Phyllis Diller, a pioneer in the comedic genre, has passed away Monday morning in her Los Angeles home at age 95. The cause of her death has not been released, but Diller, who suffered a near-fatal heart attack back in 1999, was found by her son, Perry Diller. Milton Suchin, Diller’s longtime manager, told The Associated Press. “She died peacefully in her sleep and with a smile on her face.“
Born Phyllis Driver in Lima, Ohio, she married Sherwood Diller right out of College and was a housewife for several years before turning into a legendary humorist. At nearly 40, Diller entered the male-dominated world of comedy at San Francisco’s Purple Onion nightclub in 1955, where she kicked open the door for female comedians with her wild-haired, cackling character with a bizarre wardrobe and a world-weary view of life and love.
Although she referred to her husband as “Fang,” Diller said the charather was not based on any of her real-life husbands, saying “Fang is permanent in the act, of course, but don’t confuse him with my real husbands. They’re temporary. ” Diller also primarily made herself the target of her jokes, with wisecracks about her intelligence and madcap appearance.
Diller’s fame grew in the 1960s when she co-starred with Bob Hope in 23 television specials and three films including Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! which turned out to be a great box-office success at the time, despite being critically compared to a 90-minute TV sitcom. Hope and Diller often worked closely together and remained close friends until his death in the summer of 2003, with Diller even accompanying Hope to Vietnam in 1966 with his USO troupe during the height of the Vietnam War.
Phyllis Diller with longtime friend Bob Hope
Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, Diller appeared regularly as a television staple, including What’s My Line?, Mystery Guests and frequent cameo appearances on Laugh-In. Diller was also featured in her very own show called The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show. A younger generation may not recognize Diller by her unforgettable face, but may know her token raspy chain-smoker voice, as she can be heard in several animated TV shows, including Scooby-Doo, Robot Chicken, Hey Arnold!, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, and as Thelma Griffin, Peter Griffin’s mother, on Fox’s hit comedy Family Guy. She can also be heard in the 1998 Pixar film, A Bug’s Life, in which she voiced the queen.
Diller was always candid with her personal life, including her multiple plastic surgeries and her charismatic partying lifestyle. In a 1965 interview, Diller said:
“I was one of those life-of-the-party types. You’ll find them in every bridge club, at every country club. People invited me to parties only because they knew I would supply some laughs. They still do. “
Screen Rant offers its condolences to the family and friends of one of the queens of comedy Phyllis Diller
RIP: Phyllis Diller, July 17, 1917 – August 20, 2012.