Phyllis Diller, one of the most influential women in stand-up comedy, passed away on August 20 at the age of 95. As her fans reflect on her long history of one-liners and wide array of looks, we at Goodwill reflect on her dedication to the movement, revealed through historical and contemporary sources.
Great Bargains for a Great Comedian
Diller, like most people, first became involved with Goodwill through shopping in our stores. When Diller first moved into her home in Webster Groves, MO, she had only two days to furnish it before heading off to perform in New York.
“You know what I did? I went straight down to Goodwill and bought everything I could. It was the smartest thing I ever did,” she was quoted as saying in a St. Louis Magazine feature.
“They were just breaking up the old rich, rich, rich castle-like homes on the park. The new young people didn’t want that beautiful old furniture. I wanted it. To this day, my favorite room, my loggia, here in my 22-room house [in Brentwood, CA] has that furniture from Goodwill in St. Louis. Isn’t that wonderful?” she concluded.
Diller’s Service to Goodwill
In July 1969, Diller was appointed as an honorary member of the newly created National Advisory Board for Goodwill, along with other celebrity notables like Joan Crawford, Art Linkletter and Abigail (“Dear Abby”) Van Buren. She was noted for being interested in Goodwill’s projects of helping people with disabilities become self-supporting members of their communities.
Diller, a native of Lima, OH, frequently visited area Goodwills when she returned home.She also generously appeared at various events and fundraisers supporting Goodwill’s mission throughout the years.
Diller was the featured entertainer at a Gulfstream Goodwill Industries charity dinner-dance in January 1972, hosting a 45-minute “laugh in.” A Palm Beach Daily Newsarticle from that month quoted her as saying, “I want [Goodwill] to be a success. The newer plants being built such as in Sacramento, CA, and Cleveland, OH, are fabulous.”
In 1998, Diller played host at Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio’s 65th birthday party and fundraiser. Dan Lynch, a journalist assigned to cover her appearance, recently reflected on his memory of that night in a Times Union blog.
“She routinely broke up everybody at the table, me included, without even trying very hard,” Lynch recollects. “She told me she was a big supporter of Goodwill Industries and made a point of showing up whenever they asked her to appear to help them raise money.”
“I’m very happy to be here,” Diller said to event attendees, quipping, “I love Goodwill. That’s where I bought this ratty fur.”