Phyllis Diller Takes Me to Breakfast
I was introduced to Phyllis Diller in Reno, Nevada. I entered her dressing room and she had a big smile. So cute and warm, she reminded me of my grandmother…
I was introduced to Phyllis Diller in Reno, Nevada. I entered her dressing room and she had a big smile. So cute and warm, she reminded me of my grandmother. Her show wig was on a foam headrest and as we were talking, she opened a shoebox and unwrapped these green, lacy, low-heeled shoes that matched her dress. As she pulled off the brown, almost butcher-like paper from the shoes, she told me these were the shoes she wore on the Ed Sullivan Show.
I’m thinking … what? Who would keep shoes for so long? How did they last? The shoe company probably went out of business because they were so good, no one ever needed to buy new ones!
I had told her that when I first got to Reno, I had “Reno Throat.” The climate dries your throat out so bad you sound like a frog. The hotel physician said it’s very common for entertainers and he gave me a shot of Kenelog, a steroid. Phyllis asked, “Did you grow breasts?” I said, “I did and now I can sexually harass myself.” She let out her signature cackle.
We were interrupted when a package came for her. It was from her daughter and it had been stinking up the mailroom all day. Turned out, it was cloves of garlic from her garden. She said it had kept her healthy for years.
Around 6:30 the next morning I got a call. It was Phyllis Diller instructing me to pick her up at her suite because we were going to breakfast. I didn’t even know her but I guess she enjoyed my company.
The hotel butler opened the door and Phyllis toddled out in a tan raincoat with a little scarf around her head. She looked so tiny! She grabbed my arm and took me across the street to probably one of the last Woolworth’s diners for the dollar-ninety-nine breakfast. I paid.
We talked all about comedy and family. But she didn’t care to relive history. We talked about who she was today. She also shared her favorite quote, “Eat a spoonful of shit everyday so you remember the taste.” She meant that there’s always someone bigger than you to answer to and we all have to eat it once in a while.
I told her when I asked my little brother if he knew who Phyllis Diller was, he replied, “Sure. She was on Scooby Doo!” He was, of course, referring to a time in the ’80s when Hanna-Barbara would animate special guest stars to make cameos in the cartoon. Phyllis threw her head back and clapped her hands, “Oh my gosh, that was so long ago! Funny!”
She gave me her number and invited me to come see her next time I was in Los Angeles. I did so about a year later. She lived in Brentwood right down the street from the O.J. Simpson house and crime scene.
Her house was very quaint and well designed. We went upstairs and she showed me two rooms full of rolled up carpeting and wallpaper. You could barely get inside. She collected them from garage sales, consignment shops and anywhere else. I knew she liked doing crafts but there was no way she was going to use two rooms full!
She shrugged and said she just liked to collect them. I don’t think she was a hoarder. She just loved to find a great deal. Clearly frugal, this explained how she had kept that same pair of show shoes all those years!
“BREAKING OUT OF SHOW BUSINESS: What I Discovered by Not Being Discovered”
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