What I'm doing. Where I've been. What I saw. And why I shot it.


Monday, August 20, 2012

RIP Phyllis Diller: a photo shoot to remember

A decade ago I was assigned to shoot a portrait of Phyllis Diller, the great comedian. I walked in to her hotel suite at the arranged time.  No fuss, no publicist.   Just me, my assistant and her famous big laugh. After talking for a few minutes, one thing was clear. Phyllis Diller was a brilliant woman. Trained as a concert pianist, she became a comedian to support her family, at a time when women just didn't do that. All the domestic ineptness, over-the-top shtik? A persona. Phyllis Diller was a performance artist, before we knew what that was.
She was wearing a perfectly tailored royal blue suit. After making some photos in the sitting area, we decided to play around with the location--a large suite at a spa hotel. A fluffy robe was borrowed from the gift shop, my assistant  overfilled a bath with bubbles, Ms Diller made a wardrobe  change.  Somewhere in the mix, I found myself standing there talking to her, in a marble and brass bathroom, with my camera in one hand and her bra in the other. I'm glad to say I had the presence of mind to stop and just appreciate the moment, before we started shooting again.
What an honor.  Rest in peace, Ms Diller.
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See more portraits of brilliant people (some funnier than others) on my website.