Archive for the ‘"Bob Hope Specials"’ Category

Phyllis Diller Turns 95!

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

She was the first female comedian to headline a Vegas Club, the first woman to sneak into the all-male Friar’s Club (in drag!), and one of the first successful female stand-up comics. She’s also appeared on more Bob Hope Specials than anyone except Bob Hope. Phyllis Diller, who turns 95 today, is not only a television pioneer, but a pioneering force for women in entertainment, as well.

Born Phyllis Aida Driver On July 17, 1917 in Lima, Ohio, Diller wanted to be a pianist as a young girl. She attended college at the Sherwood Music Conservatory in Chicago for three years, but left to finish her studies at Bluffton College back in Ohio. She eloped in 1939 with Sherwood Diller, the brother of a classmate, and moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan and then to Alameda, California, where her husband worked at the Naval Air Station. Diller first got a job writing gossip and shopping columns for a local San Leandro newspaper, then as a fashion writer for Conn’s department store, moved on to writing for KROW radio in Oakland, and then to KSFO San Francisco as head of merchandising and press relations.

Her husband encouraged Diller to move to the talent side of the business, which she did by creating her “Phyllis Dillis, the Homely Friendmaker” persona:

Diller and a few friends put together an act, and she soon became the breadwinner of the family. She began a five-year run performing at the Purple Onion night club, toured the country, and in 1958 made her TV debut on You Bet Your Life with host Groucho Marx. She had just begun to comprehend the importance of theatricality and slowly started crafting her signature look: bleach-blonde hair, colorful costumes, and exposed “chicken-legs”:

Two additional items became part of Diller’s persona – her laugh:

And her ever-present cigarette holder:

One of Diller’s most memorable creations was “Fang”, the mythical husband-figure she often complained about in her act, who wasn’t actually based on her real-life husband:

In 1962 Diller made her first hugely successful appearance on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. She soon secured her first movie role, as nightclub hostess “Texas Guinan” in Splendor in the Grass, and appeared in several regional theater plays including “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” with co-star Blythe Danner. In 1961 Diller became the first female comic to headline in Vegas, at the Flamingo. Of her Vegas act she told us, “I wrote my own material, and no one had ever heard it from a woman’s angle. Now the mother-in-law is his mother… I did a lot of housewife stuff. My first bit was stuffing a turkey. Now you think, well, this isn’t going to interest men, but it did because they’re interested in women. It became funny. If it’s funny, it’ll sell.”

Diller published her first book in 1963 and in 1964 made the first of many appearances on Bob Hope Specials. Diller felt she instantly clicked with Hope:

Throughout the 1960s Diller appeared on numerous talk and game shows, including: The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, I’ve Got a Secret, and Match Game. She traveled to Vietnam to entertain the troops with Bob Hope, and in 1966 starred in The Pruitts of Southampton, later retitled The Phyllis Diller Show – a half-hour sitcom about a wealthy family who suddenly becomes poor (“the opposite of The Beverly Hillbillies” as Diller described it.) She also appeared in a series of films including That Spy, Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number (with Bob Hope), and The Mad Monster Party.

1968’s The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show started out as a 90-minute special that blossomed into a season-long variety show (one of the writers of which was a young Lorne Michaels), and in 1970 became the sixth Dolly in Broadway’s “Hello, Dolly.” In the late ’60s and early ’70s she enjoyed a semi-regular role on Love, American Style, and debuted her “Dame Illya Dillya” concert pianist persona in 1971, which kicked-off a series of symphony shows around the country and allowed her to utilize her piano skills. She very publicly underwent a face-lift in 1972, appeared as judge on the premiere episode of The Gong Show in 1976, and in 1983 became the first woman to dress in drag to sneak into the all-male Friar’s Club (for Sid Caesar’s roast):

Diller suffered a heart attack in 1999, and hasn’t done stand-up since being fitted for a pacemaker. However, she played “Gladys Pope” on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful from 1999-2004, and continues to make talk show appearances. She’s also active in voiceover work, voicing the Queen in A Bug’s Life, and the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nuttiest Nutcracker.

Stand-up, Broadway, TV, movies, voiceovers… Phyllis Diller is one talented lady. Happy 95th, Phyllis! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Phyllis Diller’s full Archive interview.

- by Adrienne Faillace

“Gilligan’s Island” and “Brady Bunch” Creator Sherwood Schwartz dies at 94

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Sad news: Legendary comedy writer/producer Sherwood Schwartz, best known for creating and producing Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch has died in Los Angeles at the age of 94.

Schwartz began his career as a radio writer for Bob Hope in the 1940s, and soon transitioned to television as a writer for I Married Joan (where he worked with Jim Backus, who he would later cast as Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island), The Red Skelton Show (where he had a volatile relationship with Skelton), My Favorite Martian, and other early comedy series. In 1967, he created the first of his signature series Gilligan’s Island, and in 1969 premiered The Brady Bunch. The two series spawned a array of TV movies, animated series, and in the case of The Brady Bunch, two reunion series. He also created Dusty’s Trail and developed Harper Valley PTA for television. Schwartz was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2008.

