Saturday, September 1, 2012

For The GIRLS!

Phyllis Diller's Bathroom

Phyllis Diller died last month.  95 years old.  What a legacy she has left for all women, not just the funny ones.

We learned the news of her passing as a family a few weeks back.  The Today Show serves as the backdrop to our morning ritual of emptying the dishwasher, pouring milk into bowls of Trix (sorry to rub it in boys, summer is now over…no more sugar cereal 'til June), stealing sips of coffee, and handing out sweaty, gummy bear vitamins.
Footage of the late comedian throughout her career was spliced into Joan Rivers' editorial on her friend and mentor.
"Did she die?" Vincie asked.

I looked up from the counter and saw Joan Rivers' face (does she even call it her own?) on the TV.

"No, honey.  She didn't die.  She's still alive."  I told him.

The editorial went on for another few seconds.  I went about the business of refreshing our dog Stitchy's water.

"So she died then?"  Vincie asked.

I looked over at the TV from the sink.  Again, I was looking at Joan Rivers. 

"No, she didn't die."  I turned and walked back toward the sink.

"So she died?"

It's too freakin' early for this!  Why do I leave the national news on after they get up?  Why?  Why?  Why?

I put down Stitchy's bowl and grabbed an empty seat at the kids table, but not before grabbing my coffee from the counter.  I took a big sip, stared at the screen, and waited.

"Ok, there."  I pointed at the screen.  "You see her, with the funny hair?  She died."

Vincie looked up.  I know he caught a glimpse of Phyllis Diller before they cut back to Joan Rivers.

"Right, her," he pointed at Joan Rivers.

He thinks they are the same person.  Awesome.  Well, I suppose in many ways they were cut from the same cloth.

"No, honey.  It's two different people.  See that one?"  I pointed to Joan Rivers man-made mug covering the full expanse of the 50" TV that often feels like it takes up our entire home (thank you, Jeff).  "She is alive!"

"Now, that one."  I pointed to a new clip of Phyllis Diller alongside Bob Hope.  "She's dead."

Of course, by this time, Vincie's fleeting obsession with the passing of an aged, unknown female figure on the television set had passed.  His brother had brought a miniature, make-shift Lego plane he had just constructed over to the table and was pushing a Lego Storm Trooper into the pilot's seat.

"Vincie, we're going to fly this off the top of the stairs and see if he makes it."

"I have a rubber-band!"  Vincie spilled half the milk left in his bowl as he excitedly pushed himself from the table and ran out of the kitchen.  Leaving me to ponder flying Legos in my house, sopping up spilled milk before it dripped onto the rug under their table, and the death of comedic legend Phyllis Diller. 

I pulled my coffee cup in for another sip and tried very hard to ignore the smell of Stitchy's fresh morning pile that had wafted its way in from the backyard through our screen door.
I jogged my memory for the first images of Phyllis Diller I had stored in my brain.  Those images were displayed on my parents' television set in our family room in Wheaton, Illinois.  It wasn't half as big as the screen my children glue themselves to today but the images were still larger than life to my brother, sister and me.  We laid on the floor in front of that box from the mid-seventies through the mid-eighties until we moved to Minneapolis and the television was banished to the "finished" portion of the basement.  In Wheaton, we watched all manner of programming right there on the first floor with our parents, including Bob Hope's famed USO missions.  I was first introduced to Phyllis Diller when she was performing for our nation's troops. 

After attending to the spilled milk, I stepped over Nicky and Vincie, and around Lego pieces (R.I.P. Captain Rex) on my way upstairs to my desk where I conducted a myriad of Google searches which yielded loads and loads of links to images and clips of Phyllis Diller's stand-up routines, interviews, as well as "celebrity reactions" to her death.  

Colorful, oft-times shimmering dresses and jewels; big, platinum hair; and her signature, long, cigarette holder did nothing to distract from what she had to say: the jokes she wrote and delivered on stage in rapid succession with impeccable timing.  It was easy to see that this girl worked as hard as she laughed, maybe even harder.  

Several articles cited that she went to work as a stand-up comic in her late thirties because she "had to", to help support her five children.  I'd like to think that a shot of "had to" was mixed with two shots of "really wanted to" in that shaker.
So , what did I learn from my short, cyber trip down Phyllis Diller memory lane?  

Be exactly who you are, work hard, laugh harder, and make your bathroom POP!

A quick, 1.32 sec clip of Phyllis Diller in action from 1973.