Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Iconoclast Comedienne Phyllis Diller's Digs

SELLER: Estate of Phyllis Diller
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $12,900,000
SIZE: 9,266 square feet, 8 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Your Mama knows we're a little late to this particular celebrity real estate rodeo but we figure better late than never in the case of the long-time Los Angeles, CA residence of outlandish and recently deceased comedienne Phyllis Diller that was recently pushed on the open market with a star-style $12,900,000 asking price.

In what may or may not be a coinky-dink, Miz Diller—may she rest in peace—was born and bred in Lima, OH, the same small Midwestern town where that motley group of teenagers on the super-gay hit tee-vee program Glee sing and dance their way through the trials, tribulations and humiliations of puberty, young love and high school. A classically trained musician from her youth—she could tickle and tinkle the ivories with the best of Tinseltown entertainers of her era like, say, Liberace—Miz Diller didn't pursue music as a career, but rather became an advertising copywriter and mother of five.

Sometime in the early-1950s, at a time when polite society considered it ludicrous and downright undignified for a lady to do stand up comedy, a nearly-forty year old Miz Diller did just that; She put on a fright wig and a pair of mid-heel ankle boots and bravely took a totally bizarre but inspired twist into the male-dominated, dog-eat-dog Showbiz arena of stand up comedy. Somehow, in that glowering, buttoned-up climate, she killed it with her punishing parody and and brutal self-deprecation.

She honed her wickedly sardonic, high-camp housewife schtick and distinct, open-mouthed guffaw throughout the 1950s and '60s with regular appearances in comedy clubs and on television programs such as What's My Line and Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Her professional salad days came—some might argue— in the late 60s and 1970s when she cut a broad and lacerating swath through one of Comedyland's to-date frothiest heydays of game-changing, cutting-edge comedy.

The iconoclast joker never really laid down her microphone and performed—nay, chewed up the damn stage—well into her eighth decade with her vicious, typically dead pan delivery. She was and will always be one of the greats, a zany but whip smart insult comedy trailblazer and Tinseltown tour de force who paved the way for a slew of funny, sharp-tongued women who include (but are hardly limited to) Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, Kathy Griffin, Chelsea Handler, (newly slenderized) Lisa Lampanelli and Whitney Cummings.

For the younger children who may not be familiar with the comedic stylings of Miz Diller, we offer a few examples of her doing her thing:

Here she pretends to smoke—she never actually smoked— while she verbally slices and dices her faux-husband, Fang, on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969.

Here she is in 1977, as she tears into Fang's profoundly fat—and hopefully mostly fictitious—mother in a five-plus minute barrage of scathing and scathingly hilarious bon mots.

Here she is in 1978, briefly and brilliantly roasting Joan Collins in a pink fright wig, and here she roasts Ronald Reagan in what appears to Your Mama to be the early 1980s.

And finally, here she is, in her late 80s, serving it with razor blade sharpness in a short, but searing dress down of herself in regards to her own advanced age and advancing decrepitude.

Good stuff, kittens, good stuff for sure, but, anyhoo, let's get back to the real estate matter at hand, shall we?

Current listing information states the 9,266 square foot residence sits on 1.23 gated acres with 8 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms and was originally built in 1914 for steel magnate/U.S. Senator Lawrence C. Phipps from Colorado for use as a vacation home. A 2002, Ruth Ryon-written profile in the Los Angeles Times reveals Miz Diller acquired the roomy and faintly gloomy, English Country-style manor house in the fall of 1965 and, over the nearly 50 years she occupied the premises, named many of the mansion's 22 rooms.

The ample, vaulted and beamed main living room—dubbed The Bob Hope Salon after her mentor who gave her a large oil portrait of himself that stands on an easel next to a picture frame-laden concert grand piano—has wood floors, a fireplace, and a Gothic, paneled seating nook lined with leaded- and stained-glass windows. There's a second fireplace and some pretty awful swagged gold braid drapery in The Sarah Siddons Room—that would be the formal dining room—and a third fireplace in the wood-paneled and vaulted salon Miz Diller called The Bach Room and used as an memento-filled office. The tile-floored and red-walled room shown in listing photos is presumed by Your Mama to be the loggia mentioned in Miz Ryon's 2002 article in the L.A. Times as a passageway between the front door and the bar.