In 1997, he graciously gave the Archive of American Television a wonderful “five hour tour” of his life and career. At the interview’s conclusion, when asked how he’d like to be remembered, he replied:

“As a man who tried to explain in his own way that people have to learn to get along with each other. I did it with comedy because that’s what I’m familiar with, and I think it’s more acceptable to tell it in comedy form. But that’s how I’d like to be remembered.”

Here are some video excerpts from the interview:

On working with Bob Hope early in his career

On working as script supervisor on My Favorite Martian

On the concept of Gilligan’s Island

On casting The Brady Bunch

On the impact of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch

See his full Archive of American Television interview here.

Bob Hope’s Head Writer as well as "All in the Family" Emmy-winning Producer, Mort Lachman Has Died– Archive Interview Online

Thursday, March 19th, 2009


Mort Lachman, who wrote for Bob Hope for four decades (starting with the radio show “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope,” through Hope’s television specials) has died at the age of 90. Lachman was a multiple Primetime Emmy nominee and a winner for Best Comedy Series for All in the Family, as well as a Daytime Emmy winner for the ABC Afternoon Playbreak program “The Girl Who Couldn’t Lose.”

Click her to access Mort Lachman’s entire six-part Archive of American Television interview.

Interview Description:

Mort Lachman talked about his early years becoming a writer in network radio for Eddie Cantor and Bob Hope. He described in detail working as a writer, and later head writer/ director/ producer on the Bob Hope Television Specials. He vividly described Bob Hope’s topical humor and gift for ad libbing. He spoke about his work as a writer for several Ralph Edwards series. He also described his work as a producer and writer on All in the Family [for which he won an Emmy Award], Archie Bunker’s Place, One Day at a Time, Sanford, Gimme a Break, Kate & Allie, and Bagdad Café. The interview was conducted by Jeff Abraham on January 26, 2004.

TV Comedy Writer Seaman Jacobs Dies at 96 – Archive Interview Online

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Sad to report that noted comedy writer Seaman Jacobs passed away in Los Angeles on April 8th. He was interviewed by the Archive of American Television in March of 1999 and his full 7-part interview is available online here.

Click here for an obituary press release from the Writers Guild of America, West.

Interview description:
Full 7-part oral history interview with comedy writer Seaman Jacobs (1912-2008). He talks about starting as a writer for the Brazilian Pavilion at the 1939 Worlds Fair. After his Army discharge, he wrote for radio personalities Jack Paar, Bing Crosby, Ed Wynn, and Henry Morgan. In 1949, he made his TV writing debut on the The Ed Wynn Show. He then wrote for Earn Your Vacation, Bachelor Father, The Real McCoys, the pilot for The Addams Family, F-Troop, The Lucy Show, many other situation comedies and numerous George Burns and Bob Hope specials. Conducted March 30, 1999 by Charles Davis.

Archive Interviewee Phyllis Diller is 90!

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007


The ever-popular Phyllis Diller is 90 years old today. Ms. Diller has been seen on Boston Legal this season and does the voice of Peter’s Mom on Family Guy. In the last few years, she’s released a book of memoirs (pictured above) and has seen several DVD releases of her comedy work.


Phyllis Diller was interviewed by the Archive of American Television on March 8, 2000. Click here to watch Phyllis Diller’s entire seven-part interview.

Interview Description:
Ms. Diller spoke of her beginnings as a successful comic breaking out of her shell as a middle-aged housewife when she appeared for the first time on stage at San Francisco’s “Purple Onion.” She spoke of her first appearance in television on Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life. She spoke of her many appearances on television variety shows including numerous appearances on The Jack Paar Show. She talked about her long association with Bob Hope in films and on television— making more appearances on his specials than anyone else. Show spoke of her television series The Pruitts of Southampton (1966-67), a sitcom; and The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show (1968), a variety-talk series, as well as the comedy-anthology series Love American Style. She spoke of her appearance as a regular panelist on television’s The Gong Show (1976-80) and her regular role from 1995-96 on the daytime serial The Bold and the Beautiful. She spoke of her work as a trend setting female comic and detailed her successful formula for stand-up comedy. Interviewer: Fred Westbrook.

Larry Rhine’s Archive of American Television Interview Is Now Online!

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

Writer Larry Rhine wrote or co-wrote several of television’s most classic sitcom episodes including The Brady Bunch’s “The Subject Was Noses,” The Odd Couple’s “Felix Remarries” (the series finale), and All in the Family’s “Archie the Hero.” His full interview is now posted online.

Click here to access Larry Rhine’s 8-part Archive of American Television Interview.

Rhine was one of Red Skelton and Bob Hope’s writers.

