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Guess St. Peter needed a good laugh
August 20, 2012 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Phyllis Diller, dead at 95 I encountered her first on Scooby Doo and I discovered how funny she really was as an adult. She was on the Ed Sullivan show in 1969 and she sounded just as fresh and full of sass in an interview I heard taped last year.
posted by peppermind (131 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Cash4Lead at 12:51 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by jquinby at 12:51 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by Iridic at 12:52 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by ericb at 12:53 PM on August 20, 2012


One of the greats, and a true pioneer. Thanks, Ms. Diller.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:53 PM on August 20, 2012


She was a great, funny, genuine lady. They really, truly don't make 'em like her anymore.

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posted by dbiedny at 12:54 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Phyllis Diller was the most famous person I ever backed into with a Datsun.

Funny, full of the aforementioned sass, and a hell of a lot more fun to chat aimlessly with in the parking lot of a rundown dinner theater than the Amazing Kreskin.

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posted by sonascope at 12:54 PM on August 20, 2012 [28 favorites]


. for Phyllis.

. for Fang.
posted by inturnaround at 12:55 PM on August 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


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posted by treepour at 12:55 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by ndfine at 12:56 PM on August 20, 2012


loved her!
posted by stormpooper at 12:57 PM on August 20, 2012


Reunited at last with dear old Fang! Godspeed, Phyllis. You had to be a tough piece of work to be in that business at that time, and she surely was.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:57 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not just hilariously funny up to the end, she was a pioneer for every funny woman who wanted to make it in the almost entirely-male standup world.

RIP.
posted by xingcat at 12:57 PM on August 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


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posted by Ber at 12:58 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by seabound_coast at 12:58 PM on August 20, 2012


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It's the Muppet Show, with our very special guest star...
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:59 PM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Phyllis always claimed she couldn't cook, but she could roast with the best of them.
posted by maudlin at 1:01 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by tommasz at 1:01 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by Thorzdad at 1:01 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by mmrtnt at 1:02 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by Navelgazer at 1:02 PM on August 20, 2012


She would gesture to her chest, and say "you can twist these knobs all night, and the picture won't get any better."

Well the picture was always pretty damned good, Phyllis.

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posted by Danf at 1:03 PM on August 20, 2012 [12 favorites]



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posted by blurker at 1:04 PM on August 20, 2012


I hope she and Eartha Kitt are hanging out together somewhere in Valhalla.
posted by PigAlien at 1:05 PM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


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posted by notclosed at 1:05 PM on August 20, 2012


Bit darker in the whorehouse tonight.
posted by tilde at 1:05 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:06 PM on August 20, 2012


Highlights from the documentary Goodnight, We Love You.

She was on Q last year, but there's no video yet.
posted by maudlin at 1:07 PM on August 20, 2012


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(a dot with a fright wig)

Thanks for the laughs, Phyllis.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:08 PM on August 20, 2012 [17 favorites]


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posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:08 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by Sys Rq at 1:09 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by Amplify at 1:10 PM on August 20, 2012


Thanks, Phyllis.

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posted by scody at 1:12 PM on August 20, 2012


maudlin: She was on Q last year, but there's no video yet.

Oh, that Q interview was just delightful. She was sharp and hilarious.

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:13 PM on August 20, 2012


Maudlin, that interview with Jian Ghomeshi was exactly the interview I was thinking of. I'm sure they'll upload it soon.
posted by peppermind at 1:14 PM on August 20, 2012


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She was awesome.
posted by gomichild at 1:19 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:22 PM on August 20, 2012


I checked Twitter and Jian's on it: Q interview with Diller, March 10, 2011. (Still no video, but hey, the audio alone is great.)
posted by maudlin at 1:23 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Definitely one of those people who, when I saw this news, thought, "My God, she was still alive?"

95! A very full life.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:24 PM on August 20, 2012


(He posted it just 4 minutes after my comment. Now that's service!)
posted by maudlin at 1:24 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I fell in love with Phyllis the summer I was ten -- that summer, I was staying with relatives in the Los Angeles area, and their cable provider carried Nick at Nite. (At home in Seattle, our cable service only carried Nickelodeon until 4pm and then it switched to Univision, which just seemed cruel to me as a child.) I was sharing a bedroom with two of my cousins, the younger of whom was terrified of both darkness and silence. So we had to leave every light in the room on, all night, as well as the television. And since I slept on the floor in front of the TV, once my cousins fell asleep I'd change the channel to whatever I felt like watching. Most nights, I watched Laugh-In. And that's how I came to know Phyllis. Sister helped make that summer bearable.

