Phyllis Diller was definition of true stand-up comedienne

Aug 28, 2012 3:00 AM

Normally the site of a British “royal” rollicking around Vegas in something less than his “undies,” would get our attention.

But we’ll save Prince Harry for later. Now, sadly, we need to acknowledge the passing of a true comic icon. Phyllis Diller was the definition of the true stand-up comedienne. She was an original, a pioneer.

Diller was discovered on Groucho Marx’s game show “This Is Your Life” – a housewife who talked about her husband “Fang,” with a cigarette holder in hand and strange hair. My first encounter with her was in San Francisco when I had opened a Playboy Club in Dallas. She invited me for breakfast and gave me some pointers. I went to see her show and she saw mine.

For the next 30 years, I got a Christmas card from her every year. I saw her at the Stardust and when she made her last performance at the Suncoast. Phyllis gave a face to facelifts. Her career was a launching platform for Joan Rivers, Totie Fields, Moms Mabley and many other comediennes.

Both Phyllis and Moms wore outlandish outfits on stage, but were elegant and fashionable in real life. Phyllis went on to star in movies with Bob Hope. She was an accomplished musician, playing the piano at Tiffany’s and concert dates. Always gracious and kind, she will be missed by all of us lucky enough to know, talk and take advice from a great performer.

Henny Youngman was the King of one-liners and Phyllis Diller was the Queen. Her comic timing was priceless. Like Jack Benny, some of the funniest moments were not what was said, but what was not said. Phyllis lived to be 95 and leaves us so many wonderful memories.

To the present. Jennifer Lopez and her boy toy Casper hosted a party at the MGM pool. Enter, my Prince Harry. Oh, those “royal jewels!” What a sight! Apparently those scandalous nude snapshots of the “fresh prince” were taken while he was in Vegas and they have surfaced on TV. Harry, you rascal!

J.Lo’s concert at the Mandalay Bay Events Center with Enrique Iglesias was one spectacular, A+ performance. Also at the pool was the 28-year-old gold-medal swimmer Ryan Lochte. He partied and partied and wants to have a bathing suit line, a clothing line, a shoe enterprise, “Dancing With the Stars,” yada, yada, yada.

Ryan needs a lesson on how to be discreet. The guy talks, talks and talks and nothing he says makes any real sense. Please enjoy your 15 minutes of fame. He does look good in speedos. Enough said!!

This past weekend my partner Bruce and I went to see George Hamilton in La Cage Aux Folles and he didn’t disappoint. The audience loved him and the show. George’s co-star, Christopher Sieber, is brilliant as the drag queen. He has the same comic genius as Broadway icon Nathan Lane.

This was my first outing at Smith Center in a while. Smith Center was also host to Broadway legend Barbara Cook at the Jazz Cabaret. Barbara, who is 85, still has “the chops” and thrilled the audience with her beautiful voice and choice of songs. She was honored by the Kennedy Center last year and justly so. Most of us know her story of hard drinking and a tragic love life and now we see what a true legend and legendary performer can achieve.

Lately comedians are being criticized, unjustly in my opinion, for their choice of material. The funniest things are real, not made up. They are not always in the best of taste, but are still funny. We had Gilbert Gottfried, Ricky Gervais and now George Lopez on the carpet because of their material.

If you don’t appreciate that kind of humor, don’t hire or watch them! Comics should be aware of the venue in which they are working and adjust their material accordingly, but remember they are not malicious, just plain funny.

My entourage also saw the closing of SURF, which got better and may be looking for another venue in Vegas. Fantasy, the Anita Mann “super-hit” at the Luxor Hotel and Casino has added two sexy new dancers – Ashton, a classically trained dancer, and Chloe who recently moved from England.

Chloe just married Las Vegas performer Murray Sawchuk. As for Anita, as I’ve said before she knows how to keep her show fresh, new and sexy over a 12-year run.

Broadway in the Hood mounted an ambitious production of The Color Purple, the renowned Alice Walker creation. The 40-person cast of Valley residents featured Bubba Knight (Glady’s brother and former Pip) and gospel singer Lecresia Campbell. This production, free to the public, performed four shows at the West Las Vegas Library. We’d like to see more of this type of entertainment. It gives people who can’t readily afford show tickets a chance to see live theater.

One of the greatest imports from Paris, Crazy Horse at the MGM Grand, closes Oct. 1. As a young hairdresser in Paris, I had to go to Crazy Horse in Paris to see one of the best shows. It will be touring the United States.

David Saxe opened a new show called Burlesque at his theater at the Miracle Mile. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Bill Fayne & Friends were at Suncoast filling the air with the music of Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. The genius of this show is the simplistic yet wonderful staging.

American Idol winner Taylor Hicks has just completed a successful run at Bally’s. Hopefully he’ll be back in Vegas soon.

Sorry that Tony Scott couldn’t face an inoperable brain tumor and took a header off a bridge. Our thoughts are with his family.

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