Last week Phyllis Diller died at the age of 95. She was known for many things, from her eccentric dress, wild hair and outrageous laugh, but her stage persona was one that few would forget even by today’s comedic standards. Besides her well known comedy stand-up skills, she was also an accomplished pianist and painter which is less well known. But besides comedy, she is equally known for her forthrightness about having plastic surgery even at a time when having such procedures was far less pervasive in society and accepted as it is today.
While she joked frequently about the plastic surgery she had undergone, she had much to joke about. She reportedly had her first procedure at age 55 in 1972. Over the next two decades, she is known to have had by her own admission over fifteen procedures by almost ten plastic surgeons. She is known to have had facelifts, breast reduction, rhinoplasty, browlift, cheek implants blepharoplasties, and chemical peels Her extensive plastic surgery resume was even a subject of a 20/20 segment back in 1993. Wikipedia dedicated a section of her plastic surgery in its listings of her life and accomplishments.
While people making fun and even a living by vocalizing their plastic surgery experiences, back in the day of Phyllis Diller’s prime such things were not usually spoken of. In her day she was the solo Queen of plastic surgery. Today there is a courtyard of them. For some, her openness about plastic surgery also made her an Ambassador of the surgical specialty. She quipped about aging and beauty frequently with such notables as:
‘I have been done over so many times that no two body parts are the same age.’
‘When I die, God won’t even recognize me.’
‘My photographs don’t do me justice, they look just like me.’
‘I’m in the 14th year of a 10 day beauty plan.’
‘Old age is when your age spots start showing through your gloves.’
‘I have so many liver spots, I ought to come with a side of onions.’
‘I once wore a peekaboo blouse. People would peek and then they booed.’
‘Think of me as a sex symbol for men who don’t give a damn.’
‘My vanity table is a Black & Decker workbench.’
But my favorite will always be:
‘A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.’
For her humor and honesty about plastic surgery, and how it helped improve her self-esteem, put both a smile on her face and countless others around the world.
Dr. Barry Eppley