On this date in 1917, actress and comedian Phyllis Diller, nee Phyllis Ada Driver, was born in Lima, Ohio. Diller studied piano at Chicago’s Columbia College, and transferred to Bluffton College, but never graduated. She began her entertainment career doing radio shows in California in 1952. She started doing stand-up at the Purple Onion, a well-known club in San Francisco, in 1955. In her well-known comedy routine she caricatured a housewife, made self-deprecating jokes, and performed with wild hair and a cigarette holder. She appeared in many movies and TV shows with Bob Hope, and even accompanied him to Vietnam to entertain the military during the Vietnam War. She famously acted in the movie “Boy, Did I get a Wrong Number” (1966) and the television show “The Pruitts of Southampton” from the 1960s. Diller appeared in many movies, television shows, and stand-up routines. In 2000, she was honored with the Lucy Award, given in honor of Lucille Ball to women who have enhanced the perception of women through television. She wrote five books, including her autobiography, “Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse,” which was published in 2005.
Diller married and divorced twice, and had six children: Peter, Sally, Suzanne, Stephanie, Perry, and a son who died shortly after being born. She was an atheist for most of her life and said kindness was her religion.
“Religion is such a medieval idea. Don’t get me started. I have thought about every facet of religion and I can’t buy any of it.”
—--Diller in A&U magazine, November 2001 issue
Compiled by Sarah Eucalano
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