Thursday, July 17, 2003

Ohio Moments


Lima's Phyllis Diller a comedy sensation

Phyllis Diller - the first woman to become famous doing standup comedy - was born Phyllis Ada Driver in Lima on July 17, 1917.

A homemaker and mother, Diller began doing comedy when she was 37. She put together an act that included wild clothes and hairdo, a cigarette holder and jokes about celebrities, herself and life in general.

Her act - booked for two weeks at the Purple Onion in San Francisco - opened in 1955. It ran for 89 weeks. From there, she went on a national tour and appeared on The Tonight Show with host Jack Paar, a native of Canton, Ohio.

Diller's career skyrocketed, and she became an international sensation.

The daughter of an insurance agent, she originally wanted to be a concert pianist. She studied at Chicago's Sherwood Music Conservatory and at Bluffton College in Bluffton, Ohio. But marriage and family sidetracked her career. After bearing five children, she decided to turn her zany personality and ability to poke fun at herself into a comedy act. Diller wrote most of her own material.

From 1972 to 1982, Diller was a piano soloist with more than 100 symphony orchestras in the United States and Canada. She lives in Los Angeles.

Rebecca Goodman

E-mail rgoodman@enquirer.com or call (513) 768-8361.




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