US actress and comedian Phyllis Diller — who in the 1960s helped pave the way for female comics in Hollywood — died Monday at her Los Angeles home at age 95, her manager told AFP.
The trailblazing star — known for her distinctive laugh, disheveled hair and outlandish wardrobe — died at 9:30 am (16H30 GMT), said her lifelong manager Milton Suchin.
“Her son Perry found her … She was at home, and then she died with a smile on her face. She was a true trailblazer. Great lady.”
Entertainment news outlet TMZ reported the actress had been ill in recent months after a fall that injured her hip and wrist.
Friend and fellow comic Joan Rivers, 79, wrote on Twitter that she was “beyond saddened” by the death of Diller, an artist she said she “adored.”
“The only tragedy is that Phyllis Diller was the last from an era that insisted a woman had to look funny in order to be funny,” Rivers said.
“If she had started today, Phyllis could have stood there in Dior and Harry Winston and become the major star that she was.”
Born Phyllis Ada Driver in the northeastern state of Ohio in 1917, she began her career as a comedian at age 37.
Before that, Diller was a homemaker for her five children and husband, Sherwood Diller, who insisted that she perform a comedy show at a nightclub. Her act was so successful that she was hired for almost two years.
Later, she had her own television show, “The Phyllis Diller Show,” and a variety show called “The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show.”
In her final appearance on television, she voiced the character of Peter’s mother in the irreverent animated series “Family Guy.”
Diller also performed in more than 30 films.
[Photo credit: Allen Warren via Wikimedia.com]