USMagazine, Tuesday, August 21, 2012, 6:45am (PDT)
The comedy world is mourning the loss of Phyllis Diller, who passed away August 20 at the age of 95.
Paving the way for generations of female comics including Joan Rivers and Kathy Griffin, Diller -- who was said to be in failing health at the time of her death -- was remembered by her colleagues as a spitfire who wasn't afraid to tell it like it is.
"I'm beyond saddened by the death of Phyllis Diller. We were friends -- [daughter] Melissa [Rivers] and I had a wonderful time with her at lunch just a month ago," recalled Joan Rivers, 79, via Twitter. "I adored her!"
Griffin, 51, echoed Rivers' sentiments about the woman who rose to fame thanks to a 1958 appearance on Groucho Marx's game show You Bet Your Life. "Please recognize she paved the way, single handedly 4 YEARS 4 us FEMALE comedians. I knew her to be a doll!" Griffin tweeted, along with the hashtag "respect."
Though she recently suffered a fall, Diller -- who was on hospice care at the time of her death -- kept her sense of humor right up until the end, according to her friend Carol Burnett. "I was with her a few weeks ago, and she had me on the floor with a few choice jokes," Burnett, 79, told Us Weekly. "Funny, charming and loving . . . I'll miss her."
Mama's Family's Vicki Lawrence argues that up-and-coming comics can learn a lot by Diller's example. "She is, and forever will be, a genuine, pivotal piece of comedy history," Lawrence, 63, told Us. "Study up youngsters! She was one of a kind!"