In Memoriam – Phyllis Diller, 1917 – 2012

Comedy icon Phyllis Diller – who paved the road for generations of female entertainers with tacky dresses and a loud cackle – died early Monday morning at her home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles.  She was 95.  Her son, Perry, “found her with a smile on her face,” said Diller’s manager, Milt Suchin.  That’s more than appropriate, since Diller lived a life of self-deprecation.

She got started late.  In March of 1955, at age 37, Diller took the stage at San Francisco’s Purple Onion Club for her first stand-up performance.  It seemed an unlikely venture for a Phyllis Ada Driver who was born on July 17, 1917 in Lima, Ohio.  She trained as a classical pianist, but never pursued a music career.  She was working as a copywriter for the San Leandro News-Leader, when she arrived at the Purple Onion.

Diller began a long, distinguished career with Bob Hope after the two met at a Washington, D.C. nightclub in 1959.  She became a prominent fixture in his United Service Organization (USO) show tours.

Diller was the last in an era of female comics where funny women had to look funny.  But, her impact on the American entertainment realm can never be underestimated.  Diller remained busy into her later years, retiring from stand-up in 2002.  She always had a way with words, so here are some of her best lines.

“Never go to bed mad.  Stay up and fight.”

“A bachelor is a guy who never made the same mistake once.”

“Burt Reynolds once asked me out.  I was in his room.”

“I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford.  Then, I want to move in with them.”

“My mother-in-law had a pain beneath her left breast.  Turned out to be a trick knee.”

“My photographs don’t do me justice.  They just look like me.”

“We spend the first twelve months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next twelve telling them to sit down and shut up.”

“The reason women don’t play football is because eleven of them would never wear the same outfit in public.”

“My recipe for dealing with anger and frustration: set the kitchen timer for twenty minutes, cry, rant and rave, at the sound of the bell, simmer down and go about business as usual.”

“Health – what my friends are always drinking to before they fall down.”

“Housework can’t kill you, but why take a chance?”

“There’s a new medical crisis.  Doctors are reporting that many men are having allergic reactions to latex condoms.  They say they cause severe swelling.  So what’s the problem?”

“Old age is when the liver spots show through your gloves.”

“You know you’re old if they have discontinued your blood type.”

“Whatever you may look like, marry a man your own age.  As your beauty fades, so will his eyesight.”

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