Phyllis Diller, 1917–2012
Actress and funny girl Phyllis Diller has passed away at the age of 95. One of the first successful female comedians, she’s best known for appearances in Bob Hope films and the TV show Laugh-In.
Diller was born in Ohio and lived much of her life in California, but she called Webster Groves, Missouri, home during the 1960s. I came across that piece of trivia while editing Charlie Brennan’s book Here’s Where: A Guide to Illustrious St. Louis in 2006, and it caught my eye because at the time I lived in her old neighborhood. Like so many of us, Diller had been looking for a stately home in a good town for her five kids (go Statesmen!). Brennan quotes Diller’s autobiography: “In the spring of 1962, I paid $20,000 cash for an eleven-room colonial house on Mason Avenue in affluent Webster Groves, just ten miles southwest of St. Louis…. It had a pink stucco exterior, white shutters, a pool in the backyard, and classic artwork and antique furniture throughout….” It turns out that her family life was deteriorating behind that pink stucco (which has been replaced by green siding), and her marriage would soon end, her daughter would be institutionalized, and she’d move to Los Angeles. But through it all she kept making people laugh, and that is what inspires me when I pass by her home.
—Lauren Mitchell, Senior Editor