aprilp_katje (aprilp_katje) wrote in binky_betsy,

  • Mood:

Writing to Phyllis Diller =/= a good idea

howtheduck has mentioned, here and elsewhere, Phyllis Diller having listed for auction a letter from LJ. My initial search led me to a two-page fax in which Lynn suggested a get-together when she and Rod were going to have a stop-over in L.A. on their way to Mexico (John-an'-Ellyesque annual trip). But I remembered his having said that she'd told Diller in the letter about having lost her enthusiasm for cartooning when Schultz died, so I searched some more and found a second letter. This is a long, rambly one that she wrote while in an airplane (on the way back from the following year's--2003--Mexico vacation). Warning: it's very looooong. But it has some fascinating stuff in it:

Johnston handwrote, signed and dated this letter "somewhere over Colorado" to Phyllis Diller in 2003. In it, she talks about vacationing in Cabo San Lucas and retiring For Better or For Worse in 2007.
Lengthy autograph letter signed "Lynn Johnston" in blue ink. 6 pages, 8¼x10¾, 3 sheets front and verso. "Somewhere over Colorado", March 2003. On ruled paper to comedienne and actress Phyllis Diller.

Begins: "Dear Phyllis". In full: "We're somewhere over Colorado, I think - on our way home from the Baja retreat we so look forward to every year! - I always come home without a tan - why be like everyone else? I say. Actually, they keep chopping bits & pieces off me, so I have to stay pasty pale lest the sun turn me into something preserved in formaldehyde & studied by interns. - We missed seeing you & I hope you had a swig or 2 of hot cherry cider! Yumm We have a great place in Cabo San Lucas - a real palace (by our standards) really, it's a luxury condo, big enough for 6. I've been studying Spanish for 6 years, so have enough vocabulario to engage the staff in stilted conversations. Our housekeeper, Pola (same one, every year) lives in a cardboard shack with her 3 daughters. She was deserted by her husband & I asked how could he leave such a wonderful, charming, positive girl! She told me he was living with someone else, had a new family & every day, he regretted having left her. That's her rather sad revenge. Her friends & family keep her happy. She earns 50$ US every week & it's enough to keep her children fed. We gave her $100.00 as a gift before we left. She said very little - but next day, she told me her family was screaming - it was Christmas, they could all have new shoes! - Here we were in an $800.00 a night apartment (time share) having dinner with friends $100.00 each in a family joint....& there was Pola & the rest of the housekeepers, barely surviving. Being able to speak the language now has opened many doors. She said she would take us to see her house next year. She has electricity, now -- & wants us to meet her 3 girls. We're going to take them to Johnny Rocket's & the arcade - something the kids in town take for granted. We're looking forward to that! We rented a car & toured the east coast. The highways are better, now - but you still see cows standing where they shouldn't be & flat ones that found out why. There are TOPES (TOPÉ = pronounciation) along the way - to slow down the lead-footed drivers. These are speed bumps, barely visible under the dust and marked at, not before the deterrent. This means you must observe the signs ahead quite carefully & an illegible white one means, 'Slow down, or your head will go thru the windshield.' The scenery is incredible - beautiful seascapes, dry desert badlands, large ancient cactus and old trucks. Old trucks are the skeletons on the Mexican desert. Rusted and rolicked of anything useful, they lie in testimony to the strength of Tequila, testosterone and too little to do. - On the way home, we saw a farmer & his family selling oranges under a tarpaulin stretched between their truck and gnarled tree. In picturesque tourist fashion, we stopped and I bartered for what I thought was a small bag of oranges. $6.00 I thought, wasn't too bad. Turned out, I bought a huge red nylon sack of oranges, heavy enough to cripple an ass. Rod carried it. It filled the trunk of our rented car & as we adiosed our way down the road, we could see their knee-slapping guffaws in our rear view mirror. No problema. At least we'd scored a better deal! We got the oranges into the hotel room & paid the bellmen to carry it. I decided that a juicer - you know, the kind you work by hand, would be a swell thing to get. We went to every hardware & housewares shop in town. Nada. $26.00 later, we were proud owners of a Moulinex electric juicer. Altogether, it took me 3 days to squeeze the oranges & in between squeezings, we drank fresh juice. Got it was good! - Altibajos means 'ups & downs.' Well, the downside of our Moulinex was - it attracted ants. No matter how well I washed it, the sweet smell attracted ants. I bought powder (lethal stuff - not sold up north) and RAID. There was nothing in the middle. Getting rid of the ants introduced us to Juan, the maintainance (sic) guy who spent an hour on his hands & knees watching to see where the ants were entering the apartment. I watched, too. He spoke no English, so it was another great opportunity to learn more Spanish. We concocted a trap - orange juice in a container with a moving lid inside [drawing of glass with lid inside]. It worked. The ants came, they climbed, drank & drowned. Juan came daily to check our non-poisonous trap & stayed for English lessons. We now have a new friend at the hotel -- & the only room with a double towel rack in the master bedroom. We have pull. Ants and pull. The Moulinex stayed in the frig - along with the cereal, cookies, bread & beer. The bread in Cabo is from the BIMBO bakery. When I told Juan what a BIMBO was, he ran immediately to the doormen who were in hysterics. BIMBO to them, always meant bread. It was important now to discuss Bimbo qualities - ways to determine true Bimboisma. The comparison to bread was always part of the conversation - especially to the 'baking'. They show up white, go home brown...