Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Happy Birthday, Phyllis Diller...and the Barbra Connection

     Today is Phyllis Diller's 95th birthday! Happy Birthday, Phyllis! As most of you know, Phyllis was the star at the Bon Soir in 1961 when Barbra Streisand was the singer on the bill. As this video from Barbra's AFI Lifetime Achievement tribute shows, Phyllis recalls that Barbra was her opening act! Hard to imagine what it must have been like for Phyllis to have to follow Barbra's song set. The audience had to have been buzzing about Barbra, going on about "A Sleepin' Bee," "I Had Myself A True Love" and other great ballads. But they were also tickled by comedy numbers like "Value" ("I'm In Love With Harold Mengert") and "Come to the Supermarket." So, not only was Barbra slaying them with her voice; she was making them laugh with her natural comic gifts! By all rights, Phyllis Diller should have HATED Barbra Streisand! How dare she be so damn good!

     …But she didn't hate her; not at all. Phyllis had great affection for 19-year-old Barbra. She felt protective and wanted to help her She even took Barbra shopping for a black cocktail dress to wear when she performed so she'd get out of the thrift shop clothes. Phyllis didn't realize Barbra preferred her vintage schmattas to expensive, new duds.

     In Us Magazine, Diller remembered Barbra's Bon Soir days: "She went out and did her numbers and when she hit about the third note, every hair on my body stood up. It was unbelievable. She opened with ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf,’ and I thought, Oh, my God, what a fabulous choice. She also sang Harold Arlen’s ‘A Sleepin’ Bee,’ which really showed off that voice. It was scary. I knew she was going places."

    Phyllis was right about Barbra. And while she never went to the same places Barbra did, Phyllis has had her own wonderful career. And get this -- Barbra and Phyllis once played the very same role! Know what it was? Dolly Levi! Yep, Phyllis Diller was one of the many women who's appeared in Hello Dolly!  Hmm…you think they ever compared notes?

1 comment:

  1. I love me some Phyllis Diller: