Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Iconoclast Comedienne Phyllis Diller's Digs
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
SIZE: 9,266 square feet, 8 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms
YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Your Mama knows we're a little late to this particular celebrity real estate rodeo but we figure better late than never in the case of the long-time Los Angeles, CA residence of outlandish and recently deceased comedienne Phyllis Diller that was recently pushed on the open market with a star-style $12,900,000 asking price.
In what may or may not be a coinky-dink, Miz Diller—may she rest in peace—was born and bred in Lima, OH, the same small Midwestern town where that motley group of teenagers on the super-gay hit tee-vee program Glee sing and dance their way through the trials, tribulations and humiliations of puberty, young love and high school. A classically trained musician from her youth—she could tickle and tinkle the ivories with the best of Tinseltown entertainers of her era like, say, Liberace—Miz Diller didn't pursue music as a career, but rather became an advertising copywriter and mother of five.
Sometime in the early-1950s, at a time when polite society considered it ludicrous and downright undignified for a lady to do stand up comedy, a nearly-forty year old Miz Diller did just that; She put on a fright wig and a pair of mid-heel ankle boots and bravely took a totally bizarre but inspired twist into the male-dominated, dog-eat-dog Showbiz arena of stand up comedy. Somehow, in that glowering, buttoned-up climate, she killed it with her punishing parody and and brutal self-deprecation.
She honed her wickedly sardonic, high-camp housewife schtick and distinct, open-mouthed guffaw throughout the 1950s and '60s with regular appearances in comedy clubs and on television programs such as What's My Line and Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Her professional salad days came—some might argue— in the late 60s and 1970s when she cut a broad and lacerating swath through one of Comedyland's to-date frothiest heydays of game-changing, cutting-edge comedy.
The iconoclast joker never really laid down her microphone and performed—nay, chewed up the damn stage—well into her eighth decade with her vicious, typically dead pan delivery. She was and will always be one of the greats, a zany but whip smart insult comedy trailblazer and Tinseltown tour de force who paved the way for a slew of funny, sharp-tongued women who include (but are hardly limited to) Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, Kathy Griffin, Chelsea Handler, (newly slenderized) Lisa Lampanelli and Whitney Cummings.
For the younger children who may not be familiar with the comedic stylings of Miz Diller, we offer a few examples of her doing her thing:
Here she pretends to smoke—she never actually smoked— while she verbally slices and dices her faux-husband, Fang, on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969.
Here she is in 1977, as she tears into Fang's profoundly fat—and hopefully mostly fictitious—mother in a five-plus minute barrage of scathing and scathingly hilarious bon mots.
Here she is in 1978, briefly and brilliantly roasting Joan Collins in a pink fright wig, and here she roasts Ronald Reagan in what appears to Your Mama to be the early 1980s.
And finally, here she is, in her late 80s, serving it with razor blade sharpness in a short, but searing dress down of herself in regards to her own advanced age and advancing decrepitude.
Good stuff, kittens, good stuff for sure, but, anyhoo, let's get back to the real estate matter at hand, shall we?
Current listing information states the 9,266 square foot residence sits on 1.23 gated acres with 8 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms and was originally built in 1914 for steel magnate/U.S. Senator Lawrence C. Phipps from Colorado for use as a vacation home. A 2002, Ruth Ryon-written profile in the Los Angeles Times reveals Miz Diller acquired the roomy and faintly gloomy, English Country-style manor house in the fall of 1965 and, over the nearly 50 years she occupied the premises, named many of the mansion's 22 rooms.
The ample, vaulted and beamed main living room—dubbed The Bob Hope Salon after her mentor who gave her a large oil portrait of himself that stands on an easel next to a picture frame-laden concert grand piano—has wood floors, a fireplace, and a Gothic, paneled seating nook lined with leaded- and stained-glass windows. There's a second fireplace and some pretty awful swagged gold braid drapery in The Sarah Siddons Room—that would be the formal dining room—and a third fireplace in the wood-paneled and vaulted salon Miz Diller called The Bach Room and used as an memento-filled office. The tile-floored and red-walled room shown in listing photos is presumed by Your Mama to be the loggia mentioned in Miz Ryon's 2002 article in the L.A. Times as a passageway between the front door and the bar.
A room with a pump organ became, of course, The Pump Room; a mirrored telephone closet was designated the John Wilkes Booth—after Lincoln's assassin, natch; and a powder room was christened The Edith Head, after legendary costume designer Edith Head.
Listing information describes the (clearly dated) kitchen with its red brick wall(s) and black and white tile flooring as a "Classic stainless still [sic]," but it was dubbed by Miz Diller as The Scarlet Scullery for its blood red cabinetry. Last week Miz Diller's son, Perry Diller, told the L.A. Times the kitchen was the "center of their family life" and that Miz Diller was a capable cook who would whip up culinary concoctions she gleefully saddled with unappetizing names like "garbage soup" and "heart burn salad."
We're not sure what nickname Miz Diller gave to her own bedroom—one can only imagine—but some of the guest bedrooms that open off the picture-lined upstairs gallery were, according to Miz Ryon's 2002 article, denominated The Canary Suite for its yellow day-core, The Giuseepe Verdi Suite for its green day-core—verdi means green to the Italians—and The Lincoln Bedroom was once furnished with Lincoln-era things and later used by Miz Diller as an office.
A couple of rooms were given over to Miz Diller's vast collection of beaded and bedazzled costumes and famously extensive (fright) wig collection.
The partly campy, partly Old-School correct and partly perplexing day-core and contents of the house will be auctioned, according to Miz Diller's son, Perry, in an article in The L.A. Times. We don't know if the wigs will go up for grabs but lawhrd have mercy on the auctioneer if they do because Your Mama imagines every drag queen and wig-wearing wacko from Sydney to Singapore will stuff themselves into a tacky beaded baby doll dress, slap on a pair of cha-cha heels and high tail it to the auction house where we should all expect a stiff and shady bidding process that could easily turn into a show-down/ho-down of world record-breaking proportions.
Although we can't be sure, it appears to Your Mama's boozy eyes that there may be a number of fake plants and flower arrangements throughout the residence. Rule No. #8 in Your Mama's Big Book of Decorating Dos and Dont's is emphatic that fake flowers and/or faux-greenery should be scrupulously avoided in all circumstances. No flowers, so the rule reads, are better than phony flowers. However, children, we just can't seem to stick this rule on Miz Diller because, even though we know her eccentric stage presence was a persona and not really her, it just makes perfect sense this wonderful wackadoodle would have fake flower arrangements. Yes? Are we right? They're perfect! They are!! For her!!! And that, hunties, is what real and fearless personal style—as opposed to publication-worthy perfection—is all about.
The house was built around a central courtyard that looks like it's maybe seen better landscaping days and a wide screened porch on the southwest facade overlooks broad if somewhat tired-looking lawns and gardens dotted and shaded with numerous mature specimen trees. The property does not currently have a swimming pool or tennis court. That seemed odd to Your Mama until we figured Miz Diller probably wasn't much into exercise or getting her head wet.
So then, Your Mama wants to know, what do the children think? Will Miz Diller's nearly 10,000 square foot digs be razed to make way for a substantially larger new residence with such new-fangled luxury-living necessities as, say, a fitness studio, panic room and walk-in in humidor, or will someone opt to update and upgrade the existing structure?
1. 2. 3. Go.
listing photos: Bruce Nelson & Associates