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About Phyllis Diller
Recognizable by her trademark laugh, American actress and comedienne Phyllis Diller created a stage persona of a wild-haired, eccentrically dressed housewife who makes self-deprecating jokes about her age and appearance, her terrible cooking, and a husband named "Fang", while pretending to smoke from a long cigarette holder.
Diller was born Phyllis Ada Driver on July 17, 1917 in Lima, Ohio, the daughter of Frances Ada (née Romshe) and Perry Marcus Driver, an insurance agent. She had German and Irish ancestry; the surname "Driver" had been changed from "Treiber" several generations earlier. Diller was raised a Methodist.
Diller was a housewife, mother, and advertising copywriter. During World War II, Diller lived in Ypsilanti, Michigan, while her husband worked at the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant.
Diller was married and divorced twice. She had six children from her marriage to her first husband, Sherwood Anderson Diller. Diller's second husband was actor Warde Donovan (born Warde Tatum), whom she married on October 7, 1965 and divorced the following year; they re-married and divorced for a second time in 1974. She was the partner of Robert P. Hastings from 1985 until his death in 1996. She also dated Earl "Madman" Muntz, a pioneer in oddball TV and radio ads.
Driver's career as a comedian took off in the 1950s. In the mid-1950s, she made appearances on The Jack Paar Show and was a contestant on Groucho Marx's quiz show You Bet Your Life.
Throughout the 1960s, she appeared regularly as a special guest on many television programs. For example, she appeared as one of the What's My Line? Mystery Guests. The blindfolded panel on that evening's broadcast included Sammy Davis, Jr., and they were able to discern Diller's identity in just three guesses. Also, Diller made regular cameo appearances making her trademark wisecracks on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Self-deprecating to a fault, a typical Diller joke had her running after a garbage truck pulling away from her curb. "Am I too late for the trash?" she'd yell. The driver's reply: "No, jump right in!"
Though her main claim to fame was her stand-up comedy act, Diller also appeared in many films, including a cameo appearance as Texas Guinan, the wisecracking nightclub hostess in the 1961 film Splendor in the Grass. She appeared in more than a dozen, usually low-budget, movies, including voice work as The Monster's Mate in the Rankin/Bass animated film Mad Monster Party (1967), co-starring Boris Karloff.
Beginning December 26, 1969, she had a three-month run on Broadway in Hello, Dolly! (opposite Richard Deacon) as the second-to-last in a succession of replacements for Carol Channing in the title role, which included Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, and Pearl Bailey.
In 1998, Diller provided the vocals for the Queen in Disney/Pixar's animated movie A Bug's Life. In 2005, Diller was featured as one of many contemporary comics in the documentary film The Aristocrats. Diller, who avoided blue comedy, did a version of an old, risqué vaudeville routine in which she describes herself passing out when she first heard the joke, forgetting the actual content of the joke.
She also recorded at least five comedy LP records, one of which was Born to Sing, released as "Columbia CS 9523."
In 1993, she was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. In 2000, she was awarded the Women in Film Lucy Award in recognition of her excellence and innovation in her creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television.
She died in her sleep surrounded by her family August 20, 2012 at the age of 95 in her home in Los Angeles. The cause of her death has not been released.