Aug 22, 2012

Phyllis Diller and Gay Childhood

Phyllis Diller, who has just died at the age of 95, was a fixture of the 1960s.  Her fright wigs, bizarre makeup, cigarette in a long holder, and raspy "ah-ha-ha" laugh appeared everywhere.

Her two 1960s tv series were flops; no one could stand her schtick for more than a few moments at a time.

But those few moments were priceless.

So she guest-starred on Laugh-In; she appeared in commercials; she did the voice of the Monster's Bride in  Mad Monster Party.

In her act, she pretended to be a "normal" suburban housewife.  Then she turned normalcy on its head. She hated cooking and housework. She was not attracted to her husband, a milquetoast humorously named Fang. He was not attracted to her.

That in itself was enough to make her a role model for gay kids.  She demonstrated that it was ok to be different, to reject the "normal" future of husbands, wives, and suburban houses, to not be attracted to the opposite sex.

One of my earliest memories is a tv commercial that appeared when I was four or five years old. Phyllis shows us a white business shirt ripped in back, and says "If you know my husband Fang, you know it didn't get this way from him flexing his muscles.  Ah-ha-ha!"

But I misunderstood.  I thought Fang did rip the shirt by flexing his muscles.  And I imagined what this muscular Fang might look like.

A promise of beefcake to a four-year old.