Larry Rhine on writing for Red Skelton (Excerpt from Part 4):

“He didn’t want the writers to be at rehearsal. It bothered him because we’d be shaking our heads. So… I had to poke holes through the backdrop to watch to make sure that the physical things would work because with Skelton you had to have a raised stage with holes in it for flowers to spring up. You had to have a backdrop with water squirting. You had to have wires. We had to make sure that it would work. That’s the only way we could do it but he was a wonderful performer. And his pantomimes were most unusual and when we had the Skelton tribute at the Academy I got warmed up and did a couple of the pantomimes cause we had to do them in order to write them. The pantomimes were like fifteen pages each.”

Larry Rhine on writing for Bob Hope (Excerpt from Part 5):

“When you work for Hope you not only do the three of four shows he does, specials during the year, but you’re responsible for everything that he does every day which is open auto shows and beauty contests and schools and appearances on other shows and so forth and Bob doesn’t like to work more than a day ahead of time so what would happen, like right now the phone would ring it would be Bob… and he says I need three pages of chorus girl jokes so what I would do would be excuse myself, go back and write three pages of chorus girl jokes, phone them in to a secretary and go back to what I was doing… He had a very friendly kind of relationship with the writers. He liked nothing more than to come back in the writing headquarters and put his feet up on the desk and chat with you and to this day, after all these years I get Christmas cards every year from him. So he never loses a friend but we had some funny things happen when I was on the Hope show. Bob resented the fact that Saturday Evening Post came out with the story that he was worth $500 million and it demeaned him as one of the fellows and we felt that right away and he said, you know, this is a gross exaggeration. ….So he goes out on stage and says to the audience it’s a gross exaggeration… this article… that says I’m worth five hundred million. He says “maybe three hundred.” So when I left him to go on All in the Family I said how much I enjoyed being with him. “I said, too bad that we have to sever relationships, we’ve got so much in common. Neither of us is worth $500 million.”

Interview description:
Larry Rhine (1910-2000) was interviewed for four hours in Los Angeles, CA. He spoke of his early years as a writer in radio, which culminated in the position of head-writer of Duffy’s Tavern (1949-50). He spoke of his work as a television staff writer on Private Secretary, Duffy’s Tavern (the TV adaptation), and The Gale Storm Show and his many years (1960-67) working on The Red Skelton Show. He described how he simultaneously worked on the television sitcom Mister Ed and discussed the episodes he wrote with collaborator Lou Derman. He recounted his work with other comics such as Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. He spoke about his freelance work on such series as The Brady Bunch in which he co-wrote the well-known “The Subject Was Noses” episode and The Odd Couple in which he co-wrote the series finale. In great detail, he discussed his work on the Norman Lear series All in the Family and Archie Bunkers Place in which he collaborated with writer Mel Tolkin. The interview was conducted by Gary Rutkowski on February 25, 2000.

A Happy 90th Birthday to Archive Interviewee Sherwood Schwartz — Creator of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

Today marks the 90th birthday of Gilligan’s Island and Brady Bunch creator/producer Sherwood Schwartz!


Click on the play arrow to hear about “the way they became the Brady Bunch!”

Interview Description:
During his close to 6-hour Archive of American Television interview, Mr. Schwartz discussed his early years where he hoped to become a doctor, but soon found himself writing for Bob Hope. He talked about his work on shows including The Red Skelton Show, I Married Joan and It’s About Time. He discussed in detail the creation, casting and production of the two cult classic situation comedies, Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch and their later incarnations and spinoffs. The interview was conducted by Dan Pasternack in Los Angeles, CA in 1997.

Click here to access all segments of his full interview.

Happy Birthday, Sherwood, from your friends at the Archive of American Television!

So many of us grew up with his shows and many of the shows’ characters and catchphrases have entered the pop culture lexicon. What’s your favorite?

Mort Lachman’s Archive of American Television Interview Is Now Online

Monday, July 3rd, 2006
Comedy Writer/Producer Mort Lachman’s 3-hour Archive of American Television interview has been added to the online collection at Google Video.

Interview Description:

Lachman begins by talking about his early years becoming a writer in network radio for Eddie Cantor and Bob Hope. He describes in detail working as a writer, and later head writer/ director/ producer on the Bob Hope Television Specials. He vividly describes Bob Hope’s topical humor and gift for ad libbing. He speaks about his work as a writer for several Ralph Edwards series. He also describes his work as a producer and writer on All in the Family [for which he won an Emmy Award], Archie Bunker’s Place, One Day at a Time, Sanford, Gimme a Break, Kate & Allie, and Bagdad Café. The interview, part of the Archive Comedy Collection Sponsored by Bob Hope, was conducted by Jeff Abraham on January 24, 2004 in Los Angeles, CA.

Click here to access all Mort Lachman interview segments.

Remember, if you’d like to watch the interview in the order in which it was conducted, select the parts in order (1,2,3…).