Phyllis Diller owns a harpsichord?



A great piece in a recent issue of the New Yorker featured Phyllis Diller, the inimitable American comedienne who is now 92 years old and, apparently, funny as ever. The article mostly talked about Diller’s hidden talent as a painter with a special focus on her “art parties,” events where she sells her work as well as other personal items.

What caught my eye, however, was this passage:

“‘Don’t think small!’ Diller declared suddenly. ‘Onward and upward, that’s why we’re here. Did you see my grand pianos?’ Her house has two, along with a harpsichord.”

A harpsichord? Come again?

I had the very same reaction to discovering that Diller owned a harpsichord as I did when I first read somewhere that William F. Buckley took to the same instrument later in life—complete surprise. I could see how Buckley, an afficionado of J.S. Bach’s music, might have been attracted to it, but Diller, not so much.

So here begins my great search to find out more information about Diller and her harpsichord.

I’ve already gotten some information on the cheap from Wikipedia:

“Although she has made her career in comedy, Diller studied as a serious piano student for many years. She later decided against a career in music after hearing her teachers and mentors play with much more ability than she thought that she would be able to achieve. She still plays in her private life, however, and owns a custom-made harpsichord which she prizes.”

Unfortunately, it comes with no citation, so the trail goes cold immediately. Next stop, Diller’s 2005 autobiography, Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse: My Life in Comedy.

Wish me luck.

UPDATE (January 22, 2010):

I had no luck with Diller’s autobiography even though it had an entire section on her many stints as a pianist (some great stories, too). I did, however, find a YouTube video of her appearing on the Liberace Show (1969), where she plays the harpsichord, performing her own composition in a baroque style, “Phyllis’ Fugue,” and then closes the segment by playing a duet with Liberace.

Those two could entertain like no one else:

The search for more information continues…

with Liberace

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  • Dear Mr Gordillo,
    I am a brazilian pianist and a fond of Phyllis Diller.
    I just discovered your page…
    By chance, would you have the score of Phyllis' Fugue ? I would love to play it !
    If yes, would you mind send to me by email?
    Thank you so much in advance,

    Dib Franciss

  • Bernard Gordillo

    Dear Mr. Franciss,

    I'm afraid I don't have a copy of the music you want. As well, I don't know how to get it. I don't think Phillys Diller ever published her fugue.

    Thanks for stopping by,

    Bernard Gordillo

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  • I do. Send me an email at