Tag Archives: RIP

Remembering Phyllis Diller: She Roasts Ronald Reagan

By Gary P Jackson

I was saddened to hear of the passing of comedy great Phyllis Diller on Monday. She was a real treasure and a class act. She came from an era when comics were funny without having to shout four letter words or attack others on a personal level.

She started late in life, 37, and never looked back. She was a staple on TV, in comedy clubs, and movies, for decades. Always a delight to watch, Phyllis never had a problem poking fun at herself and her looks. Though later in life she did have plastic surgery to correct some of the features that she found less than perfect.

The L A Times noted:

She was a self-described “cartoon,” a zany housewife-turned-comedian with an electrified hairdo who broke into the male-dominated world of stand-up comedy in the 1950s with an outlandish wardrobe and a barrage of self-deprecating jokes punctuated by her trademark guffaw.

I spent seven hours today at the beauty parlor; hell, that was just for the estimate,” Phyllis Diller would say on stage, firing off one joke after another. “I’m in the 14th year of a 10-day beauty plan.”

Diller, whose stand-up career spanned nearly 50 years, died in her sleep Monday at her longtime home in Brentwood, said her agent, Fred Wostbrock. She was 95.

Diller followed, after a fashion, in the footsteps of women such as Grand Ole Opry staple Minnie Pearl and Jean Carroll, who joked about domestic life in an understated manner on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” But Diller’s flamboyant style, signature laugh and sharp barbs about her husband and home life set her apart, captivating the staid audiences of the Eisenhower era and inspiring a new generation of funny ladies.

Her high-profile success at being able to go “toe-to-toe with her male counterparts in prime clubs,” as comedy critic and historian Gerald Nachman once put it, helped pave the way for Joan Rivers, Ellen DeGeneres and others.

She was there, she was doing it, she was filling rooms, and that’s what made her such a great role model for someone like me starting out,” Rivers told The Times on Monday. “Phyllis came out and she talked and she was funny and she got off — and that was a big revelation in those days.

Looking back now, it suddenly hit me: She was the last of the women comedians who had to make themselves ugly to be laughed at. It was a requirement. A woman walked on stage in those days and was pretty, she was a singer. Phyllis still had to put on the funny boots and stupid hats, and she was the last to do that.

As a professional comedian, Diller was a late bloomer: The Ohio native was an Alameda, Calif., mother of five when she made her nightclub debut at the Purple Onion in San Francisco in 1955 — at age 37.

Known for her adept timing and precisely structured jokes, Diller took pride in being able to deliver as many as 12 punch lines per minute.

The first laugh came easy. With her fright-wig hair and garish attire that typically included a fake-jeweled cigarette holder, gloves and ankle boots, she merely had to walk on stage.

Jack Paar once described her as looking “like someone you avoid at the supermarket.” Bob Hope called her “a Warhol mobile of spare parts picked up along a freeway.

But Diller was always the first to address her colorfully eccentric stage persona, describing herself as “the Elizabeth Taylor of’The Twilight Zone’ ” and a woman who once worked “as a lampshade in a whorehouse.”

During her long career, she was in more than two dozen movies, including three with Hope, with whom she also appeared on numerous TV specials and traveled with to Vietnam to entertain U.S. troops.

She also was the host of a 1964 TV talent show called “Show Street” and starred in the 1966-67 situation comedy “The Pruitts of Southampton” (renamed “The Phyllis Diller Show” midway through the season) and the 1968 comedy-variety series “The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show.

She also had a stint starring in “Hello, Dolly!” during its original 1964-1970 run on Broadway. But the outlandish Diller always shined best in nightclubs, showrooms and concert halls, where one of her favorite targets was her domestic life, including her fictional husband “Fang.

I don’t like to cook; I can make a TV dinner taste like radio,” she’d say.

Fang’s idea of a seven-course dinner is a six-pack and a bologna sandwich. The last time I said let’s eat out, we ate in the garage.

I put on a peekaboo blouse. He took a peek and booed.

Then she’d launch one of her patented guffaws: “Ah-HAA-haa-haa!

Read more here.

There are hundreds of videos of the unflappable Ms Diller out there, but I thought our readers would enjoy a clip of her from one of those wonderful Dean Martin Roasts. Here she skewers the victim …. er …. “Man of the Week” then California Governor, Ronald Reagan. Enjoy:

In a piece called The Humor of Ronald Reagan you can see the entire Dean Martin Roast.

Here’s Phyllis Diller from 1969 on the Ed Sullivan Show:

Here’s a funny bit she did with Liberace:

I found this from 1986. It’s a bit filmed aboard the U.S.S Lexington for one of the Bob Hope USO specials. The Singers are Phyllis, Phylicia Rashad, Barbara Mandrell, And Brooke Shields. They are joined by Bob Hope:

Phyllis Diller was one of a kind. A fantastic talent who brought a lot of joy to the world. You can bet there’s a lot of laughter up in heaven as she holds court throwing out one-liners left and right!

