Ellen DeGeneres

Aug 022013


Television icon Ellen DeGeneres will return to host the Oscars® for a second time, producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron announced today. The Academy Awards® will be broadcast live on Oscar Sunday, March 2, 2014, on the ABC Television Network.

“We are thrilled to have Ellen DeGeneres host the Oscars,” said Zadan and Meron. “As a longtime friend, we had always hoped to find a project for us to do together and nothing could be more exciting than teaming up to do the Oscars. There are few stars today who have Ellen’s gift for comedy, with her great warmth and humanity. She is beloved everywhere and we expect that the audience at the Dolby Theatre, and in homes around the globe, will be as excited by this news as we are.”

“I am so excited to be hosting the Oscars for the second time. You know what they say – the third time’s the charm,” said DeGeneres.

“I agreed with Craig and Neil immediately that Ellen is the ideal host for this year’s show,” said Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy President. “We’re looking forward to an entertaining, engaging and fun show.”

“Ellen is talented, wonderfully spontaneous, and knows how to entertain a worldwide audience,” said Dawn Hudson, Academy CEO. “She’s a big fan of the Oscars; we’re huge fans of hers. It’s a perfect match.”

“It is an honor to welcome back Ellen DeGeneres as the host of the biggest entertainment celebration of the year,” said Paul Lee, president, ABC Entertainment Group. “She is the consummate entertainer, equally beloved by her peers in the industry, movie fans and television viewers. We very much look forward to having her back on ABC for Oscar Sunday.”

DeGeneres hosted the 79th Academy Awards in 2007, for which she received a Primetime Emmy® nomination for “Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.”

DeGeneres has made a home for herself in daytime with her hit syndicated talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which has earned a total of 45 Daytime Emmys during its 10 seasons.

DeGeneres’ began her career as an emcee at a local comedy club in her hometown of New Orleans. Her acting career in television included roles in several successful sitcoms before being offered a part on “These Friends of Mine” by ABC. After the first season, the show was renamed “Ellen.” Running from 1994 to 1998, the show garnered record ratings, with DeGeneres receiving Emmy nominations each season in the Best Actress category. In 1997, DeGeneres was the recipient of the coveted Peabody Award as well as earning an Emmy for writing the critically acclaimed “Puppy Episode” when her character came out as a gay woman to a record 46 million viewers.

DeGeneres has also been successful in her feature film work. DeGeneres scored unprecedented popular and critical response to her character, Dory, the fish with extreme short-term memory, in the blockbuster Pixar animated feature “Finding Nemo.” DeGeneres recently announced the highly anticipated sequel to “Finding Nemo,” Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Dory,” currently scheduled to be released in November 2015.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2013 will be presented on Oscar® Sunday, March 2, 2014, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® and televised live on the ABC Television Network. The presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

Aug 212012

Phyllis Diller was well-loved and respected by the entertainment industry. Highly intelligent, sharp and witty writer, multi-talented, renowned for her work ethic, she did it her way and all the way to the top at a time when there were no female comediennes.

Phyllis Diller

Phyllis Diller in 1969 performance

Phyllis Diller was born on July 17, 1917 in Lima, Ohio. She studied the piano at the Sherwood Music Conservatory in Chicago and then continued at the Bluffton College in Ohio. It was there that she begun writing humorous material for the school’s newspaper and it was there that she met Sherwood Diller and fell in love. Shortly after, she dropped out of college; the two married and eventually had six children (one of them died early). With her domestic and motherly duties, Phyllis had no time to entertain professional ambitions. The times however were tough; World War II was on, the family moved from place to place following Sherwood Diller jobs and didn’t fare well when he couldn’t find employment. When the Diller family moved to San Francisco, Phyllis started working to help support the family. She held a few jobs writing advertising copy for a department store and in a radio station’s marketing and advertising department. Through thick and thin however Phyllis maintained her sense of humor; her friends and her husband noticed it and encouraged her to try her skills. She did – at 37 and with five kids to tend to – two or three times (at the radio station where she worked; to benefit Red Cross and at the Purple Onion club). The latter became Phyllis Diller’s breakthrough (her two week original engagement led to a record-breaking one and half year stint that established her as a brilliant stand up comic.) and as they say, the rest is history.

Phyllis Diller was launched into stardom with an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. She was an instant hit on television. Diller was a frequent guest on top TV talk shows of the time. Later, she became even more popular, appearing in Bob Hopes TV specials (she took part in Bob Hope USO tour in Vietnam as well); making appearances on Dean Martin’s roasts and such shows as “Laugh-In”; “The Hollywood Squares” and “The Gong Show”. She’s made two attempts at her own TV series (“The Phyllis Diller Show” in 1966 and “The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show” in 1968); the fact that neither one was long lived didn’t faze her.
She appeared in several movies and on stage. Phyllis fulfilled her dream of performing as a pianist as well: she toured the country performing with nearly hundred symphony orchestras. Still, she continued to blossom in comedy club setting and on television; she participated in many TV projects until 2009.

Frustrated with her appearance, Phyllis Diller created an outrageous on-stage persona. (Overtime she underwent several plastic surgeries and spoke about them candidly and was one of the first celebrities to do so.) Extra-ordinarily gifted as a comedic writer, she became known for delivering multiple punch lines at a record speed. Finally, the angle of her material – from family issues to self-deprecation – delivered without a shade of self pity and with her one of a kind, distinctive laugh, made her an icon.

Phyllis Diller earned many recognitions, including a Star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She has also authored a book, her autobiography.

Unlike her career, her personal life had its ups and downs. Her first marriage (to Sherwood Diller) didn’t last. Her second (to actor, Warde Donovan) lasted mere 9 weeks. Phyllis lost three of her six children. In 1986 however she found true love with a lawyer, Robert Hastings. They never married but were together for10 years, until his death.

If you’re very young you may not understand the phenomenon of Phyllis Diller. She wasn’t just another comedienne with a longer career than most. She was the pioneer who made the careers of other female comediennes possible. (Joan Rivers has begun her career by writing jokes for Phyllis Diller.) Today’s female comedy stars like Ellen DeGeneres, Roseanne Barr, Tina Fey and others are traveling the trail blasted by Phyllis Diller.

Phyllis Diller had a long, rich, productive and accomplished life. Ourselves, we remember Phyllis Diller – whom we’ve met during a brief interview for Cultural Events in Los Angeles  – for her generosity, intellect and passion for youth and education.

In spite of her age, Phyllis Diller’s death caught us by surprise. She died but was loved by many and will be remembered for a long time to come. May she rest in peace – and to paraphrase Henry Winkler – she will make even God laugh…