Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Episode 7 Guests Diahann Carroll and Phyllis Diller

It’s football season and Episode 7 begins with the Julie Andrews team of thirteen players. Rich Little, playing sportscaster Howard Cossell, makes an announcement, introducing No. 16, Diahann Carroll, No. 21, Julie Andrews and No. 31, Phyllis Diller. Phyllis doesn’t do much that isn’t funny. At the closing of the first scene, she ends up onstage alone, hanging from the ceiling in a harness.

This is a diverse show, and guest stars Diahann Carroll and Phyllis Diller were women who broke barriers, each in their own way.


Diahann Carroll has always been known for her beauty and elegance. Her career took off during the Civil Rights movement. As a person of color, with great dignity and talent, Ms. Carroll broke stereotypes about her race.
She was born July 17, 1935 in the Bronx, New York and grew up in Harlem.  Although she intended to major in sociology, after winning the top prize on the television show, Chance of a Lifetime, her life took a new path. Why Was I Born? was her winning song, followed by four weeks of wins. As a result of her success in the television contests, she received engagements at Manhattan’s Café Society and The Latin Quarter.

Diahann Carroll made her film debut with Carmen Jones in 1954. Following the film, she won a Broadway role in House of Flowers, and in 1959, appeared in the film version of Porgy and Bess as Clara. Around this same time, she made a guest appearance on Blake Edwards’ television series, Peter Gunn. She was the first African-American women to win a Tony Award, when in 1962, she won best actress in a musical for her portrayal of Barbara Woodward in the Samuel A. Taylor and Richard Rodgers musical, No Strings.

Diahann Carroll was also the first African-American woman to have her own television series, Julia. The show was on the air in 1968. During this period, Ms. Carroll kept busy with appearances on all of the major talk shows, as well as an appearance on The Judy Garland Show. Today, Diahann Carroll performs in concert and on USA’s series, “White Collar.” 

Phyllis Diller was born Phyllis Ada Driver in Lima, Ohio on July 17th, 1917. During her early adult life, she was a wife, mother and advertising copyrighter. She also studied piano many years, but by the 1950s decided to pursue a career as a comedienne. In 1955, she appeared as a stand-up comic for the first time. Her appearance at The Purple Onion lasted 87 weeks!  From there, her fame and act grew. Bob Hope invited Phyllis to appear with him on a special. Over the years, she appeared in twenty-three Bob Hope specials, and co-starred with him in three films.

At a time when most women were trying to look beautiful, women related to Phyllis with her combination of glamour and reality. Sometimes she appeared wearing finery and jewels along with curlers or messy hair. When she spoke  irreverently of her husband, “Fang,” she sent audiences into gales of laughter. People could not get enough of her.

In 1969, Phyllis Diller appeared in the musical Hello Dolly!--a show which almost every major female star of the time appeared in.  It should also be noted that between 1971 and 1981, Diller appeared playing piano with over 100 symphony orchestras. Of course, her performances were punctuated with humor.

When I began working on this book/blog, I hoped I might be able to get a comment from Phyllis Diller about her appearance on The Julie Andrews Hour. After a long and fruitful career, she passed away on August 20, 2012. She gave the world a lot of wonderful laughs.


After the opening sequence, all three ladies talk about men and dancing. They agree that the envy of everyone at the dances they attended when young was the girl singer. The scene shifts to memories of the Big Band era. Nelson Riddle’s band is onstage and Julie, Diahann and Phyllis appear, dressed in pale turquoise, ruffles of chiffon.

Diahann Carroll seems to take the lead with many solos during this segment and it’s not to be regretted. She sings “Sunday Kind of Love” with great beauty, and Peggy Lee’s “Why Don’t You Do Right” with just the right touch. Phyllis Diller gets her turn as a band singer, singing “Murder, He Says” and “A Tisket-a-Taket,” the former being her best number. Julie sings “Sentimental Journey” and “Willow Weep for Me.” In-between these solos, the three ladies make a trio and sing some of the best remembered hits, like Bei Mir Bist Due Schoen” and “Dream.” Then, with a bit of technology, the camera suddenly pulls back and we see the three ladies walk onto the stage in their street clothes, while behind them, we see the girls still performing in their gowns.

Since Phyllis Diller is not really a singer, we get the treat of seeing her perform with Rich Little. Although one thinks of Little as solely an impersonator, he is a fine actor, acting, of course, as whatever star he chooses to play. In one scene, he plays Cary Grant, opposite Phyllis as Bette Davis.  

The most enjoyable and lengthy scene between the pair --possibly the high point of the show—is one in which Rich Little plays Jack Benny and Phyllis  plays his long time girlfriend. They have met in a restaurant because they’ve decided to break up and now they are going to settle up. Benny, known for his stinginess, insists that Phyllis return every gift he ever gave her, even if it means removing her dress. Not to be outdone, Phyllis demands the same of him. Little and Diller are at the top of their game in this sketch and it’s a pleasure to watch them.

During this series of sketches, Julie Andrews performs a fine scene as Mata Hari, the famed spy, who has been caught and is about to be shot. Rich Little plays the officer who is in charge of her. Her cool demeanor and style in this scene are excellent.

Perhaps the one flaw of this show, besides the rather odd combination of personalities, is the fact that the creators attempt to pack so much into one show.

Follow Your Sign pays tribute to  persons born under the sign of Taurus. They include Liberace, Orson Welles, Henry Fonda, Shakespeare and Burt Bacharach, which gives the ladies a chance to sing some fine songs: “What the World Needs Now” and “This Girl’s In Love with You.” In a surprise ending, Phyllis, Julie and Diahann pay tribute to Barbra Streisand with a rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

Along with the sketches of Rich Little and Phyllis Diller, another fine segment is the one where Julie Andrews and Diahann Carroll pay tribute to women songwriters. These include Dorothy Fields, Carolyn Lee, Betty Comden and Joni Mitchell.

Once again, all too soon, this show, which aired October 25th, 1972, is over. At the conclusion of Episode 7, the television announcer lets us know that there will be complete Election Coverage next week. Yes, forty years ago was an election year as well!

Coming next: In-Between – What happened between my first visit to Stage E and being allowed to attend a closed set taping. That will be in two parts.
See you soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment