The Phyllis Diller royalty check

“How about an April 1 publication date?” Larry, my editor/publisher, said referring to my book: “Beyond the Spotlight: On the Road with Phyllis Diller.”

“Sure,” I said, not realizing the significance of that day.

"You weren't a secretary. You were an Administrative Assistant." (News to me.)

“You weren’t a secretary. You were an Administrative Assistant.” (News to me.)

It’s been just over a year since my book came out and whether the April Fool referred to me or Phyllis, I’m still not sure, but looking at my latest royalty check, I’m thinking it might be me. This check combined with the money I earned pouring wine last Saturday will just about cover the cost of my new shoes. Granted, they are Cole Hahn, so pricey, but still by now I expected that I would have made enough money to buy new shoes every week! (Where are Simon & Schuster when you need them?)

“It’s not a big house publisher you need,” Shawn told me when I was lamenting this a few weeks back, “it’s a movie deal!” Oh, yeah, that would work. So, as I was saying, where is Columbia Pictures when you need them?

Then a couple of days ago at the pottery studio, some of us were commenting on the fact that the old words: “clerk, janitor, housewife,” were no longer acceptable. I mentioned that at a recent book signing a woman corrected me when I said I had been Phyllis Diller’s secretary. “You were her Administrative Assistant,” she said. Funny, nobody told me. I always thought I was a secretary (and a darn good one at that!).

“Wait a minute,” Linda said. “You are the one who wrote the book about Phyllis Diller?”

“Yes, that’s me.” Clay Arts Vegas, the pottery studio where I go to sling mud, had graciously and joyously hosted a book signing for me last year and I’d left some of my books in their showcase. I figured Linda had seen them.

“I heard about that on NPR when we were driving back from California this weekend.”

I stopped breathing. The pottery wheel stopped spinning. I stared at her. “You heard about my book on National Public Radio?”

“Yeah, on Fresh Air. Terry Gross was talking about comedians and he mentioned a book about Phyllis Diller.”

“REALLY?” If that were true, my book sales would be through the roof by now. I haven’t had any calls from Larry saying “OMG, what’s going on?” so figure that probably isn’t the whole story. Still, when I look on Amazon, there are very few books about Phyllis Diller and most of them were written by her, so now I’m curious to find out what it was.

“I’ll ask my friend. She’ll remember,” Linda told me.

I gave Linda my card with my e-mail and blog addresses. “Please have her e-mail me. I’m dying to know.”

Of course, it’s probably nothing. I mean, NPR. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the head? If that turns out to be true we’ll celebrate big-time. Heck with the champagne, barkeep — Cole Hahns for everyone!

If you haven’t read my book, please check it on on Amazon at: If you haven’t written a comment yet, please do — it helps with the marketing.



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Taking a Sip for a Scholarship

“Dogfish Head? What on earth is Dogfish Head?” I eyed the bottles of beer in ice when I finally found Booth 35. I’d wandered through the maze of white tents in the sprawling parking lot for nearly 10 minutes before I spotted it.

When I got the e-mail asking if I wanted to work the UNLVino wine tasting, I was thrilled. It’s one of my favorite things to do — pour wine and talk to people. And this wasn’t just any old wine tasting, this was the one honoring the founders of UNLVino on its 40th anniversary. “Big doin’s” as my grandmother used to say.

I first went to UNLVino some 30 years ago when the tickets were $25 and it was a 3 hour event at the Thomas & Mack arena. The tickets now start at $125 for each event and there are 4 nights of events.

Because the tasting was at the Lou Ruvo Brain Clinic I was anticipating a pretty small group of VIPs. I mean, it’s not a large building. I polished my old black shoes to within an inch of their lives, filed and buffed my fingernails, checked my clean white shirt to make sure the cuffs were immaculate and ironed it smooth as silk. The black pants are cat-hair-magnets. I hung them on the clothes line and for nearly 20 minutes went over them with the lint-mitt and Scotch tape to get every last cat hair off.

In the past couple of years I’ve learned that when the report time is 5:30 that means “between 5:30 and 6:00.” In the past I’ve been ultra-punctual, reporting in at precisely the right time only to find I was the first person and had to wait for another 30 minutes for everyone to finally arrive. Still, I figured if I left home at 5:15 I would be there in plenty of time. And I was. Sort of.

The parking lot at the Ruvo Brain Clinic was full of white tents. The long line of cars was being directed past the institute to the parking lot behind the Smith Center. Ugh. A long walk. In the wind. The wind totally rearranged my hair; I probably looked like a witch. AND I had actually spent time on my makeup instead of the quick brush of the blush and a swipe of eye shadow. At least the wind couldn’t rearrange my eyeliner!