A room with a pump organ became, of course, The Pump Room; a mirrored telephone closet was designated the John Wilkes Booth—after Lincoln's assassin, natch; and a powder room was christened The Edith Head, after legendary costume designer Edith Head.

Listing information describes the (clearly dated) kitchen with its red brick wall(s) and black and white tile flooring as a "Classic stainless still [sic]," but it was dubbed by Miz Diller as The Scarlet Scullery for its blood red cabinetry. Last week Miz Diller's son, Perry Diller, told the L.A. Times the kitchen was  the "center of their family life" and that Miz Diller was a capable cook who would whip up culinary concoctions she gleefully saddled with unappetizing names like "garbage soup" and "heart burn salad."

We're not sure what nickname Miz Diller gave to her own bedroom—one can only imagine—but some of the guest bedrooms that open off the picture-lined upstairs gallery were, according to Miz Ryon's 2002 article, denominated The Canary Suite for its yellow day-core, The Giuseepe Verdi Suite for its green day-core—verdi means green to the Italians—and The Lincoln Bedroom was once furnished with Lincoln-era things and later used by Miz Diller as an office.

A couple of rooms were given over to Miz Diller's vast collection of beaded and bedazzled costumes and famously extensive (fright) wig collection.

The partly campy, partly Old-School correct and partly perplexing day-core and contents of the house will be auctioned, according to Miz Diller's son, Perry, in an article in The L.A. Times. We don't know if the wigs will go up for grabs but lawhrd have mercy on the auctioneer if they do because Your Mama imagines every drag queen and wig-wearing wacko from Sydney to Singapore will stuff themselves into a tacky beaded baby doll dress, slap on a pair of cha-cha heels and high tail it to the auction house where we should all expect a stiff and shady bidding process that could easily turn into a show-down/ho-down of world record-breaking proportions.

Although we can't be sure, it appears to Your Mama's boozy eyes that there may be a number of fake plants and flower arrangements throughout the residence. Rule No. #8 in Your Mama's Big Book of Decorating Dos and Dont's is emphatic that fake flowers and/or faux-greenery should be scrupulously avoided in all circumstances. No flowers, so the rule reads, are better than phony flowers. However, children, we just can't seem to stick this rule on Miz Diller because, even though we know her eccentric stage presence was a persona and not really her, it just makes perfect sense this wonderful wackadoodle would have fake flower arrangements. Yes? Are we right? They're perfect! They are!! For her!!! And that, hunties, is what real and fearless personal style—as opposed to publication-worthy perfection—is all about.

The house was built around a central courtyard that looks like it's maybe seen better landscaping days and a wide screened porch on the southwest facade overlooks broad if somewhat tired-looking lawns and gardens dotted and shaded with numerous mature specimen trees. The property does not currently have a swimming pool or tennis court. That seemed odd to Your Mama until we figured Miz Diller probably wasn't much into exercise or getting her head wet.

So then, Your Mama wants to know, what do the children think? Will Miz Diller's nearly 10,000 square foot digs be razed to make way for a substantially larger new residence with such new-fangled luxury-living necessities as, say, a fitness studio, panic room and walk-in in humidor, or will someone opt to update and upgrade the existing structure?

1. 2. 3. Go.

listing photos: Bruce Nelson & Associates


Anonymous said...

Mama, wih all due repect, your rules should go out the window with someone as iconic as Ms. Diller.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Mama..I was did not pay attention. You did waive your rule. Her wig collection alone is worth the asking price.

Anonymous said...

This is a great area, and a nice big lot size. House is not particularly attractive, but I hope it will not be razed, if only because I'm sure anything that goes up in its place would likely be some hideous monstrosity.

With a little updating (OK, a LOT of updating) this could be a fantastic place.

Grrrowler said...

