned. In fact, one of my earliest aspirations has yet to be fulfilled. I’ve never told you this, but when I was 14 years old, I ran away from home. I boarded a plane and flew to Orlando to pursue a career at DisneyWorld as one of the Seven Dwarfs. I wasn’t picky as to which dwarf — at 14, it’s unlikely anyone would have given me a job. Had I not gone home, I probably would have ended up penniless, on the street, a prostitute, a junkie, or worse. And yet, none of those unsavory possibilities could have prepared me for my current vocation. Ah, the road less traveled…

Like many of her fans, I first saw Joan Rivers on The Tonight Show and immediately fell under her spell. I followed her every move religiously, sent her fan letters and even jokes. She always graciously responded and sometimes even called from the road. Later, we got much closer. She opened doors for me and inspired me more than almost anybody in my life. Over the years, I’ve known many celebrities, but only a small handful have a way of making their fans feel special. Joan was that kind of person. She used to say, “I always have time for my fans — they’re the ones who made me a star.”

This was a great year for Auntie Joan. She had another book on the New York Times bestseller list, returned to The Tonight Show after 30 years, had two hit television shows and at least two others in development. To top it off, during her last hours on Earth, she was onstage making people laugh. To me, Joan Rivers was like Mount Rushmore — something iconic and majestic that would withstand the test of time … and whose face would never move. She was an original, she lived by her own rules, and she was vital to the end. We should all be so lucky. We may have sorrow for her family and for ourselves. But Joan lives on forever in our hearts and souls.

There’s nothing to mourn here — only something more to celebrate.

During my long relationship with Rivers, many of our special moments took place on the red carpet. The Emmys, the Oscars, the Golden Globes … whatever the show, she was there and always made sure I had full access. In my early days going to the Emmys, I often saw a really cute guy with great hair. I remember thinking that he looked like he might become a star. In 2000, I took what I thought was a surreptitious snap of him. However, looking at the pic, it’s clear he saw what I was doing. Now, years later, I came across this photo and realized who the anonymous hunk was: Greg Rikaart from The Young and the Restless. Greg recently received the Visibility Award from the Human Rights Campaign.  Can I pick ’em or what?

Just as Bryan Singer‘s legal woes ended on one front, they’ve begun on another. It’s been a rocky few months since Michael Egan filed his sexual abuse suit against the filmmaker. Although Singer never wavered in assertions of his innocence, Egan’s story grew more and more nebulous with implausibilities rising. He was dropped by his lawyer around the time that Singer filed his own malicious prosecution lawsuit (Egan had to be served while hiding in the bathroom stall of a small Las Vegas casino). Egan’s case was ultimately dismissed when he couldn’t find another lawyer to represent him, and Singer was able to sigh in relief.

But that respite was short-lived. Singer is allegedly being investigated by the NYPD. According to a police spokesperson, a male in his 20s who was visiting NYC from Virginia allegedly met Bryan at XL nightclub, was plied with alcohol and taken back to the auteur’s hotel room where he was “forcibly sexually assaulted.” The case is being investigated by the Special Victims Unit.

Death doesn’t protect you from legal woes, either. In Los Angeles, a 36-year-old man is suing the estate of Michael Jackson for sexual abuse. The accuser, James Safechuck  — who appeared with Jackson in his famous Pepsi commercial — claims he was abused by Jackson over 100 times during a four-year period. Call me crazy, but after the first dozen or so times, wouldn’t you just stay away?  No, because the boy claims Jackson brainwashed him into thinking these were “acts of love.”

Oh, and did I mention that Safechuck was only 10 years old when the alleged abuse started? Reportedly, the sexual part of their relationship ended when Safechuck reached puberty, proving that even Michael Jackson had standards.

A contestant on VH1’s Dating Naked is suing the network for showing non-blurred footage of her crotch. Frankly, if you’re on a show called Dating Naked, you shouldn’t have a problem with nudity.

Reed Kelly and Josh Canfield will be appearing on the upcoming season of Survivor. You may remember Reed’s name;  he’s one of the most gorgeous performers on Broadway and has previously been linked with Clay Aiken. He also has the distinction of being one of the top (so to speak) fundraisers for Broadway Bares. Canfield is his current boyfriend and is also a performer (and ain’t so bad on the eyes). Much is being made of the fact that they are also both Christian, but I’m not sure why that’s relevant. Perhaps those of you who watch the show will be able to fill me in.

When I’m looking forward to Survivor: The Musical, it’s definitely time to end yet another column. By the time you read this, I’ll be off on another adventure in an undisclosed country — hopefully not one that looks askance at journalists (as if I consider myself one). No matter where I am, you can get the best dish at, the site that’s very internationale. If you have a question for me, send it along and I promise to get back to you before Bryan Singer turns up on a special episode of Law & Order: SVU.

Until next time, remember: One man’s filth is another man’s bible.

Have a question for Billy? Send it to him at

Cassie Nova will be back next week!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 12, 2014.