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Monday, August 20, 2012

Killer Diller

I was just a boy when I discovered Phyllis Diller guest-starring on prime-time tv variety shows. The first moment I laid eyes on her campy, mad housewife persona, I was in love with her! I loved her great one-liners, her look, her wit, her trademark cackle and her overall fabulousness. And my mother and grandmother loved her, too. I think, for them, Phyllis spoke to their pre-feminism consciences about the woman's place in the home and the absurdity of domestic life. She was the anti-Donna Reed of that era.

Without Phyllis Diller, there would be no domestic goddess known as Roseanne Barr. In fact, generations of great female stand-up comics are in this great trailblazer's debt and they have acknowledged as much.

My personal favorite Phyllis Diller joke that has actually served as a motto for me over the years is: "The problem with housework is that, a year later, you've got to do it all over again!"

As for me, a child unaware of my sexuality, something was awakened by Phyllis Diller's comedy and persona. She appealed to a nascent sensibility deep down in my soul. Little did I know then that the comedian started at the cabarets of Greenwich Village to much fanfare and acclaim. I wouldn't have understood any significance regarding that fact, anyhow, at the time.

"My first audience were gay people because they have a great sense of humor," she once said. "They love comedy and they love to laugh. How do you think they got the word gay put on them?"

Barbra Streisand was Ms Diller's opening act at the Bon Soir on West Eighth Street in Manhattan, where gay audiences lifted both women to initial mainstream fame. Phyllis was the first to suggest Barbra not have rhinoplasty. Tonight, Streisand tweeted, "I adored her she was a wondrous spirit who was great to me."

I loved Phyllis, too, but from afar; on the family's tv set in our New Jersey living room. I even loved "The Pruitts of Southampton" flop ABC tv series. And Phyllis loved me back at about 8 pm tonight. The Facebook Friend request I sent her months ago was accepted, ironically. She may not have been the person who clicked to accept me, but I feel she was guiding that action.

Farewell, Phyllis, gone but not forgotten after a wonderfully long life and career. You are missed.

"Burt Reynolds asked me out. I was in his room!"

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