So by the time I got there, I was “fashionably late,” with at least 8 servers clustered around and I realized this was not going to be the elegant, intimate event I had imagined. I looked around at the 100 or so tents, smelled the food cooking, watched the porters carting bags of ice and trundling cases of wine and said, “this looks like The Grand Tasting.” “It is,” one of the others answered. Swell.

The rest of the evening went pretty much downhill from there. Not that I didn’t have a good time — I did. Just not what I expected.

This year they had beer and sake, too. They shuffled me through 4 booths before I landed at “Dogfish Head.”  The saving grace was that the young man from UNLV who was working the booth really did know about beer. He knew beer like I know wine.  So I held the plastic cups as he poured whatever people asked for.

“We have thre IPAs, a wheat beer and a dark beer,” I parroted after listening to Jack a few times. Each time someone asked a question, I just smiled and looked at Jack who knew all the answers.

And between customers, I sampled some of the wares. I decided I liked the Aprihop which really did have a nice apricot flavor on the finish. And wonder of wonders, their “61″ was infused with Syrah. Oh, yum! So I got to do a little wine tasting after all.

And judging from the hundreds — maybe even a couple of thousand — of  people strolling around, there should be a lot of UNLV students getting scholarships. I’ll drink to that any day!



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Phyllis ‘n Roses (not a gun in sight …)

“Here, let me show you a trick,” Phyllis said as she took the flagging rosebuds from my hand. This was only a few weeks after I’d started working for her and we were backstage in her dressing room at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. The room was filled, as usual, with vases of red roses.

Phyllis loved roses and everytime she opened an engagement of more than a night or two, she would be flooded with bouquets of flowers — mostly red roses — from her business manager, her publicist, her agent and several friends. (I always sort of wondered who was paying for those roses her business manager sent — was he really footing the bill or did it come out of her own account? But I’m a skeptic.)

Daffodils from Trader Joe's. They're may not be as elegant as Phyllis Diller's red roses, but they speak to my heart and make me smile!

Daffodils from Trader Joe’s. They’re may not be as elegant as Phyllis Diller’s red roses, but they speak to my heart and make me smile!

As you know if you’ve ever received a delivery of flowers, roses in particular, they don’t always open the way they should. This particular evening I was culling out the droopy buds which were apparently not going to make the transition from bud to flower.

I thought of all this a couple of days ago after I stopped at Trader Joe’s.  You’ve noticed they put their wonderful display of flowers right inside the front door and as always, I glanced at them and smiled as I started to walk past … then I stopped. Daffodils! I love daffodils. And they were tight little buds in bunches of 10 for $1.29 and I thought “why not?” I grabbed a bunch.

The “why not” part turned out to be the detours I took on the way home: The post office and the pet food store which took a bit longer than I anticipated. So the daffodils, which had not been in water in the first place, were even more droopy after being in the hot car.

Dang! Droopy flowers! I wasn’t pleased, but then figured I’d cut off the bottoms of the stems and give them a good drink — and it worked! They perked up in almost no time. But it got me thinking about all those roses that Phyllis Diller had and how she showed me the way to save droopy flowers.

“Let me show you a trick,” Phyllis said that long-ago evening.  Setting aside the buds, she took all the flowers out of the vase, emptied it and filled it with warm water. “Not hot,” she told me. “You’re not trying to cook them!” (followed by The Laugh). She snipped off the bottom half-inch or so and settled them back in the vase. When I came backstage a few hours later, the buds had straightened up and were starting to open.

“Wow, magic!” I said to Phyllis.


Phyllis probably saved more rosebuds from a premature death than anyone on the planet except a professional florist. So I’m sharing her trick with you for the next time you get flowers that seemed doomed before they bloom. It might not always work but hey, I never promised you a rose garden.




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Using the right wine glass (it says here …)

Three crystal wine glasses -- two Waterford, one not. (Shawn - the wine in here is the M-O '01 Petite Sirah -- I knew there was a use for it!)

Three crystal wine glasses — two Waterford, one not. (Shawn – the wine in here is the M-O ’01 Petite Sirah — I knew there was a use for it!)

A couple of decades ago — maybe a little more — The Riedel Company came out with a whole new concept in wine glasses: A glass for every particular variety of wine. No longer did you simply have one glass for red and one glass for white wine. Oh, my no! Heaven forbid you drink a Bordeaux out of a Burgundy glass.  (You peasant! It’s obvious that all your taste is in your mouth — oh, well, not exactly; that would be a good thing in this case, wouldn’t it?)

Riedel produces at least 13 different lines of glasses including a stemless wine glass that my friend Paula likes because if you happen to knock it over, it rights itself like a child’s toy.  You can spend hours playing with this if you are one of the “easily amused.”

Once I started getting serious about wine and realized my beautiful cut-crystal Waterford wine glasses did not do the job properly, I set about finding glasses that would do justice to what I was drinking. Which brought me to Riedel. Which I quickly eliminated.

