Comedian Phyllis Diller, known for her crazy laugh and even crazier wardrobe, has reportedly died, TMZ has learned.
“She died peacefully in her sleep with a smile on her face,” her longtime manager, Milton Suchin, told The Associated Press.
Diller suffered a heart attack in 1999 and was later fitted with a pacemaker. It’s been reported that she had recently fallen and her health had been on the decline, but as of now there has been no specific confirmation as to the cause of her death.
It’s interesting to note that Diller didn’t become a comic until she was 37. It came about after her first husband, Sherwood Diller, prodded her to give up a successful career as an advertising and radio writer. According to the LA Times, “Her husband managed her career until the couple’s 25-year marriage fell apart in the 1960s. Shortly after her divorce she married entertainer Warde Donovan, but they separated within months. Through it all, she was also a busy mother.” Diller was a mother to five children. Summing up her career, the Times said:
She was a staple of nightclubs and television from the 1950s — when female comics were rare indeed — until her retirement in 2002. Diller built her stand-up act around the persona of the corner-cutting housewife (”I bury a lot of my ironing in the back yard”) with bizarre looks, a wardrobe to match (by “Omar of Omaha”) and a husband named “Fang.”
Through both marriages and other relationships, the foibles of “Fang” remained an integral part of her act.
She starred in numerous TV shows and specials, including The Phyllis Diller Show, a variety show called The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show, and she was also a regular on Laugh In.
More than her crazy appearance and signature cackle, Diller was credited as paving the way for many of the modern female comics; indeed, it would be fair to say that funny ladies like Ellen and Kathy Griffin owe much of their success to the bawdy-mouthed dame. In a recent episode of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, Joan Rivers said Diller “broke the way for every woman comedian.”