Photograph of Phyllis Diller and Bob Hope on the 1966 USO Christmas tour, signed by Phyllis Diller. The ensemble Diller is wearing in this image is also at NMAH (Catalog Number 2003.0289.05). Other entertainers included on the tour that year were bandleader Les Brown, singer/actress/dancer Joey Heatherson, singer Vic Damone, singer Anita Bryant, the Korean Kittens singing and dance group, baton twirler Diane Shelton, Miss World Reita Feria, and Bob Hope’s wife Dolores. The troupe toured around Vietnam, Thailand, Guam, Wake Island, and the Philippines entertaining troops. The subsequent television special aired in the United States on January 18, 1967.
Diller was lifelong friends with Bob Hope, co-starring with him in 3 films and many TV specials. She had to change her usual material for this trip because her normal jokes about parenting and housekeeping were aimed at the people back home and not those fighting a war halfway across the world. Hope helped Diller create an entirely new routine where he played the straight man and allowed Diller to perform all of the jokes, which resulted in a bickering married couple routine. While Diller’s signature prop was a cigarette holder, it only ever held a wooden prop cigarette; she was a lifelong non-smoker. In 1978, the USO of Philadelphia, Inc. awarded Diller the USO Liberty Bell Award “for demonstrating concern for the welfare and morale of America’s armed forces.” The award is also at NMAH (Catalog Number 2003.0289.42).
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