Were it up to me, I'd say to keep the place and update it. Then again, I'm a sucker for history, especially if it relates to someone as fabulous as Mizz Diller.

Anonymous said...

As for the "dated" kitchen, it was featured in a TV segment with Rosanne Barr wherein Ms. Diller made lunch. I thought it was a pretty cool kitchen with its fifties built-in applicances and deep, rich, red hues. The scale of the house is much more civilized and livable than the over-the-top mansions the upper 1% are building these days. Sadly, I think this house's days are numbered.

Anonymous said...

I've always loved her house, especially the red kitchen.

Billy said...

Can the neighborhood demand 10 mil an acre lot value?

But I wouldn't change much.

Anonymous said...

Burn it to the ground!

Candy Spelling said...

I say it ends up selling for under $10 mill and gets torn down. Pity, it's rather an interesting house. Love how it rambles around with all the different wings.

Anonymous said...

12.9 for's not cute at all.

StPaulSnowman said...

Kudos for what I read as a tribute to a great lady. I loved that when asked about housework she said that on Wednesdays.......she always raked the living room.

Anonymous said...

No pool?

Petra's said...

The price seems quite steep given that this is obviously either a teardown or a fixer.

The Swan said...

I see a restoration ala HOWARDS END, you know Merchant Ivory productions...keep A GOOD THOUGHT!

Rosco Mare said...

Mama dearest, you will love this: her favorite adult beverage was Beefeater gin and tonic!

I know because I once went to one of her Christmas parties here. I love her humor, and I cherish the memory of that night. When I called to accept the invitation, her assistant said, "Bring Your camera. Miss Diller likes taking pictures with her guests." That's how cool she was!

Party guests were allowed to go upstairs to see the costume storage room. The famous cigarettes are actually wood! (Her bedroom was on the first floor.)

The house is better than in the photos. Many nice finishing details. It's situated sideways on the lot. This section of Brentwood does not have as much demolition as Beverly Hills and Bel-Air, so fingers crossed some schmo won't level it. If I had $12.9, I'd buy it today.

I'll close with a Filler quote: "You won't find me listed in 'Who's Who.' You'll find me in 'What's That?'"

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the extra effort for Phyllis and her house. I ADORED her since I was a kid beginning to watch tv in the '60s. The house is built in four wings that form a square with a courtyard in the middle as indicated. It's an A+ address/location, but a hard to live in floor plan, so sadly I'd re-build a more daily living friendly house. I once had the chance to attend one of her art exhibitions/sales at the house a few years back. She was real, classy, sophisticated, smart, and oozing with talents. She kept that home real - the felt-backed vinyl tablecloth in the kitchen, her 1970's Club Aluminum dutch oven for boiling water/making spaghetti, etc... She used to appear on Dinah Shore's talk show live from that red kitchen with some latest recipe! P.S. she bought the house from an at-the-time Disney executive. She was a human gem! RIP, PD!!!!

Wallace Ridge

Anonymous said...

oh lordy plastic flowers be gone! house be gone too! Landry can design one of his piles that would outshine this heap at the least!

Anonymous said...

Mama, there are a couple of DVDs out on her life and her shows (i believe one is called "not just a pretty face" another "Good Night, We Love You" in this the camera shows many scenes in and around the home - really is a place she lived in and filled with memories, not one of those over decorated Beverly Hills show palaces. Thanks for posting and for the links - great memories of a great lady

bentley said...

A class act. And so tiny for such a huge personality!
The house is gloomy, but it is incredible. I think with the right architect, a huge pool dropped in that huge lawn, some terraces and landscaping, this place could be amazing.
I would add skylights and dormer windows to punctuate and add light to those endless expanses of roof on the second floor wings. I'm all for vintage kitchens but this one would have to go. I would keep some vestige of hers though, in homage.
As for the decor, it looks just like what a famous 95 year old's house should look like. Although I am suspicious of the garbage pail right beside the dining room chair at the head of the table in the listing photos. I can't imagine. She never smoked? I can't believe it. I always thought she'd be fun to sit with, smoke cigarettes, drink bourbon, and tell lewd stories all night long. Pity.

