Monday, August 20, 2012

Phyllis Diller

In the mid-'80's, I spent an entire day with Phyllis Diller in her home on Rockingham Drive, right down the street from where O.J. didn't murder anyone.

She was a warm and gracious host.

During the interview, which we were filming for a CTV show called "The Performers," Phyllis made me deviled eggs. The whole piece took place in her bright red kitchen, with her at the counters and me sitting at an old-fashioned work table in the middle of he room.

In the living room, she had a marvelous oil painting of her great friend and mentor, Bob Hope.

I remember especially two moments in our conversation.

Me: Phyllis, when you were writing ad copy for a radio station in Sausalito and supporting five children by yourself, did you have any idea that you had this much ambition?

Phyllis (Slamming down the fork she was using to mash the eggs in a bowl): Absolutely! I wanted it all and I've got it all!

When we finished the interview, she sat at the work table, smiled and said, Thank you, Gregory Peck.  So sweet.

In addition to being one of the most successful lady stand-up comics of all time, she was a movie star, played the lead in "Hello Dolly" on Broadway and on tour practically everywhere, and was an accomplished concert pianist. I first met her when she played with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. I was doing a play at Stage West Dinner Theatre with Norman Fell ("Three's Company's Mr. Roper") and he took us backstage after her wonderful performance.

As often the case, the best place to read an obit when we've lost a good person is the New York Times. Here it is.