There are plenty of Islanders and others, worldwide, who will miss Phyllis Diller, the housewife turned humorist who died Monday in Los Angeles at 95. The Ohio native moved to Alameda in 1945, when her husband Sherwood Diller was transferred to the Naval Air Station.
Over the next 10 years, Sherwood (also known as “Fang”) held many different jobs, and Phyllis raised their five children. She also worked as the women’s editor at a small newspaper and an advertising copywriter for an Oakland department store before moving onto an Oakland radio station and then KSFO in San Francisco.
Phyllis auditioned at the Purple Onion across the Bay and began her opening act there on March 7, 1955. She then began working at other nightclubs and on television, until her retirement in 2002.
Living in the Bay Area was “just about the fondest period of my life,” she told a local paper in 1999. “I lived for a long time in Alameda, but I also lived in Kentfield, three different places in the Marina in San Francisco, and I lived on Hyde Street, on Nob Hill and on Telegraph Hill. I just loved every minute of it.”
The comedian appeared on Groucho Marx’s TV quiz show “You Bet Your Life” and “The Tonight Show” with Jack Paar. She performed at Carnegie Hall in 1962 and starred in “Hello, Dolly!” during its original 1964-1970 run on Broadway.
Diller is survived by her son, Perry; her daughters, Sally Diller and Suzanne Mills; four grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.
For those looking to catch some comedy in town, Rhythmix Cultural Works and the Alameda Chamber of Commerce will present “Elect to Laugh!” with Will Durst at 8 p.m. on Oct. 6 at the Blanding Avenue cultural center. The show “chases down the presidential election like a Force Five tornado sniffing out a trailer court,” organizers say.
Rhythmix and other venues on the Island offer plenty of opportunities for budding performers and enthusiasts to enjoy the arts. We’ll try and keep you updated on the offerings around town for laughs and different forms of entertainment.