Mrs.D said...

I love this especially how she has named the rooms and the wig room - it's a cute house I hope someone buys this who respects it's provenance

Anonymous said...

Like the house a lot except for the ceilings and rafters. I'd hate to see it torn down.

l'il gay boy said...

Not a showcase, but a real home -- the authentic, definitive article, just like its owner was.

Hope it survives the wrecking ball as it seems to have been livable enough for her for almost half a century; if not, it will be as sorely missed as her.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Diller is exactly what is missing in the comedy arena today. She made fun of herself and not others (other than ficticious Fang etc..). She had an edge, but was not disgusting or vulgar (like another aged comedienne with initials JR). I was fortunate to see her performance at a fundraiser located at a private home in AZ, in the early 90s I believe. She was under a big top tent in the back yard, and she did not dissapoint. RIP you beautiful woman.

Turbo said...

I'm familiar with Miss Diller, but a bit too young to have any tangible memories of her. At any rate, what a dynamic home with true character. Hopefully someone with a wonderful vision (and architect) will purchase it, then renovate it properly in order to give it a whole new life.

Anonymous said...

Oh Mama... you've been late to the real estate rodeo for the past 2 years.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Phyllis Diller was a caring and multidimensional individual with many facets that shined most brilliantly in her private life. Ms. Diller loved her family, friends, audiences, and animals. She could cook, paint, play classical piano, and would immediately make guests feel at home in her comfortable home. And Ms. Diller courageously jumped into a male-only comedy network, wrote her own material, and competed with and conquered the boys without employing profanity.

Along with St. Paul Snowman, the Rabbi thanks Mama for a loving tribute to a great lady. And along with Growler, Bentley, and Little Gay Boy, the Rabbi feels that the former Diller home was truly authentic, and believes that the house is incredible and could once again become amazing. The Rabbi is speculating that Anonymous 6:35 a.m. slipped in the Landry comment simply to escalate her blood pressure and, believing in the goodness of humanity, predicts that the Diller home will be saved.

Rabbi Hedda LaTess
Lawrenceville NJ

Rosco Mare said...

Mazel tov, Rabbi Hedda!

-Rosco Mare

Anonymous said...

The house is as you would picture. Comfortable for her and the times. She was funny without vulgarity or putting other people down, obviously a classy person. It was another time and better in so many ways. RIP PD

Anonymous said...

another Great post Mama. and i enjoyed reading the posts of those who got to visit P-D in this house.
definitely Keep it and update it. it reminds me not so much of 'english architecutre but French Normandy and would be great to turn the inner courtyard and interior design a bit more french normandy and with a dash of provencal in places.
weird but i dreamt of my grandmother's old house after reading this post the other day :)

Erica Seven said...

Hello.....!Mama I would not walk on that rug barefoot...nor sit on the sofa without protection. This is SO predictable, boring, pathetic. May we go back to Diller now?

Anonymous said...

The original Senator Phipps estate was larger, and subdivided c. 1950s-early 60s. Its fine guest house is now in the rear garden of a mid-century modern residence 2 lots north.

Its on the mesa edge, with views (beyond that lawn) looking down Santa Monica Canyon to the yonder ocean. Would like it saved for its gracious siting in the landscape and its 1920s era architecture.

Thanks Mama for the wonderful tribute to Ms. Diller, and her real home.

Anonymous said...


I find it to be a very "homey" house....anyone in southern Cal can have the cookie cutter "Hotel Room Look"......this isn't at all boring. It is a very welcoming home.

New construction So-Cal houses/McMansions are so BORING!


Phillip Oliver said...

I'm just curious to know if the house sold and what happened to it? Diller's treasures are being auctioned by Julien's in late September.

Kemberly Loyd said...

Haven’t found anything since the auction ended last September, but I guess the property is still up for sale. If someone was a big fan of Miz Diller and has money to spare, I don’t see why it wouldn’t sell for that much. But it does need a lot of renovations if the new owner wants to add his personal touch to the place.