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Comedienne Phyllis Diller dies at 95

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 21st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

With her haystack hair and thrift-store wardrobe, Phyllis Diller was perhaps America's best-loved comedienne. Known for her trademark cackle and zingy one-liners, Diller frequently used women's limited role in contemporary society as fodder for her humor - but was embraced by mainstream America regardless. Diller has died at the age of 95. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to her longtime manager Milton Suchin, Diller "died peacefully in her sleep with a smile on her face." Diller suffered a near-fatal heart attack in 1999 and had retried from comedy in 2002.

Hailing from the Midwest, Diller was a housewife and mother of five children toiling in Alameda, California when she got wind of the flourishing comedy scene in nearby San Francisco. Diller was a staple of nightclubs and television from the 1950s until her retirement.

Diller's humor revolved around how she balanced housework with her career. "I bury a lot of my ironing in the back yard." A lot of her barbs were directed at her unseen husband named "Fang."

Prodded into show business by her first husband, Sherwood Diller, she gave up a successful career as an advertising and radio writer. Her husband managed her career until the couple's 25-year marriage fell apart in the 1960s. Shortly after her divorce she married entertainer Warde Donovan, but they separated within months.

Diller also appeared in movies, including "Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number" and "Eight on the Lam" with Bob Hope. In 1968, she was also the host of a short-lived variety series, "The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show."

But standup comedy was her first love, and when she broke into the business in 1956 it was a field she had largely to herself because female comics weren't widely accepted then.

In an age where many females are highly conscious of their looks, Diller did everything she could to accentuate them - negatively. Opting for outrageous fright wigs, she deliberately shopped for stage shoes that made her legs look as skinny as possible.

"The older I get, the funnier I get," she said in 1961. "Think what I'll save in not having my face lifted."

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