Big fat effin' . for you, lady.
posted by palomar at 1:25 PM on August 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


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So sorry to lose her. She was truly funny, and directly challenged societal ideas about women and beauty too.

May you and your horrible hair and hats rest in peace, Phyllis . . . or maybe crack up God.
posted by bearwife at 1:25 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by taff at 1:26 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by Mblue at 1:26 PM on August 20, 2012


The word "Pioneer" has been used several times in this obit thread already, but if ever the word applied to an entertainer, it applied of Ms. Diller. While there were other successful comediennes working at the same time as her, she was absolutely one of the ground breakers.

Hilarious until the end. Congratulations, Mrs. Diller, the homely friendmaker, on a life very well lived.

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posted by Joey Michaels at 1:27 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by zzazazz at 1:30 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 1:31 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by Marky at 1:31 PM on August 20, 2012


Did you like her little fur stole? She trapped it under the sink.
posted by Cranberry at 1:31 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by exlotuseater at 1:34 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by lord_wolf at 1:34 PM on August 20, 2012


“I am descended from a very long line my mother once foolishly listened to.”
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posted by readery at 1:36 PM on August 20, 2012 [14 favorites]


The NYT obit quotes her as saying: “I once wore a peekaboo blouse. People would peek and then they’d boo.”
posted by moammargaret at 1:37 PM on August 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


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posted by Splunge at 1:38 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by MrBadExample at 1:41 PM on August 20, 2012


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In 2003, after hearing of the donation of Archie Bunker's chair to the Smithsonian Institution, Diller opened her doors to the National Museum of American History and offered up some of her most iconic costume pieces and her gag file, a steel cabinet with 48 file-drawers containing more than 50,000 jokes and gags typewritten on index cards by Diller during her career. From August 12-October 28, 2011, the Albert H. Small Documents Gallery at the National Museum of American History displayed Diller's gag file and some of the objects that became synonymous with her comedic persona-an unkempt wig, wrist-length gloves, cloth-covered ankle boots and a bejeweled cigarette holder

That's 1000 times more comments than I've left on the Blue. And hers are actually funny.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:42 PM on August 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


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posted by fungible at 1:43 PM on August 20, 2012


I once saw Diller as the Wicked Witch in a St. Louis Muny production of The Wizard of Oz. As you'd expect, she brought the house down.

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posted by gc at 1:44 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by dlugoczaj at 1:48 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by cazoo at 1:50 PM on August 20, 2012


I hope they get to keep that steel filing cabinet as part of their permanent collection!!
posted by PigAlien at 1:51 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by immlass at 1:52 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by brbmaroon at 1:52 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by ambrosia at 1:53 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by cashman at 1:58 PM on August 20, 2012


Aw, damn.

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posted by MissySedai at 2:01 PM on August 20, 2012


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I learned while I was a lowly researcher for a People's Almanac book that she was a skilled pianist who performed professionally before becoming a comedian. In fact, the seeds of her comedy came from funny comments made between songs ala Victor Borge, that evolved into singing some satirical lyrics ala Tom Lehrer. Her familiar comic persona overwhelmed everything else, but I would have loved to have been around to see and hear one of those performances.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:03 PM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Aw, man. My old yoga teacher was also Phyllis Diller's yoga teacher. I loved thinking about Phyllis Diller doing yoga.

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posted by queensissy at 2:03 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Holy shit. What is up with the deathing right now.

RIP, lady. You were fucking awesome.
posted by tzikeh at 2:09 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by Xoebe at 2:09 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by Ink-stained wretch at 2:11 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by Smart Dalek at 2:16 PM on August 20, 2012


One of the first women who made it OK to be (outrageously) funny even if you weren't model-beautiful to make it less dangerous.
posted by availablelight at 2:18 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I also knew her from scooby doo. She was one of my favorite star guests. It wasn't until I was older that I learned just how funny she was. And what a trailblazer. The world already misses you, funny lady.

