For Southampton resident Scott Currie, what began as a favor for a family friend turned into a gold mine.
“Imagine you’re at King Tut’s tomb. And you see the horses out front and then you go in, and it’s just, treasure after treasure—endless.”
Treasures indeed. Mr. Currie was talking about pure gold.
After Joan Rivers passed away on September 4, 2014, Mr. Currie and Melissa Rivers were excavating through the mountains of her mother’s personal effects.
“Melissa had written a great book on her mom—a New York Times bestseller. She thought the subject was closed. But as we were going through things, we found evidence of large collections,” he recalled.
They found scrapbook clippings, jokes scribbled on boarding passes and cocktail napkins, letters, press clips, to-do lists, transcripts.
“She saved everything. Every monologue, every letter from a famous friend, one-liners, photos of everything … It was really extraordinary to find,” Mr. Currie said by phone from his office in Manhattan, where he runs a public relations firm he founded, Anchor Communications.
Mr. Currie’s second home is in the Village of Southampton, a delicious saltbox and some outbuildings that he bought in 2000 and lovingly restored and renovated. The home was featured in Elle Décor.
“Another labor of love,” Mr. Currie said with a sigh. “You know it used to be a captain’s home? Captain Bennett’s house. He was a whaling captain who became chief of the U.S. Coast Guard in Southampton.”
The discoveries became a collection of personal archives of 50 years in show business —a life lived large, stuffed between the covers—“Joan Rivers Confidential: The Unseen Scrapbooks, Joke Cards, Personal Files, and Photos of a Very Funny Woman Who Kept Everything.”
“It’s all Scott fault,” Ms. Rivers said via email. “As we were going through all of the things in my mother’s apartment and he said ‘I think there’s a book here’ and he convinced me that beyond all of the junk, (’cause mom was almost in hoarder territory), there was also a really amazing social commentary on pop culture from the ’60s to present day.”
Once Mr. Currie realized “we had material here that was really special,” he created a book proposal. It was scooped up by Abrams Books and the result is a stunning coffee-table book.
“I crammed everything I could find into that book,” Mr. Currie said. “But I mean, how do you have 587 Liz Taylor jokes and pick just 8? We had to choose the best of the best. There was a lot to go through … Daily additions … At first we were going to organize it by topic but we ended up organizing it by decade.”
The book is a timeline of an iconic life, chronicled by mementos, notes, invitations, cards, reminders—the very stuff of life.
“Everything she accomplished in her life …” Mr. Currie said. “My goal with the book was to create a permanent record of sorts. She created this life in this time frame and was at the top of her game throughout five decades. She really was such a cultural icon.”
He talks about some of his favorite finds.
“All the way back in the Carson era, in the ’80s, she started to use Polaroids and took pictures of every outfit she wore. She never wanted to repeat herself. She dressed in themes—like black and white week,” he said. “Even back then, she always thought of fashion as fun.”
The layout of the book—a colorful scrapbook of every stage in her life—feels appropriately vintage, even as Joan Rivers reinvented herself time and again and came to redefine comedy and later, fashion.
“With the internet and Instagram, people don’t read as much anymore; the traditional bio is not as popular,” Mr. Currie said. “We wanted to create a book that was digestible for modern times.
“Usually, scrapbooks don’t have narratives,” he continued. “What makes this book work, I think, is that it tells a story. It’s a love story. A story of survival. It’s a book of hope. And you can pick it up and put down, come back to it, have friends over to look through it. Always finding a new gem.”
Mr. Currie met Joan Rivers on the set of “The Joan Rivers Show,” a talk show in the late-1980s/early-1990s that won her a Daytime Emmy.
Mr. Currie wore his white bucks that day.
“I had done a few special events but I always wanted to work in television and this was my first real job interview out of college,” he remembered. “So I dressed like I was going to a cocktail party, and well you know, she just loved that. She gravitated toward me.”
He calls his three years working on the live television show—which aired at 9 a.m., an admitted adjustment for Mr. Currie—“a wild ride.”
A friendship grew.
“We got very friendly as the show went on,” he said. “And she just never let go.
“Looking back now on 25 years of Thanksgivings and Jewish holidays. I didn’t even think about it. She was a wonderful role model and force in my life.”
His relationship with Melissa Rivers became close as well and remained that way after Joan’s death.
“You become close to your family,” Mr. Currie said. “She is like the sister I never had and always wanted.”
Mr. Currie’s favorite thing about Joan, besides her humor, was her friendship.
“She had an unbelievable and rare ability to be a friend. She understood what friendship meant.”
And while he is hard put to name his favorite parts of the book, he does admit to loving a fan letter from another pioneer.
“I love the Barbara Walters letter—I just think it’s one of the sweetest, most amazing cultural artifacts. It’s a fan letter from Barbara to Joan.”
At the time, 1968, they were two of only three or four women on TV.
“They were both at NBC and they both shared a dressing room, Mr. Currie said, “but had never met. Barbara’s letter thanks her and says that when one woman succeeds it helps the rest of us. They recognized each other. They were both breaking barriers.”
The two women were friends for 40 years.
Mr. Currie loves the Heidi Abromowitz (Joan Rivers’s alter-ego and subject of her mock memoir) notes and he mentioned a note Joan wrote to her father accompanying a biography—of Nazi Adolf Eichmann, which she found “fascinating.”
“Joan liked to give books and biographies in particular—she gave me a biography of Charles Manson,” he said. He cherishes it.
Mr. Currie may have been cut out for the job of assembling this collection because he, too, is a pack rat.
“Whenever we traveled, we always found where that one antique store or silver store was—whatever the town had that was special, we knew about it and went there and collected. We were always bringing something back,” he said. “And when you couldn’t find anything to buy, you took it from the hotel.”
He, too, has saved every backstage access pass, every invitation, every letter ever written to him and lots of his own notes on scrap paper.
“I think it’s all about history and memories,” he said. “When the memories fade you always have these things, and they remind you and bring those times back.”
How wonderful when you can share them.