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Food Network Host VH1 VJ Dies at 70


Bobby Rivers, actor, Food Network television host, revered film critic, radio personality and “black queer trailblazer” has died. He was 70 years old.

WISN 12 in Milwaukee, where Rivers earned the distinction of being the city’s first black film critic on television in 1979, reported his death Wednesday.

The ad praised the Marquette University graduate for contributing “segments to the nationally syndicated PM Magazine, which he said helped Milwaukee move beyond stereotypes.”

His sister, Betsy Rivers, later confirmed his death on Facebook.

“Bobby passed away last night and is no longer in pain,” she wrote Wednesday.

The cause of death has not been announced.

The Post has reached out to Rivers’ representatives for comment.

Bobby Rivers, actor, Food Network television host, film critic and radio personality, has died at the age of 70. Getty Images

Considered “Milwaukee’s pioneer of black and queer media” by Wisconsin LGBTQ media outlet Our Lives Wisconsin, Rivers worked as a VJ on VH1 in 1985 alongside Rosie O’Donnell. In 1988, he went on to host his own celebrity talk show on the cable music channel, “Watch Bobby Rivers.” He later hosted the late-night dating show “Bedroom Buddies.”

In the early 2000s, Rivers hosted the short-lived Food Network series “Top 5.”

But fame was not without its drawbacks, and Rivers was often the subject of racist and homophobic attacks.

“No one really knew, but I got a lot of hate mail,” Rivers said in a July 2023 interview with Our Lives Wisconsin. “Letters without a return address. Letters with swastikas on them. I didn’t get letters when I was on TV, but I did get voicemails. After all these years of working hard, taking care of my family, making the black and gay communities proud of me, and being romantically exhausted by this solo act, I also had to deal with homophobic comments. I had a great friend go with me, and while we were seeing Bruce Springsteen at Alpine Valley, someone yelled, “Bobby Rivers, what are you doing with a woman.” It was relentless.

During his illustrious career, working in the entertainment news division for “Weekend Today” and “Good Day New York,” he interviewed Hollywood personalities such as Whoopi Goldberg, Dolly Parton, Meryl Streep, RuPaul, Paul McCartney and Sally Field.

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 11: Actress Nancy Giles and television personality Bobby Rivers attend the 59th Annual Writers Guild of America, East Awards at Hudson Theater on February 11, 2007 in New York City.  (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
Actress Nancy Giles and television personality Bobby Rivers attend the 59th Annual Writers Guild of America, East Awards at the Hudson Theater on February 11, 2007 in New York. Getty Images

Rivers has also worked as an actor, playing a reporter in seasons 1 and 3 of “The Sopranos” and the role of Chris Perley in season 1 of CBS’s “The Equalizer” alongside Queen Latifah.

After his death, Goldberg, 68, wrote a tribute to his fellow television host.

“Hey all that trailblazer Bobby Rivers,” the “View” co-host wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of the smiling couple. “He brought SO much to the table. RIP Bobby.

Katie Couric, 66, also mourned Rivers on X (formerly known as Twitter), writing: “I’m so sad to hear this. Bobby was a great guy and wonderfully warm, funny and intelligent.

“And Just Like That” star Mario Cantone posted a black and white photo on X of the journalist. “Rest in peace Bobby. You were such a wonderful, intelligent, insightful and supportive man,” he wrote. “We will miss you.”

Turner Classic Movies also remembered Rivers’ contributions to the entertainment industry.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of pioneering television personality Bobby Rivers,” the network wrote on #TCCMParty community and his thoughtful essays on his blog.

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