You can buy Riedel glasses for as little as $69 for a box of four, but if you want a true wine tasting experience, you might want to go for the Burgundy Grand Cru at $139. Or the Bordeaux Grand Cru also at $139. For a glass. An empty glass — wine not included. A breakable glass, I might add, because that does happen. If you aren’t drinking Grand Cru (at $5,999 a bottle. On sale), you can get the Bordeaux “mature wine” glass for $99. And if you’re just drinking water, you can pick up a Riedel water glass for as little as $95.

My  water glasses come from the dollar store — and some of my wine glasses, too. In fact, about 3 years ago somehow Dollar Tree got REAL wine glasses — not the heavy, thick-rimmed ones they always have, but elegant, large-bowled, light-weight, thin-rimmed wine glasses. I have no idea how they got there, but immediately snatched up all they had — a half dozen. They work just fine. Maybe not as well as Riedel, but with my palate, I doubt I could tell any difference. And I saved $98!

And now I’m going to share my real secret to  wine glass buying. (And don’t you dare tell a soul!) Thrift stores: Goodwill. Opportunity Village. Salvation Army. Amazing what you can find. In fact, the wine glasses above all came from Goodwill. Two of them are Waterford, but the one on the left — still a nice crystal glass — is not. On to foot it says “The Palm,” a pricey restaurant. They were all marked $1.99, but Paula had taken me there on a Wednesday, senior half-price day, so I walked out with 3 crystal wine glasses for $2.97.

I still check Dollar Tree every time I go in just to make sure someone hasn’t made the mistake of sending them real wine glasses and lo-and-behold, I found something unique and wonderful. I saved this picture for the end since I knew that as soon as you saw it you would stop reading and run straight to your nearest Dollar Tree store to stock up. So here it is — the latest and greatest in wine glasses. And it isn’t even breakable!

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Looking for Phyllis Diller

“… and she did some other movies, too,” I told the class at UNLV. “It wasn’t just the Bob Hope movies, although that’s what everyone thinks of.”

(Now I have an admission to make — I have never seen any of the Phyllis Diller/Bob Hope movies: “Boy, Did I get a Wrong Number,” or “Eight on the Lam,” or “Did you Hear the One about the Traveling Saleslady?” Really, there’s no excuse except that I’m not a movie-goer. If I see more than two movies a year, that’s a lot.)

“Like what?” the instructor asked.

the book signing at the library a month ago. has nothing to do with Phyllis's movies, but Stephen Murray who was sharing the table with me just sent this and I wanted to post it. So there.

The book signing at the library last month. “You mean you’re not going to buy a book? But you just told me that Phyllis Diller is your favorite comedian! Oh, right, you can check it out of the library for free.” Swell. (This has nothing whatever to do with this blog — just wanted to use the picture.)

“She made called ‘The Adding Machine.’”

“Who knows what an adding machine is?” he asked the class. Nearly all of them raised their hands, this being a class of mostly retired people. I wonder what the response would be from a regular college class. Probably not much!

The plot, as I recall, was that Phyllis was married to a man who loved his job which seemed to consist mostly of punching numbers into an adding machine. He became obsessed and nothing else mattered except his job. I suppose you could say he was the prototype workaholic.

Phyllis was quite pleased with the movie and I remember being rather impressed with her as a serious actress. I think she would like to have done more of that type of movie but really, with her stand-up career, she didn’t have time. And I can’t imagine people taking Phyllis Diller seriously any more than they would, say, Lucille Ball in a dramatic role.

The instructor, Kevin, was intrigued and searched the internet for copies of the movie, but it didn’t seem to be available. I e-mailed Phyllis’s son, Perry, who put me onto Phyllis’s manager, Milt, who did some digging and came up with an obscure company that sold obscure movies for (what I considered to be) an outrageous price. Really? $42 for a decades old black-and-white movie that nobody had ever heard of? I passed the information on and don’t know for sure if Kevin shelled out the money. But heck, it would almost be worth it to see Phyllis Diller as a serious actress. Maybe.

In the meantime, I need to dig out those free movie tickets I have on the bookshelf and see if there isn’t something I’d like to see. I’m afraid “Saving Mr. Banks,” has come and gone and I’d heard the costumes in American Hustle were worth a look, but it’s probably too late for that, too.

Maybe I’ll just content myself with re-runs of Wheel of Fortune — I can solve all the puzzles in no time and don’t have to pay $8 for a bag of popcorn.



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Learning to like (different) wine

Okay, I admit it — I am not fond of white wine. Never have been. I went right from Annie Green Springs apple wine to Merlot. Well, not overnight — it took a few years — but until I took my first wine course at UNLV, I avoided white wine. Pink wine, too.