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posted by triggerfinger at 2:19 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by Flood at 2:20 PM on August 20, 2012


"When I realized I looked like Olive Oyl and wanted to look like Jean Harlow, I knew something had to be done," she once said. "From 12 on, the only way to handle the terror of social situations was comedy — break the ice, make everybody laugh. I did it to make people feel more relaxed, including myself."
posted by availablelight at 2:20 PM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


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posted by jadepearl at 2:21 PM on August 20, 2012


>She was awesome.<

'Nuff said

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posted by twidget at 2:29 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by quazichimp at 2:37 PM on August 20, 2012


Funny thing about getting older, is seeing things with new eyes all the time, with new perspective. Today, for me, is seeing Phyllis Diller anew, who until this minute I really loathed without knowing much about her. And now I still dislike her but know more. Oh! That awful laugh! Whah whah whah. So raucous and fake. She sounded like she smoked 4 packs a day (although she never smoked), how the hell did she live to 95?! All that hairspray, that make-up. She must have absorbed untold amounts of chemicals just from a good part of a century of eyebrow liner. Skanky to the end, her humor felt to me like nails sqeaking across a blackboard and more so when I was a kid.

Her paintings belong right up there in the Museum of Bad Art. I found this portrait somewhat troubling, although she seemed to paint mostly herself.

A good New Yorker article about her, Diller At Ninety-Two.

But then she was iconic too, quite unique. There was something very courageous about her schtick, playing at being The Ugly, Titless, Scrawny-Legged, Over-The-Hill-Unfuckable-Broad, Rooster-Meets-Bride-Of-Frankenstein, Bawdy Woman. In that role she got away with some good jabs.

With and without make-up at the same time. A good blogpost about her.

Went to see her beginnings on Groucho's You Bet Your Life show about 60 years ago and immediately felt more sympathetic towards her.

Her female insight character is like those fairy story witches, met in the deep forest, that wake up others' unconscious powers, a laughter witch who prompts a deeper acceptance, a tolerance of one's own vulnerabilities, flaws, unattractiveness with less shame and more bravado. But then there's some razor barbed wire in there that scares and repels me.

Several of her children predeceased her.

She played the harpsichord.

Audio of some of gigs: Cesspool of Culture / I'd Rather Cha Cha Than Eat Cornflakes On The Rocks / Guess Who I Saw Today

I Hate Cheap Beauty Parlors! / Today Will Be Yesterday Tomorrow

Thrift Flight / To Keep My Love Alive

Wet Toe In a Hot Socket / Just Like A Man

Condolences to her son, Perry and daughter, Suzy.
posted by nickyskye at 2:45 PM on August 20, 2012 [15 favorites]


my father met her years ago and had her sign a picture for me. he said she was the warmest person, and ever so funny.
posted by actionmotionpoet at 2:49 PM on August 20, 2012


My parents had her live album recorded at the Purple Onion. It kept me in stitches as a kid and then, some 45 years later, she had me rolling again as one of the performers in The Aristocrats. She was hilarious and a pioneer.
posted by Sculthorpe at 2:51 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by Currer Belfry at 2:54 PM on August 20, 2012


I remember growing up always knowing who she was (that laugh!), and it was likely due to Scooby Doo. However, I didn't realize until college that she got her start in St. Louis ( I saw her star on the Loop on the way to a show), though this is common knowledge to pretty much any of the older natives who grew up here.

nickyskye, for someone who loathed her so much, it looks like you had a really good tribute post going before being preempted...

Also:

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posted by mysterpigg at 3:01 PM on August 20, 2012


My first sex dream was about Phyllis Diller. Seriously. My addled pubescent brain must have seen her guesting on The Love Boat and mixed her up with Lauren Tewes.

I think Phyllis would have enjoyed hearing that story.

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posted by Knappster at 3:02 PM on August 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


She was fantastic. Thanks, Phyllis.

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posted by wiskunde at 3:05 PM on August 20, 2012


SUCH a funny lady! So long, Phyl, and thanks for all the laughter.

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posted by trip and a half at 3:08 PM on August 20, 2012


She was awesome in The Boneyard. RIP Mrs Poopenplatz.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:15 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by brundlefly at 3:18 PM on August 20, 2012


She was a great dancer, too.
posted by Chuffy at 3:21 PM on August 20, 2012


Looking through her credits, I noticed "Phyllis Diller's 102nd Birthday Party" from 1974, which means Diller was playing super-old MY ENTIRE LIFE.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:26 PM on August 20, 2012


I am sad. She was special; so much zest and energy always came through in her work. Either you loved it or hated it, because it was just SO MUCH. (I loved it.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:29 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by hydrobatidae at 3:38 PM on August 20, 2012


A friend of mine posted a link to an interview she did on CBCRadio on Q with Jian Ghomeshi. I can't make it work and I don't know why, but I will post it here in case others can get it to load:

Q

Anyway, the reason for this comment is what my friend quoted from the interview (I think from memory, so maybe not precise):

Jian Ghomeshi: You've had a long and trailblazing career. What do you want to be remembered for most? Phyllis Diller: "Kindness."

