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Classic Television Memories: In Memoriam - Phyllis Diller

Updated on August 23, 2012
Phyllis Diller circa 1973
Phyllis Diller circa 1973

Phyllis Diller 1917-2012

She was one of the world's best-loved comediennes for over 60 years. Apart from her comedy, she was also an accomplished pianist. Diller was a staple of stage, screen and television. She toured with comedian Bob Hope on his tours to Vietnam to entertain the troops. Her signature comedy routine had her as a wild-haired, gaudily-dressed housewife who joked about her age, smoked from a long cigarette holder, referred to her husband as "Fang", and had an unmistakable laugh.

Early Career

Diller, born Phyllis Ada Driver in Lima, Ohio, got her start in show business in radio, and local television in the 1950's. This led to the start of her stand-up comedy routine in 1955. Following this period, she began to make her success in low-budget movies, and television show appearances in the 1960's.

During the mid 60's, Miss Diller headlined two television shows, The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show in 1968, and for us Classic TV buffs, The Pruitts Of Southampton, (1966-1967).

The Pruitts Of Southampton

The Pruitts Of Southampton aired on ABC Television from September 6, 1966, to September 1, 1967. Miss Diller played Phyllis Pruitt, the matriarch of a wealthy family that lived in the Hamptons on Long Island. The series was The Beverly Hillbillies in reverse; instead of the clan amassing a fortune, The Pruitts lost their fortune to the IRS. They were however allowed to continue to live in their mansion, but with stipulations; Of the 52 rooms in the house, they were only allowed to live in eight. They had to cook for themselves, and in short, function as a normal family.

Each episode, Diller plotted and schemed ala Lucille Ball, to regain their lost fortune, all the while trying to function as regular people.

The series name was changed to The Phyllis Diller Show in mid-season, and lasted 30 episodes.

Later Career

After both shows folded, Miss Diller continued in comedy, guest-starred on many popular television series and variety shows, did cartoon voice-overs and for a while, served as concert pianist in a symphony orchestra, in an entertainment career that spanned 60 years.

Phyllis Diller left this world on August 20, 2012 at age 95.



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