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Phyllis Diller’s Island homecoming

Submitted by on 1, August 28, 2009 – 5:50 amNo Comment

Well, I learned something very interesting the other day: Trailblazing comedienne Phyllis Diller once called Alameda home.

Diller, 92 (yes, she’s still with us), was a housewife with five children and an unemployed husband when she came to Alameda, in the late 1940s (she has long since moved on to the tony Brentwood section of Los Angeles). Here’s what she said to Oakland Tribune scribe Chad Jones about her adopted town, in 2005:

“Alameda was a lovely place to live,” she says. “It was a little town then, and I remember our house in the Fernside district: a split-level California stucco with rhododendron bushes that just bloomed and bloomed.”

Unfortunately, she said, they were broke. So Diller took on a series of newspaper and ad writing jobs that helped her discover her comic potential before venturing out into the entertainment business. She made her debut in 1955 at the famed Purple Onion club in San Francisco and went on to appear on Jack Paar’s late-night variety show, and then to work with Bob Hope. And you all know the rest.

So why am I telling you this now? Because our very own Alameda Museum just opened a Phyllis Diller exhibit – one of three in the country (the other two are in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and in her hometown of Lima, Ohio). Included in our local exhibit are Diller’s antique pump organ, clothes and other memorabilia (not sure if we got one of her famous wigs).

If you’re interested in checking it out, the museum is at 2324 Alameda Avenue. Hours are from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

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