When I wrote about the Smith & Wollensky wine lunch (“It’s Wine Week!”), “The Drunken Cyclist” ( suggested I back off the reds a bit and give the whites and pinks a chance: explore more of the lighter side of wine. And you know what? He’s right. Especially now that spring is here!

A pleasant sparkling wine from Australia. Would go perfect with seared scallops -- unfortunately, we just had crackers and cheese.

A lovely sparkling wine from Australia. It would go perfect with seared sea scallops — unfortunately, we had to settle for crackers and cheese.

So, Friday night at the American Wine Society wine tasting, I paid close attention to the whites. We started with Thorn Clark Brut Reserve — a lovely, light salmon colored sparkling wine. It didn’t ring my chimes, but I went back and tasted it again at the end, just to be sure. I’m good about that, you know. Tasting and re-tasting. I’ll do it as many times as necessary until I get it right — or until they run out of wine.

The next wine was a nice white — Molly Dooker Violinist Verdelho. Turns out that in Australia, a Molly Dooker refers to a left-handed person. What a relief to learn that. Now I don’t have to lie awake at night wondering …

Okay. Molly Dooker makes some mighty fine — and expensive — wines. One evening at a wine tasting someone shared a $100 bottle, I think it was “Carnival of Love.” Of course, my budget doesn’t run to those wines, so I’m happy to taste when someone else supplies. The only drawback is there is a chance of falling in love with something I can’t afford. Which is why I’m happy that I’ve found a very nice inexpensive white that everyone likes.  Beringer Chenin Blanc. And when I say inexpensive, I really mean cheap! Like $5 at Total Wines. $8 at the market which is still not bad.

Perfect for sipping on the patio -- and the price won't give you heartburn!

Perfect for sipping on the patio — and the price won’t give you heartburn!

I also like Daou Chenin Blanc from Paso Robles, but (1) can’t buy that at the market and (2) for the same amount of money I could get 8 bottles of the Beringer. Do I like the Daou that much more??

So I’m going to try — really try — this summer to find some whites to enjoy on the patio with friends — or maybe just with my cats. If anyone out there knows of some yummy, inexpensive whites — or blush wines — please feel free to share.

In the meantime, I’m stocking up on that Beringer Chenin Blanc.



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A pox on all cat litters!

Paddy O’Cat still doesn’t get it. I took Paula’s advice and dumped the old litter box out in the unused side yard. I took Paddy out and told him – this is your outside cat box. He was having none of it!

As I held him and pointed to the pile of used cat litter surrounded by fresh, soft dirt, his little legs were going a mile a minute as though he were swimming the English Channel  pursued by sharks — or whatever it is they have in the English Channel. Maybe piranhas — I’m not sure.

“Look, Paddy — it’s just like your inside cat box, but it’s outside! Now you don’t have to run in the house every time you have to go.” No sale! I put him down and watched as he fled for the sanctuary of the living room. When I came in, he gave me a look of incredulity like, “you expect me to go outside? In the dirt??” He turned his back and began grooming the base of his tail — something he does when he’s particularly upset.

Reluctantly I picked up the now empty, washed and dried cat box and trudged back into the bathroom. I had stopped on the way home and bought some Arm & Hammer cat litter, just like I’d got last time. But oh, not quite, as it turned out. I checked for “multi-cat, clumping, odor eliminating,” but there’s more.

Buying cat litter is as complex as buying a jar of olives. You can’t just get olives anymore — there are 20 different varieties. At least. Green, black, pitted, large, small, medium, jumbo, sliced, chopped, minced, stuffed … but I digress. Litter has not quite reached that level of complexity, but it’s heading that direction.

It's everything one could want in cat litter -- except fragrance-free. Damn!

It’s everything one could want in cat litter — except fragrance-free. Damn!

So I hefted the 40 pound box (really — 40 pounds of manufactured, granulated sand for a cat to pee in!) and started pouring it into the box. And then, I realized my fatal error. The smell rose up and surrounded me. OH NO! I forgot to check for “fragrance free.” Oh, somebody just shoot me. Damn!

It’s not that I am allergic to fragrances, I just don’t like them. Not the cheap, ubiquitous scents that manufacturers put in everything these days. It’s almost impossible to find unscented hand lotion, face cream, hair spray, or deodorant. Why do those companies think I want to go around smelling like a dog’s dinner?  So I would say my house smells like a French whorehouse, if I knew what that smells like. It doesn’t seem to bother the cats any; perhaps I exaggerate.

So now, instead of urging Paddy to go outdoors, I’m telling all the kitties, “Come on in — use the litter box. Let’s get this stuff used up and out of here.”

Please, somebody, remind me why anyone ever thought it was a good idea to train cats to pee in the house!

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