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.


  1. What a wonderful story Gale! Thank you for sharing it.

  2. I love the one with the sudsy nose. What an experience it must be to see the person beneath the persona.

  3. What a great experience. I can absolutely picture the two of you in the bathroom.

  4. That is hilarious and I'm so glad you shared it. Awesome

  5. how much fun must that shoot have been. yes, it sounds like she was a very accomplished lady.