Phyllis Diller's success as a trail-blazing female stand-up comic offers lessons in resolve and ingenuity.
Ms. Diller's classmates at the former Central High School in Lima voted her the most talented student in the Class of 1935. She met her first husband at Bluffton College, and returned there in 1993 to deliver its commencement speech.
She found the odds stacked against her when she entered the male-dominated entertainment industry in the mid-1950s. Yet as a housewife approaching her 40s, she achieved success with her trademark cackle, frazzled hair, outlandish clothing, and self-deprecating humor. She starred on Broadway, made movies, and appeared in several TV series.
Beneath the brass, though, was a cultural side: She painted and wrote books. Ms. Diller once had aspirations of becoming a music teacher. She was a piano soloist with some 100 symphony orchestras from 1971 to 1981, under the pseudonym Dame Illya Dillya.
But her first love was stand-up comedy. Her last tour through the Toledo area, 10 years ago, included performances in Monroe and Tiffin.
Ms. Diller, who died this week at age 95, will be remembered for emerging from northwest Ohio to break through on the big-time comedy scene in the golden age of television.