God bless and thanks for the memories.

2 Comments

Filed under In The News, Ronald Reagan

Remembering Davy Jones [1945-2012]

By Gary P Jackson

Sad news. Actor and rock and roll star Davy Jones has passed away. He died of a massive heart attack in his sleep at his Indiantown, Florida home. Davy is survived by his wife Jessica and four daughters. He was 66.

Most of us know Davy from his time with The Monkees, a fictional musical group created for television that turned into a real band, but before The Monkees he had a solid acting career.

Beginning at the age of 11, Jones found steady work on stage and TV. When Davy was 14 his mother died, and he left acting to train as a jockey with Basil Foster. During casting for the London production of Oliver Foster was approached by a friend who worked on the production. Foster reportedly said “I’ve got just the kid!” Jones was cast as the Artful Dodger and played both London and Broadway. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance.

On February 9, 1964, the same night The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, Davy along with the cast of Oliver were also on the show.

Following his Ed Sullivan appearance, Ward Sylvester of Screen Gems [then the television division of Columbia Pictures] signed Jones to a contract. A pair of American television appearances followed, as Jones received screen time in episodes of Ben Casey and The Farmer’s Daughter. He also recorded a single and album for Colpix Records, which charted but were not huge hits.

Screen Gems would go on to produce The Monkees TV show.

While on tour with The Monkees Davy discovered the Austin, Texas based group The Children and along with Eirik Wangberg co-produced them. A single was released on Laramie Records Picture Me. It shot all the way up the Billboard charts to number two:

As we all know, The Monkees would eventually break up. After that, Davy would go on to make guest appearances on many popular shows including The Brady Bunch, My Two Dads, Love,American Style, SpongeBoB SquarePants, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and many more.

From Love, American Style:

In 2008 Yahoo named Davy the “Number 1 Teen Idol of All Time.”

Fellow bandmates Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork spoke to TMZ:

Micky Dolenz says he had a feeling something bad was going to happen today … saying  he “had bad dreams all night long” … only to later learn about the death of his friend Davy Jones.

Dolenz released a statement moments ago … saying, “Can’t believe it…Still in shock…had bad dreams all night long.

In a separate statement, Dolenz added — “I am in a state of shock … The time we worked together and had together is something I’ll never forget. He was the brother I never had and this leaves a gigantic hole in my heart. The memories have and will last a lifetime. My condolences go out to his family.”

Monkees bassist Peter Tork also released a statement about Jones which reads:

It is with great sadness that I reflect on the sudden passing of my long-time friend and fellow-adventurer, David Jones.

His talent will be much missed; his gifts will be with us always. My deepest sympathy to Jessica and the rest of his family.

Adios, to the Manchester Cowboy.

Growing up in the 60’s, I was just at the right age when The Monkees hit TV. The show was fun, and the music, written by the likes of Neil Diamond, Carol King, and of course Tommy Boyce and Booby Hart, still sounds fresh today. What was a simple marketing idea for a TV show turning into much more.

Though Michael Nesmith would eventually go his own way, Davy, Micky, and Peter would tour off and on over the years. Their last tour, celebrating the 45th anniversary of The Monkees, aptly named An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour visited the UK, The United States, and Canada. The tour ran from May-July of 2011.

I could go on for days about the fond memories of days gone by and how much I love the music these four cats made. I guess the best way to celebrate David Jones’ life and times is to share some music and videos:

When two teen idols met: In an episode called Everywhere a Sheik, Sheik, Davy starred with singer, actress Donna Loren:

Every red blooded male loved Donna who sang in the various Frankie and Annette “beach” movies of the day. This is from Beach Blanket Bingo:

The Monkees were one of the first rock bands to add a Moog synthesizer to their music:

Before MTV, there was The Monkees! In fact, the music/skit portion of the show would be copied far and wide. Even the Saturday morning cartoon shows copied the idea.

In fact Michael Nesmith is often called the “Godfather of MTV” because he produced a half-hour pilot for a music video show that was gonna be called Pop Clips. The series was never made, but Nesmith sold the rights to Time-Warner, which tweaked the idea and spawned MTV.

Davy wrote [and co-wrote] several dozen songs, including this from the album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones LTD, which he co-wrote with Kim Capli, Eddie Brick, & Charlie Rocket:

Here’s Davy a few years back on the O’Reilly Factor. They are discussing the situation regarding the Rock and Roll Hall of fame.

Davy Jones was a true icon and by all accounts a stand up guy. He will be truly missed.

Thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.

1 Comment

Filed under In The News