Conducted on 11/8/01
While working on a special DVD release of the film MAD MONSTER PARTY I was extremely fortunate to interview comedian supreme, Phyllis Diller. She was accommodating, eager, and exceedingly professional… oh, and hysterical. The interview was done by phone and carried on more like a stage performance.
Phyllis was a commanding stage presence and transferred her unique diminutive presence (she stood 5’1”) to the big screen and scaled down her presence to fit on TV as well.
The world lost her Aug 20th 2012, at the age of 95. (God Bless)
Phyllis Diller – What the hell can I tell you about MAD MONSTER PARTY?!
SB –That’s a great question, but shouldn’t I be the one asking that?
Phyllis Diller – (with a laugh) I know! Start.
SB – Okay. Here we go… the “Monster’s Mate”.
Phyllis Diller – “The Monster’s Mate”?
SB – Well, that’s what your character was listed as.
Phyllis Diller – Oh.. All-righty. Frankenstein and me! He just
picked me up, and we made such a pretty couple.
SB – Beautiful!
Phyllis Diller – Yeah.
SB – So, how did you get to be connected with such a handsome guy, and a really great project?
Phyllis Diller – I have no idea!?
SB – Well, it was a while ago…
Phyllis Diller – Oh honey, 1967!
I sing a number in it you know.
SB – Yes.
Phyllis Diller – “You’re Different”, was the name of the song. I remember I was sooo thrilled that I got to sing a song. At the time I was living in bungalow Number 7 at the Beverly Hills Hotel because I didn’t have a house here yet. I rented a piano so I could learn how to do the song. I remember
these things sooo vividly. Oh boy I was so excited, so thrilled.
SB – ...so the song was written previous to you coming onto the project?
Phyllis Diller – Absolutely. Back in those days I was still singing. What’s so nice about it is that the film is played every Halloween. I love that because the film grows another audience every year. People come up to me, of all ages, with little kids and I’m introduced to them all over again. I like that idea. And now this new DVD - it’s great that they’re keeping it alive!
SB – It must feel great to be part of a project that’s become a perennial favorite.
Phyllis Diller – Hey baby, it sure is!
SB – … and there isn’t enough out there for the entire family to watch for Halloween.
Phyllis Diller – No, and Halloween is such a wonderful holiday. I don’t consider MONSTER PARTY a horror film. It was sweet and all tongue and cheek. There was no blood, or animals eating somebody.
SB - So, you enjoy doing projects for children?
Phyllis Diller - Oh, yes. To this day I still enjoy reading children’s books. When the new ones come out I read them. I find the art interesting, and simplicity of the entire thing absolutely charming.
SB - Do you feel a lot of what you’re mentioning in books is missing from today's entertainment?
Phyllis Diller - Well, I’m very much against all the violence and all that crap. I will not look at it! There are enough disturbing things without having to pay for it.
SB - So aside from you having to sing, just being part of a more “entertaining” family oriented film was why you wanted to do MAD MONSTER PARTY.
Phyllis Diller - Oh, yes, yes! I love cartoons. I grew up with DUMBO and SNOW WHITE. I love the “un-reality” of them.
SB – Now because this was a kind of animation I suppose your lines were recorded ahead of time in a studio?
Phyllis Diller – Oh, honey, I don’t remember what I did.
SB – Oh, that’s how it’s usually done.
Phyllis Diller – Fine, then we’ll just stick to that.. Just doing the song was enough to make me happy – and to do it with Frankenstein. Frankenstein and me, what a great idea!
SB – Did you get to meet Boris Karloff?
Phyllis Diller – No, it was done all separately, I remember that. They never get anyone together. Like when I did A BUG’S LIFE.
SB – You’ve done quite a few animated projects…
Phyllis Diller – Honey, I’ve done a lot. Oh, many, many, many. Only two were done with the other actors there. Some of the animated projects I’ve done I haven’t really connected with, while others have been just fabulous! Those are the same that people come up to me and say, “Oh, I remember you on “SCOBBY- DO”, and of course MONSTER PARTY is another one.
SB – Is it more difficult doing your lines alone?
Phyllis Diller – Not really….nah, it’s better when they cut it all together. They tell you what they want, direct you, and every one else; singingly.
SB – Do you remember seeing conceptual drawings or sketches of what your character in MAD MONSTER PARTY would look like?
Phyllis Diller – I don’t remember….1967, really. But truthfully, I wouldn’t care. I’m not one to stickle. I’m not a stickler. In fact, I’ve never stickled in my life.
(Phyllis does her famous laugh.)
My theory is that people like other people who are easy to get along with, and don’t make waves, and just do the job and go home. That’s business-like.
SB – Since all the monsters in MAD MONSTER PARTY are based on, or inspired by, the classic Universal Monsters…
Phyllis Diller – Yes….
SB – Do you remember seeing any of the original films?
Phyllis Diller – Yes, I do. I remember seeing DRACULA.
SB – My mother threw-up as child seeing the original FRANKENSTEIN. How did react seeing DRACULA for the first time? Were you frightened? Those films were pretty intense in their day.
Phyllis Diller – Nah. It didn’t affect me. Back then I went to see mostly comedies.
SB – Musicals too, I bet.
Phyllis Diller – Oh, Musicals, oh yes. Let me tell you something; how old I am. I saw the first color movie. SEVENTH HEAVEN, with Janet Gaynor. I saw the first “talkie” – it really wasn’t a talkie, it had music – with Al Jolson, THE JAZZ SINGER. I go back to silent films – when you had to read words on the screen to know what was going on. I remember seeing the word fiancé and thinking it was finance – hey, what the hell did I know?
SB – So, if there was ever a sequel to be made for MAD MONSTER PARTY you’d hitch up with ol’Franky again?
Phyllis Diller – Honey, I’m available!