& other such observations. It's nice to know when you've helped to extend someones (sic)....vocabulary. Rod built a replica of the 'Bluenose' on the veranda. He likes to have a project when we go somewhere. He started this amazing task when we were in Florida last summer & I was recuperating from my, um, facial refinements. (which, I might say have made me a new woman! Hoooo!!!) The Bluenose was a great sailing vessel - famous on Canada's east coast, and the detail on his model is formidable. Our luggage consisted of all the parts thereof plus tools, glue, tape, paint and airline-proof containers for same. We travel with more luggage than Barbra Streisand (I think we leave better tips) Anyways - it was a swell trip. We stayed one more night in LA & saw 'About Schmidt' last night. Your cameo with Bob Hope was a wonderful surprise. I want to get ALL your films and see them again. - You must watch them with a lot of emotion. Those must have been wonderful times - even with all of the difficulties of travelling overseas, working under crazy conditions, you must remember those days so vividly and with great affection. MOVIES & memories. My only insight is that since Charles Schulz died, my relationship with my work has changed significantly. I no longer get the 'kick' out of it that I once did. I do a good job - I won't ever let myself get lazy. I'm proud of what I do - but I'm ready for a change. I want to do something else. When I retire the strip in 4 years, that 'something else' will come clearer. My studio has become a very smart resource. We have 8 staff - all of whom are the best in their field. For Better or For Worse won't continue, but we'll have created a top notch licencing (sic) and marketing resource that will help other cartoonists realize their potential. We'll also be a really good ad agency & web-design company & I hope to turn everything over to my marvellous (sic) 8 and work for them part time! I want to write & I want to paint. I haven't really painted for YEARS! I'll be a real amateur but I'm looking forward to facing a large blank canvass instead of 4 tiny squares! We've just bought a new house. As soon as we get home, we'll be facing chaos - which is why I'm writing to you now. It'll be awhile before I'll be able to send a letter! We bought a beautiful house on 4 acres of land - a peninsula on Trout lake - with a view so spectacular, it's hard to describe. It's private and has a guest house, dock and boat house. The young lady who lives there was abandoned by her husband. She has 3 young kids & had to sell. She wanted to live on the same street (we live about 10 minutes away - it's a winding, country road) & wanted to rent a house. Rod didn't want to move his railroad, so we've agreed to rent out house to her for the cost of the maintainance (sic). This works well for us both. She gets a big log house with an indoor pool, 3 car garage and a private miniature railway - and I get to live on the lake! Having grown up with a view of the Vancouver harbour, I've always wanted to be on the water. It's a big sacrifice for Rod - but we're both looking forward to getting rid of 18 years worth of junk (we are such pack rats & have 'collected' some wonderful, but useless stuff that will make a great garage sale. People are already staging their parking spots.) It will be an interesting year. Both our kids are out west & here we are selling their 'childhood home'. Kate's a bit emotional - but they're sort of like us - it's nice to move on! Kate was headed for med. school, but got a chance to teach snowboarding at Whistler Mt. in B.C. It's 10 men to every woman instructor, so she's happy. She recently sent a photo of herself feeding a Whiskeyjack. Some guy called 'Jack' was downing a drink from Kate's glass. This has turned into a long, rambling novella when I meant to write something less cumbersome. Keep it in the bathroom & maybe you'll snorfle thru it by June. We've been thinking about you, hoping you're feeling stronger, that your arm is healed and you're able to enjoy stuff - like getting dressed, going for lunch, seeing friends and painting. If you're THAT well - I'm sure you'll be back to work! When you're driven by laughs, you have to get them. For me, laughter is heaven. If I can make people laugh - it lifts me up, it heals, it brings me close to people I'll never know. What a gift. I will always be grateful for this gift and I'll always be grateful for the guidance I've had. You and Bob Hope, Bill Cosby, Red Skelton (who wrote to me once!!) my wonderful Disney heroes (now in their 90's) are all people who've given me incentive - models to emulate. There are few comedians today I want to hear or see. Creativity is about living truly, cleverly funny - without F-word crutches, without cruelty. Carol Burnett, Peter Sellers - timing and expression and teamwork and true love of their craft. You're all there in my head, telling me to do more, to be better, to love and appreciate and use my talents well. Some day, I hope someone will say they learned something good from the work I've done. That and all the laughter I'll take with me when I'm 90! - Anyways, no need to answer this, I know you have lots to do -- & I'm on an airplane with 2 more hours to go. Keep well. You are so loved. Sincerely".

You can see the first page here; change the "a" just before ".jpg" to "b" and continue alphabetically to get through the rest.

And that's why writing to Phyllis Diller is a terrible idea!

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.