|Local Deaths- Phyllis Diller|
Published: Friday, 24 August 2012 03:15
Phyllis Diller, regarded by many as a trailblazer for female stand-up comedians, passed away Monday, in her sleep at her home in Los Angeles at the age of 95.
The cause of death is still unknown. Diller's groundbreaking stand-up routine included self-deprecating jokes that often touched on her outlandish wigs and wardrobes.
Her routine was also filled with welltimed one-liners and bits about her made-up husband, Fang.
Diller was regarded as a pioneer for female comedians. Before Diller, comediennes combined song and dance in their routines, but Diller not only told jokes from a female point-of-view, she talked to her audience about her tribulations.
Diller performed her routine all around the world, doing her act on the Ed Sullivan Show, in front of American soldiers during the Vietnam War and in San Francisco where she had her first stand-up gig at the Purple Onion Club in 1955 when she was 37 years old.
Diller was born Phyllis Driver in Lima, Ohio, on July 17, 1917. After graduating from Central High in Lima, Diller attended the Sherwood Music Conservatory of Columbia College of Chicago where she studied music for three years. She then transferred to Bluffton College in Ohio where she met her future husband Sherwood Diller. The couple eloped in 1939;hey divorced in 1965.
In 1945, Sherwood was transferred to the Naval Air Station Alameda, now Alameda Point. The couple called Alameda their home from 1945 until the late 1950s. While a housewife in Alameda, Diller's impression of the city was not favorable.
Diller and her husband lived at the Encinal Housing Project near Webster Street when they first moved to Alameda, according to Alameda Museum's quarterly newsletter from 2009. "She lived in a twobedroom apartment with a cement floor and plywood walls. She claims that the walls were so thin; you could hear your neighbor's heartbeat," reads the newsletter. "In the early 1950s, the Diller family moved to a modest home on the corner of Fernside and Fremont Street.
She often would entertain the PTA ladies at Edison School, where her children attended. Many of them encouraged her to pursue a career as an entertainer."
With the advice of her fellow PTA members, Diller started working for radio stations KROW in Oakland and later KSFO in San Francisco and filmed a television show for ABC's Bay Area affiliate.
Diller moved to St. Louis in the 1960s where she became popular on the stand-up comedy scene and got her first big break working with famous comedian Bob Hope on television specials and movies.
Diller was the daughter of Frances Ada (Jan. 12, 1881 - Jan. 26, 1949) and Perry Marcus Driver (June 13, 1862 - Aug. 12, 1948). Diller raised five children with her first husband Sherwood — she also gave birth to a boy who died after two weeks.
Two of her children are now deceased — Peter, born in 1940 and died in 1998 of cancer; and Stephanie, born in 1948 and died in 2002 of a stroke. Diller was survived by her three living children; Suzanne, Sally and Perry; her four grandchildren; and one greatgranddaughter.