By Rick Hamlin
My Big Phyllis Diller Question
Phyllis Diller ruined my life.
OK, maybe she didn’t actually ruin it, but if I had known a little bit more about her, if I’d remembered a few key incidents and names in her life, I might be a richer man. Or at least I would have gotten more than a dining room suite.
I was 23 years old, a recent graduate from college, and I got chosen to be a contestant on the TV game show Tic-Tac-Dough (remember that?). I can’t recall all the hoops I had to jump through, but when I was on the air, I breezed through the first few questions. One of them I answered so fast that Wink Martindale didn’t even have time to finish reading the card. “Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr,” I burst out to resounding applause (the question must have been something about a duel).
Then came the big challenger, the win-it-all big-money moment: “What is the name of Phyllis Diller’s husband?”
The clock ticked. My mind went blank. The TV audience looked at me like I was a moron. “Throckmorton?” I said hesitantly.
“Throckmorton?” Wink Martindale said incredulously. Everybody laughed and I was done. To remember Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton and be stumped by the name of Phyllis Diller’s husband, I thought with shame. What’s a 23-year-old going to do with a dining room suite?
A few years later I came to Guideposts and discovered that Phyllis Diller had some redeeming features. She wrote a sweet prayer that she contributed to the magazine and she herself was a huge proponent of positive thinking, transforming herself from a self-defeated $50-a-week copywriter to a dynamic world-famous entertainer. “To me, belief in yourself and belief in God are the same,” she said in an interview. “‘God is love’—I’ll buy that. Everybody’s life should be a prayer.”
Her life was a prayer with a lot of laughs. Nice to think how a laugh can be part of prayer.
And just for the record: She called her husband Fang. But then you knew that all along.