The story of Phyllis Diller's hair

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Iconic comedian Phyllis Diller passed away on Monday at the age of 95. The brash and beloved woman had a career that spanned decades and touched millions. One of Diller's most enduring physical traits was, of course, her wild hairdo. There's a story there.

Her trademark hair, which often looked as if she'd stuck her finger in an electric socket, came about by accident. The Los Angeles Times wrote about it in Diller's obituary. Diller once said, "I had gotten into so much trouble bleaching my hair myself that I had to go to a scalp clinic, and they gave me this comb and said brush the top of your head for circulation. My hair was standing straight up after that, but I was so busy I'd forgotten to put it back down when I'd go out on interviews for jobs. But it worked."

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It wasn't broke, so she never fixed it. Diller was famous for her self-deprecating humor ("Robert Redford once asked me out. I was in his room."). She often joked about being the world's worst housewife ("They say that housework can't kill you, but why take a chance?"), and she mocked her own body ("I love to go to the doctor. Where else would a man look at me and say, 'Take off your clothes?'"). But Diller, she once admitted, actually was quite a dish back in her day.

She wore ridiculous clothes to help hide her curves. Why? One, she believed attractive women wouldn't be taken seriously in comedy. And two, so she could make fun of herself and get more laughs. She joked that instead of a chest, she had "two backs."

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"I started dressing more theatrically, and then I realized I couldn't make body jokes if they could see my actual figure because I had a good figure. That got me to those little dresses, and then later I designed my funny boots and gloves. I had to wear gloves because all clowns wear gloves."

Later in life, Diller took to wearing outlandish wigs. But underneath the outfits, maniacal laugh, and plastic surgery (of which, she admitted, there was plenty), there remained a thoughtful and groundbreaking comedian, ahead of her time. In response to Diller's death, Joan Rivers wrote, "The only tragedy is that Phyllis Diller was the last from an era that insisted a woman had to look funny in order to be funny."

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