Rings so true with me as I think back on her performances. Snark with an underlying foundation of compassion.
posted by trip and a half at 3:44 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by QueerAngel28 at 3:46 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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So now we know how Joan Rivers will die.
posted by Etrigan at 3:53 PM on August 20, 2012


My brain always flashes an image of Waylon Flowers' Madame character when I think of Phyllis Diller. They must be stored in adjacent nerveclumps in my brain. Right near Dame Edna.

I'll miss her. Glad she lived such a long life.
posted by not_on_display at 3:53 PM on August 20, 2012


Phyllis Diller is yet another representative of the kind of adult wit I grew up in awe of. Diller, Don Rickles, Betty White, Johnny Carson... It's sad seeing them go when so few in the present generation can hold a candle to them.

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posted by dnash at 3:54 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some of Phyllis' looks: Andy Warhol | David Hockney | Julian Assange in drag | I Dream of Jeannie, the older version.

The dish with her in that last pic was her second husband, Warde Donovan. This article about her rise to fame is quite fascinating.
posted by nickyskye at 4:02 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


A comedy hero, what a life. Good on ya, Phyllis, I won't soon forget you.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:03 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 4:06 PM on August 20, 2012



posted by bz at 4:11 PM on August 20, 2012


Phyllis Diller was the first "comedienne" I recall seeing. And, of course, with her hair and her clothes and her bray, she was the one who made the biggest impact. It seemed that she was always on Sullivan, along with Totie Fields and, a bit later, Joan Rivers, who were for the longest time the Three Women Standups. But she had the best material and the best persona and way the best delivery.

Brava and thank you. aav.

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posted by the sobsister at 4:29 PM on August 20, 2012


It's worth noting that she drove (and adored) one of the most tacky and tasteless cars ever made in America, which just seems so very right.
posted by sonascope at 4:42 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by Schadenfreude at 4:43 PM on August 20, 2012


She killed it as the Monster's bride in Mad Monster Party.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:45 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by shakespeherian at 4:57 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by brujita at 5:15 PM on August 20, 2012


Ah, best known for her saucy 1973 Centerfold pose for Field & Stream Magazine..
posted by ovvl at 5:26 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by Anitanola at 5:30 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by joannemerriam at 6:01 PM on August 20, 2012


Pink Martini's tribute .
posted by BibiRose at 6:02 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by LobsterMitten at 6:55 PM on August 20, 2012


It feels like some era has ended with her passing. I'm not entirely sure what era it is, actually, but I find I'm very sorry to see it go.

Thanks for the laughter across my entire lifetime, Phyllis.

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posted by hippybear at 6:56 PM on August 20, 2012


Wow, Phyllis Diller was old when I was a kid.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:26 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll miss that inimitable laugh. She was truly killer Diller. R.I.P.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:06 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by sciencejock at 8:11 PM on August 20, 2012


As a child of the 1960's, Phyllis was pretty much unavoidable. She cracked me up, her persona was as outrageous as everything else that was going on, it seemed. She fit right in. Here's to a long, productive, happy life that ended graciously and gave us lots of hardy guffaws along the way.
posted by wallabear at 8:54 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by ZeusHumms at 9:08 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by mike3k at 11:13 PM on August 20, 2012


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posted by disclaimer at 11:52 PM on August 20, 2012


I got to see her at the fair in my town many years ago. She was so marvelous!
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posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:16 AM on August 21, 2012


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posted by kuppajava at 8:17 AM on August 21, 2012


My grandma lover her (and Joan Rivers until she 'stabbed Johnny in the back') and it was my grandmother's love of stand-up that introduced me to it (I didn't realize that until several years after my grandmother had passed).
posted by Mick at 9:10 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by Gelatin at 9:17 AM on August 21, 2012


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Heaven is a lot louder and sparklier tonight.
posted by jrochest at 10:12 AM on August 21, 2012


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posted by luckynerd at 10:23 AM on August 21, 2012


Phyllis Diller was the original comic supershero. A true inspiration.








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posted by liza at 1:29 PM on August 21, 2012


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posted by clavdivs at 2:33 PM on August 21, 2012


All those laughs brought her so much money that she could book the whole beauty salon.
They hadda put sheets over the windows. And 3 EMTs stood outside all day, just in case a beautician became overwhelmed.
They did, but they really appreciated the hazard pay.

Thanks a million, Phyllis.
posted by Twang at 2:57 PM on August 21, 2012


Pamela's Voice.
posted by timsteil at 4:08 PM on August 21, 2012


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