July 17

There are 2 entries for this date: Phyllis Diller Josh Barro

    Phyllis Diller

    Phyllis Diller

    On this date in 1917, actress and comedian Phyllis Diller, née Phyllis Ada Driver, was born in Lima, Ohio. She studied piano at Chicago’s Columbia College and transferred to Bluffton College, a Mennonite school, but never graduated. She met Sherwood Diller at Bluffton and they married in 1939.

    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, published in 2005.

    Kindness was her religion, she once said. In his 2021 book “A Carnival of Snackery,” David Sedaris recalled visiting Diller at home in 2010 when the topic turned to religion: ” ‘A bunch of garbage,’ Phyllis called it.” “So you’re an atheist?” Sedaris asked. “Hell yes,” she replied. On another visit two years later, the subject was prayer. “Isn’t that the worst,” Diller said. “I hate it even more when they want you to hold their [expletive] hand. Blech!”

    Diller married and divorced twice and had six children: Peter, Sally, Suzanne, Stephanie, Perry, and a son who died shortly after being born. She died at home in Los Angeles at age 95 and her ashes were scattered at sea. D. 2012.

    “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/America's AIDS magazine (November 2001)
    Compiled by Sarah Eucalano; photo by s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

    Josh Barro

    Josh Barro

    On this date in 1984, journalist Joshua “Josh” Barro was born to Judy and Robert Barro. The elder Barro, a co-founder of classical macroeconomic theory, was a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution as of this writing in 2021. He had first earned a B.S. in physics at Caltech while studying under Richard Feynman.

    Barro graduated from high school in Boston and from Harvard University with a bachelor’s in psychology. He spent a summer in college interning for political activist Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. He then worked as a policy research fellow at the Manhattan Institute, as a real estate broker for Wells Fargo, as lead writer for The Ticker — a Bloomberg economics and politics blog — a columnist for National Review and Forbes and as politics editor at Business Insider (now Insider Inc.)

    He held several positions at different times at Insider and was founding correspondent at The Upshot, the economics and data section of The New York Times. He hosts Public Radio’s “Left, Right & Center” roundtable and contributes to MSNBC and other media across the political spectrum. Aides to President Obama told BuzzFeed News in 2013 that Barro was one of Obama’s favorite columnists. Time named Barro’s Twitter one of the 10 best political feeds in 2013. Forbes selected him in 2012 as one of the media’s 30 “brightest stars under the age of 30.”

    Barro met his future husband Zachary Allen, a Democratic fundraiser and Obama alumnus, at the 2013 Human Rights Campaign National Dinner in Washington. They wed in 2017. “Anti-LGBT attitudes are terrible for people in all sorts of communities. They linger and oppress, and we need to stamp them out, ruthlessly,” he tweeted on July 23, 2014.

    In an Insider column (Oct. 16, 2016) titled “Why I left the Republican Party to become a Democrat,” he wrote: “I became a Republican as a teenager because of my upbringing in Massachusetts, a state where the GOP has produced five good governors in my lifetime, from Bill Weld (now the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential nominee) to Charlie Baker. I worked for Mitt Romney when he ran for governor, and while I did not like his presidential campaigns, I think he has a record in Massachusetts he can be proud of.

    “The most important thing we have learned this year is that when the Republican Party was hijacked by a dangerous fascist who threatens to destroy the institutions that make America great and free, most Republicans up and down the organizational chart stood behind him and insisted he ought to be president.” He called out Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Rep. Paul Ryan for supporting Donald Trump.

    Responding to a perhaps satirical tweet saying “In the absence of religion, men still need sin and guilt,” Barro wrote, “I mean, I’m an atheist and mostly just feel okay.” (Twitter, June 11, 2018) 

    “Mentioning that I am an atheist seems to have led to a bunch of email trying to convince me of the existence of god.”

    —Barro tweet (Dec. 28, 2013)
    Compiled by Bill Dunn

Freedom From Religion Foundation