Comedienne Phyllis Diller, who broke through barriers and inspired generations of female comics, died Monday morning at her home in Los Angeles. She was 95.
Her longtime manager, Milton Suchin told the Associated Press that “she died peacefully in her sleep and with a smile on her face.”
Phyllis Diller was the original housewife-turned-standup-comedienne, back in the day when female comics were a rarity. Her wild hair and outrageous cackling laugh were her trademark, as was her outlandish wardrobe that accentuated her skinny bird legs, her ever-present cigarette holder, and thick black false eyelashes. She was often the butt of her own jokes, and wisecracked about her fictitious husband “Fang”.
Diller was married with five children when she broke into show business and the nightclub circuit in the 1950’s. Her first husband managed her early career and their 25-year marriage eventually fell apart in the 1960’s. She remarried another entertainer a short time later, but that one lasted only a few months.
“Fang is permanent in the act, of course,” she once said. “Don’t confuse him with my real husbands. They’re temporary.”
She appeared in movies, including “Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number” and “Eight on the Lam” with Bob Hope, and television shows, including “The Pruitts of Southampton”, about a wealthy family trying to save face with their high-society friends while on the verge of bankruptcy. Her television debut was as a contestant on Groucho Marx’s “You Bet Your Life”.
Diller was a published writer, with early books such as “Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints” and “Phyllis Diller’s Marriage Manual”. She later published her autobiography “Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse” in 2005, and her career was documented in the 2006 film “Goodnight, We Love You”.
Phyllis Diller suffered a near-fatal heart attack in 1999, recovering with the help of a pacemaker. She officially retired in 2002.
The cause of her death has not been released.
Filed under Entertainment
Monday, August 20, 2012
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