As she prepares to step into her mother’s “Fashion Police” shoes, Melissa Rivers reveals how Joan still speaks to her.
Melissa Rivers really, really misses her mother. Even now, when Joan Rivers’ daughter gets off a plane, her first instinct is to call her mom.
“It’s not even a year yet,” Melissa tells The Post of the comedy legend’s Sept. 4, 2014, death, at 81. “I went through this 20-odd years ago with my dad. I know it gets better. But do you ever stop missing them? No.”
At least when her father, Edgar Rosenberg, died — a suicide, on Aug. 14, 1987 — Melissa had her mom to lean on. Mother and daughter even made a television movie about it, 1994’s “Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story.”
This time, the divorced 47-year-old has only herself, her 14-year-old son, Cooper, and her “legacy”: “Fashion Police.” Five years after its Sept. 10, 2010, debut — with Joan, the original scourge of the red carpet, at its helm — the E! TV show returns Monday, with Melissa, Giuliana Rancic and Brad Goreski on the panel.
Judging by the fiery comings and goings of former “Fashion Police” co-hosts Kathy Griffin and Kelly Osbourne, it’s been a rocky ride since Joan’s departure. And Melissa knows full well what’s been lost.
“Kelly and I are still close friends,” she says. Osbourne stormed off for good in February after Rancic cracked on-air that dreadlocked actress Zendaya Coleman — a friend of Osbourne’s — must smell like “patchouli oil” and “weed.”
(“I will never admit to liking Giuliana, because I don’t,” Kelly told entertainment Web site TheWrap recently. “I don’t think she’s a good person, and I think she’s a liar.”)
Melissa won’t even discuss Griffin, the presumed wit apparent who quit in March after seven episodes.
“I can’t talk about the Kathy thing,” she says, flatly. “Nobody can possibly replace my mother . . . In hindsight, we came back too fast. Emotionally, none of us were ready. Mom died in September and we were back on the air in January.”
She says it wasn’t until July Fourth that she finally felt the full brunt of her loss; till then, she was just too busy. There’s been the show and a memoir, “The Book of Joan,” which came out this spring, brimming with classic Rivers put-downs like: “Melissa, why bore people if you don’t have to? Leave that to Katie Couric.”
And then there’s the lawsuit Melissa filed against Yorkville Endoscopy, the Upper East Side clinic where a routine throat procedure left her mother comatose. (Melissa told talk-show host Wendy Williams in January, “I need answers, I’m angry.”)
“It’s a long, slow process,” she says now of the suit. “I hope that what happened with my mother doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Nor was it easy selling Joan’s Upper East Side apartment, whose Versailles-ish décor and gilded balcony, Joan joked, were “what Marie Antoinette would have done if she had money.” (The Saudi prince who purchased the apartment for $28 million now plans to gut it.)
It was Melissa’s home, too, for more than 20 years, and this past year she and “the usual suspects” had their first Thanksgiving there without their much-loved hostess.
Now living in Los Angeles, Melissa keeps her mom close by wearing her gold Cartier watch, the same one Joan wore when Melissa was young. Later on, “she mostly wore the watch she sold on QVC,” Melissa says, but Joan’s shoes, clothes and handbags were impeccable.
Alas, only the handbags fit Melissa. “The great tragedy of my life was when my feet got bigger than hers,” she sighs.
At least she has her memories — and that not-so-little voice that, clear as day, still tells her what to do.
“It freakin’ wakes me up in the middle of the night!” Melissa says.
What does her mother tell her?
“ ‘For God’s sake, Melissa, put on some lipstick. It wouldn’t kill you to wear a pair of heels. So your feet hurt. Big deal! Your legs look better!’ ”
Words of wisdom, still, from the formidable “Fashion Police” chief.