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Joan Rivers Shows Soft Side at Heller Awards

Joan Rivers and William Shatner slapped on their roasting hats for the 12th annual Heller Awards, presented by the Talent Managers Association, to present awards to and appreciate the talent managers of Hollywood.

Rivers attended the event at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, along with a crowd of others in the industry, to speak about her manager, Larry Thompson, who was receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award for the night. Unsurprisingly, she did so with tongue firmly in cheek.

“When I first met Larry, I was an Emmy award winning actress on a talk show. I was headlining in Vegas. I was in four plays on Broadway,” she said. “And today, because of Larry’s guns and tutelage, I’m now on fucking basic cable. I try to sell the Midwest bracelets on QVC. That is the magic of Larry Thompson.”

However, she did take some time to get sentimental, even getting a little choked up at end of her speech.

“The only negative thing I can say is that I wish I had met him 20 years ago,” she said, as the two had only been working together for six years. “I keep thinking, ‘If I had known him 20 years ago, I wouldn’t be in a rented jacket.’”

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Shatner also took the stage to speak on behalf of Thompson, who is his manager as well, and talked about their first meeting.

“The first thing I said to Larry Thompson when I was introduced to him was, ‘15% percent? Are you crazy?’” Shatner joked. “15% to the manager, 10% to the agent, 5% to the business guys, 50% to the government, and think about the ex-wives! If I work, I’m going to owe money.”

Thompson got his chance to counter their comments when he accepted the award after their speeches.

“I was so touched when they said yes, they would be a part of the evening,” Thompson said of Rivers and Shatner. “But now that I’ve actually heard their comments, I think they’re just eager to seize the opportunity to get even with me for hiring them to do the Comedy Central Roasts.”

Holly Robinson Peete of TV series “21 Jump Street” and “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper” was able to poke fun at an honoree she knew quite well. Her manager mother, Dolores Robinson, received the Pat McQueeny Award. Robinson Peete told the audience of a trip from Philadelphia to Hollywood when she was a child, driving cross country and running into some difficulties.

“She made me leave my hamster in the Mojave Desert, where I was told she would be better off and lead a better life,” she said. “How much stress can a nine year old take? I’m still in therapy over that hamster.”

Of course, she also praised her mother’s skills and thanked her for her help in Hollywood.

“You are the original momager,” she added. “Forget Kris Jenner.”

Some time was set aside for honoring the person for which the Heller awards were named, Seymour Heller. Heller died in 2001, but in his life represented big stars including Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Glen Gray and, perhaps most famously, Liberace. Though unable to be there in person, Regis Philbin appeared on video to reminisce about when Liberace came on his talk show, and the encouraging response from Heller.

“We had a terrific time, lots of laughs and after the show, Seymour Heller, his manager, asked if we could have breakfast the next day,” Philbin recounted. “He told me he had never seen Liberace come across so well in a TV interview. He predicted great things for me.”

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