After 57 years of making the world laugh, trailblazing comedienne, actress and artist Phyllis Diller finally gets her due. The Northwest Ohio Independent Film Festival, based out of Diller's birthplace of Lima, Ohio will present its first ever Lifetime Achievement Award at the comedienne's Los Angeles home in June, two weeks before its Opening Night Gala. The 2012 Festival will take place July 6-8, 2012 primarily at the Veteran's Memorial Civic and Convention Center. Diller attended Lima's Central High School, before attending Sherwood Music Conservatory in Chicago and Bluffton College in Bluffton, Ohio, where she met fellow "Lima-ite" and classmate Hugh Downs.
The 94-year-old Diller, best known for her quick one-liners, cigarette holder, and unmistakable laugh started out during the Eisenhower years, when mainstream female comics were few and far between. After an infamous stint as a contestant on Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life, the then 37-year-old housewife worked her first set at San Francisco's Purple Onion on March 7, 1955 - and remained there for 87 straight weeks. Superstar Bob Hope caught her act and became Hope's unofficial protégée, adopting his rapid-fire delivery for her own comedy. Coupled with Diller's common theme of the angry and frustrated housewife in her act, her fame rose to unprecedented heights and broke down many barriers for female comedians. She travelled with Bob Hope during the height of the Vietnam War to the region to perform with him in 1966 with his USO troupe. Her barrage of one-liners about the frustrations of being female in a domestically demanding culture was identified through her "husband", Fang - the catchall name for the men who had disappointed Diller and for underachieving husbands everywhere.
Comic icons like Joan Rivers explained how radical Diller actually was: "She was the first one that there was such rage and such anger in her comedy. She had the anger that is now in all of us. And that's what made it so funny, because she spoke for all these women that were sitting home with five children and a husband that didn't work."
Diller appeared regularly in the 1960s as a special guest on many television programs including What's My Line? and Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Diller has several film credits to her name, including a cameo appearance as Texas Guinan, the wisecracking nightclub hostess in the 1961 film Splendor in the Grass and provided the vocals for the Queen in Disney/Pixar's animated movie A Bug's Life. Diller also starred in two short-lived TV series: the half-hour sitcom The Pruitts of Southampton (later retitled The Phyllis Diller Show) on ABC from 1966–1967, and the variety show The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show on NBC in 1968. She also guest starred alongside William Shatner in an episode of Boston Legal and provided the voice work as Peter Griffin's mother, Thelma on Fox's hit show, Family Guy. Her most recent television appearance was a January, 2011 episode of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 as part of a panel of comedians.
"Phyllis Diller is from Lima, and it would be a major oversight and insult to her efforts if we did not do our best to recognize her achievements," says Festival Executive Director, Len Archibald. "Not only as a comedian, but as an artist who defied expectations regarding the perception of what women were capable of."
Archibald will make the trip to Diller's home to shoot a video presentation of Diller's acceptance of the Lifetime Achievement Award to be screened in its entirety during the Festival's Awards Gala at City Club on July 8. He promises Diller's involvement in the Festival's second year will be the first of several celebrities who will help attract international attention to the event, which debuted in Van Wert during the summer of 2011. "We are tremendously honored and excited that Ms. Diller has accepted our award. I hope this will open the eyes of the community so everyone understands just how many artists hail from Northwest Ohio. This will also serve as an example for future artists that you can be from anywhere in the world and still make your mark."
What: The Northwest Ohio Independent Film Festival
Where: Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center / 7 Town Square/ Lima, Ohio / 45801
When: Friday, July 6 to Sunday, July 8, 2012.
Tickets and passes are on sale now through the Civic Center Box Office and the Festival's website, www.nwoff.org. Single-event tickets start at $5 with specified events free to high school students. For more information, please visit www.nwoff.org or contact Executive Director Len Archibald by calling 419-979-9692.
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