Archive for the ‘"Love American Style"’ 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

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.

Garry Marshall’s Archive of American Television Interview Is Now Online

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

’70s/’80s hit-maker Garry Marshall’s 6-part Archive interview is now available online. Click here to access the entire interview.

Excerpt: Marshall on the initial concept of “Fonzie” on Happy Days from Part 4

“We created this character Fonzie who was originally called Arthur Masharelli, but M*A*S*H was the name of a show so the nickname Mash wouldn’t work so Bob Brunner, who was one of the writers came up with the name, Fonzarelli. We needed something we could have short[ened]. And that was “Fonzarelli” and we put him in and I had done, see a lot of times people don’t understand, you try something here it doesn’t work; you try it again over here. I played a character in Blansky’s Beauties. I acted. I played a guy who worked in the casino in Vegas, never spoke. Just wore dark glasses and walked around scaring everybody. So I said let’s do that again. We get a guy who don’t talk. It’s always scary when a guy doesn’t talk. So Arthur Fonzarelli was really written just to point, to do gestures and say very little. And I always remember, one of my favorite actors was Gary Cooper, who said mostly “yup” and became a gigantic star, which amazed me. So I said, he’ll say little.”

Interview description:
Marshall’s lively interview consists of many entertaining anecdotes about his over forty years in the television business. He describes his early years as a journalist and his eventual entry into comedy writing for The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. He talks about his work honing his craft as a writer on such ‘60s sitcoms as The Joey Bishop Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Love American Style (which served as a pilot for Happy Days) and The Lucy Show. He speaks in detail about developing The Odd Couple for television with his partner Jerry Belson. He then discusses helming some of the most popular sitcoms of the 1970s, including Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Mork & Mindy. For these shows he details the casting, development, and production as well as discussed the impact these series had on ABC. Finally, he briefly talks about his entry into feature filmmaking. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on August 28, 2000.

Charles Fox’s Archive of American Television Interview Is Now Online

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Composer Charles Fox’s two-and-a-half hour Archive of American Television interview has been added to the online collection at Google Video. This is tape 2 of Charles Fox’s interview in which he talks about the early days of electronic music. Click here to view the entire 7-part interview.

Charles Fox is the composer of many of television’s most memorable theme songs including the theme songs for “Love, American Style,” “Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “Wonder Woman,” “The Love Boat,” and “Angie.”

Interview description:

Fox begins by talking about his musical education, which included studying with Nadia Boulanger in Paris from 1959-61. He explains how he broke into composing for television, writing transition material for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson as well as the bold and energetic theme song for ABC’s Wide World of Sports. He speaks in great detail about Love American Style, a series for which he wrote the theme song and scored music for the entire series run. He describes other series for which he both scored the theme song and created libraries for track music. He looks back on his work for Laverne & Shirley, including details about the pilot presentation and the creation of the theme song and main title. Additionally he talks about his work on the series: Happy Days, Wonder Woman, The Love Boat, and The Paper Chase. He also discusses his work in television movies (including Victory at Entebbe) and feature films (including The Other Side of the Mountain and Foul Play), as well as composing other popular songs. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on June 29, 2004.