Bobby Rivers, an actor, Food Network television host, revered film critic, radio personality, and “Black queer pioneer” has died. He was 70.

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

The announcement applauded the Marquette University graduate for contributing “segments for the nationally syndicated PM Magazine, which he said helped Milwaukee go beyond stereotypes.”

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

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

A cause of death has not been announced.

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


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

Heralded as “Milwaukee’s Black, queer media pioneer” by Wisconsin LGBTQ news 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 Food Network’s short-lived series “Top 5.”

But fame was not without its drawbacks, and Rivers often received racist and homophobic attacks.

“Nobody really knew this, but I did receive a lot of hate mail,” Rivers said in a July 2023 interview with Our Lives Wisconsin. “Letters with no 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, and taking care of my family, and making the Black and gay communities proud of me, and being worn down romantically by this solo act, I also had to deal with homophobic comments. I had a great friend who came out 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 notables 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 the Hudson Theatre 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 Theatre February 11, 2007 in New York City. Getty Images

Rivers also worked as an actor, playing a news reporter on Seasons 1 and 3 of “The Sopranos” and as Chris Perley in Season 1 of CBS’ “The Equalizer” opposite Queen Latifah.

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

“All hail this pioneer Bobby Rivers,” the “View” co-host wrote on Instagram next to a photo of the pair smiling. “He brought SO much to the table. R I P Bobby.” 

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

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

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

“We are saddened to hear about the passing of trailblazing television personality Bobby Rivers,” the network wrote on X. “An enthusiastic and knowledgeable film fan at heart, we will miss him sharing his love of the classics with the #TCMParty community and his thoughtful essays on his blog.”





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