Weekend Flashback: When surprise guest Phyllis Diller opened for Barbra Streisand at her AFI tribute
As a staff writer for The Hollywood Reporter at the time, I had a ringside seat in the ballroom of The Beverly Hilton in 2001 for the AFI tribute to Barbra Streisand. It was a room jam-packed with stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Nicholson, Shirley MacLaine, Lauren Bacall, Sylvester Stallone, Kris Kristofferson, Faye Duinaway, James Brolin, and Josh Brolin, among many others.
So no one was expecting Phyllis Diller to walk out to open the proceedings. As you can see in this video, Miss Diller reads the room correctly when she observed that half of them were wondering “What the hell is she doing here?” and the other half saying, “I thought she was dead.”
She is a riot and points out that Streisand had opened for her at a nightclub in the early 60s and now, all these decades later, she was returning the favor.