The thought of the auction of Phyllis’s things made me nostalgic. I came across this picture of the Dustbiters at the first reunion — the first time Phyllis invited us all to her house for a party. I noticed the picture on the wall behind us — it’s in the auction catalog.
However, the picture that intrigues me is of us all gathered in the dining room with Phyllis. That was the day I met Corrine The Perfect (standing directly behind Phyllis) and the two other secretaries I didn’t know, Heidi Rotbart and Carole Beams to Corrine’s right. My long time friend/roommate, Ingrid Chapman is to Corrine’s left along with Sandy Beach (yeah, yeah, I know), and Carol Eschler. In the back is Mercer Helms, the magician who was Phyllis’s opening act for the last 20 years of her stage career. And then in front is me to Phyllis’s right and Karen China with the dog.
Karen dog-sat several yorkies who belonged to the wife of a famous Hollywood composer. Karen had brought this little guy (whose name I now forget) in his own stroller which she used to take him and his brothers for outings.
Mercer was Sandy’s discovery. Sandy had a nose for talent and when Phyllis played The Vapors Club in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Sandy had gone into the lounge and watched the other talent one night — a singer and a magician. Sandy loved the singer and cajoled Phyllis into stopping by to hear him. Phyllis was enchanted by the magician and soon after Mercer became her permanent opening act. Whenever I saw Mercer’s act, I was always delighted. He had a way of raising his eyebrows along with a mischievous smile that let the audience know he was having a good time, inviting them to join him in the fun. And the singer? Who knows?
Note on the table the box of Kleenex next to Phyllis. Even after all these years and several operations, her nose still dripped. (Just goes to show you, doesn’t it, that the rich and famous aren’t all that different from you and me!) She always had a box of Kleenex at hand. When I’d traveled with her, Karen made sure that she had a supply in her purse.
I found this picture a few days ago. Ingrid, I’m sure, was the one who sent it to all the Dustbiters probably right after that party. Ingrid, who now has her own publicity firm, always takes pictures of everything. I never thought it important, but now all these years later, I wish I had a picture of those days when I worked for Phyllis, just her and me.
I carried this picture in my purse for a long time — I’m surprised it copied so well. And as for the painting on the wall behind us? I’m happy for that to go to the highest bidder. I’ll cherish the snapshot of us, and the memories that go with it.
Shameless plug: To find out more about Phyllis Diller and my adventures with her, check out my book: Beyond the Spotlight: On the Road with Phyllis Diller, which is available at: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Spotlight-Road-Phyllis-Diller/dp/0985972882