It’s a busy night, so I’m going to buy you off with some comics and screen grabs. Disturbing screen grabs. Last weekend I got from Netflix a disc from the “Playboy After Hours” collection – it was a early bit of network swank that let you, the late night guy, join Hef in his Chicago penthouse – where the cocktail party was already in full swing! He’d introduce some jazz, some blues, a comedian. It was a variety show without a jot of skin, let alone a tittle. It’s all articles, in other words. But it reinforced the image of the Playboy Man: a fellow who could appreciate the finer things of adulthood. A jug of wine and thou had been replaced by a pipe, a snifter, an Eames chair, a Norman Mailer story, and yourself instead of thou, and also jugs. The disc I watched was from the early incarnation of the show, "Playboy's Penthouse," which had the same killer Cy Coleman theme.
When you see early Hef you realize that Crispin Glover has to play him in the biography.
He’s built like a bag of yardsticks with a big dorky grin. It’s surprising to see that the man who made the skin mag legit by giving it a logo (something he probably lifted from Esquire, which had Esky, the roué brother of the Monopoly millionaire) was such a nerd, in a way. On the other hand - this is about 1959, I think, and the easy race-mixing of the show must have seemed startling to some, refreshing to many, and horrifying to others. This isn't Ed Sullivan waving vaguely in the direction of a space that will be occupied by a Negro in a few minutes; it's the American idea of integration, based on the pursuit of happiness. Libertines come in handy, now and then.
The acts are okay – as I’ve said before to the chagrin of millions, I’m not crazy about Ella Fitzgerald; what sounds artless and natural to some sounds cavalier and unstudied to me, but what do I know about jazz singing? Less than nothing. The comedians aren’t very funny, and the show puts them in peculiar situations – one fellow has to do his routine while talking to Hef and two women, as if he’s just spinning tales at a cocktail party, and the forced frozen grins are painful. But not a tenth as painful as the comedienne who takes the small elevated “balcony” stage: Phyllis Diller.
You can tell she’s used to working for inebriates, because she keeps pausing and waiting for the laughter to subside, even though no actual laughter of sustainable quantity has arisen. Between jokes – most of which are lame japes about airline travel, the comic’s equivalent of the break-glass-pull-handle emergency alarm, she mugs. This probably worked when she was on stage before a large audience, working in broad strokes. With the camera 12 feet away, the effect is different. She looks absolutely insane.
Here we go: a Gallery of Diller.
You may resemble a startling resemblance to Derk Jacobi of "I, Claudius" in many of these pictures.
She wears a big ring and holds an unlit cigarette through the entire performance. She punctuates every joke with a ghastly laugh whose insincerity is magnified by the thin reaction of the small crowd. But she's a pro; she sails into the storm with unshakable confidence. She laughs harder at her jokes than anyone else. In a large audience it might work. Here it makes her seem like someone has implanted an electrical prod in her urethra.
She had a stroke about four minutes into the act:
She recovered. Women seeing their children sawed in half by Decepticons have had less emotional responses:
Seconds later: A man has dropped his pants, and it is apparent he has packed his privates in a particularly redolent cheese.
She laughed, she cried:
Zombie Diller Wants Braaaaains:
On second thought, no - that shellfish is starting to act up:
But she recovers, and strikes the Opera Pose.
For a finale, it's the Toothless Crone of Vengeance:
Make that Zombie Diller Vengeance Crone:
I've seen that face before, in profile, on Roman coins.
Say there: I shelled out a few bucks to upgrade my box.net account so I can accomodate larger files, he said, glancing down at the contribution box. Might as well upload an ancient Phyllis Diller comedy album - well, one side, anyway. Funny? Not as far as I can tell, but it's an interesting historical record (cough). Everyone's hammered. My God, that laugh. Not the braying one. The other one. The huyuyyuyuyuyuy that goes up the nose. Note the occasional Pee Wee Herman bark, though. I don't mean to single her out - so many of the comics of the time strike the modern ear as laborious hacks, and she did occupy a unique spot in the culture for a while. Saucy, but clean; blue in tint, but safe. She also had a ton of work done in her fifties, and according to wikipedia, she ended up looking much better in the last half-century of her life than the first. The same source says she fractured her back last week, and had to cancel a Tonight Show appearance to celebrate her birthday. Her 90th birthday. I don't watch the Tonight Show. But I'd have tuned in for that. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Here's this week's comic. Off to buzz.mn - see you there!