LIMA — Phil Potempa first met Lima native Phyllis Diller when he was in high school in 1987.
He was a reporter on his school’s newspaper and was encouraged to interview Diller when she was performing at a neighboring town in Indiana.
“My mom and dad took my sister and me and they said ‘you know she’s a big star, and you should ask if you can interview her’ and sure enough she said ‘come backstage and say hello.’ Now, most people will not ever give anybody the time, let alone a young high school journalist. I wrote the story and she said ‘send me a copy’,” Potempa said.
She thanked Potempa for the story and said if they were ever in town to say hello.
“Mom and dad and I did that for the next 30 years. So many memories we cherish, including times when she’d come back to Lima we’d meet her here as well,” Potempa said.
Potempa collaborated with Diller to share her recipes.
“She helped with writing the first three of my ‘From the Farm’ cookbooks, which share stories about Lima, Phyllis and her favorite friends,” Potempa said.
Potempa was at the Lima Public Library on Saturday, signing copies of the books and he brought with him some Phyllis Diller memorabilia.
“There really is a piece of Phyllis Diller here back in Lima today from her personal wigs or costumes or jewelry, correspondence as well as a couple of original oil paintings that she did,” Potempa said.
Diller, who died in 2012, paved the way for many of today’s contemporary female comedians.
“She had to work so hard in so many nightclubs, that started in 1955 in a career that was really only dominated by men, there was a couple (of female) comedians — Totie Fields was out there, you know, a Minnie Pearl, but for the most part, there weren’t female stand-up comics in her sense. There was Bob Hope, George Burns, Milton Berle, she was a comedy pioneer that carved a niche and paved the way for so many that we have today. Sarah Silverman, Margaret Cho, Amy Schuler, they wouldn’t be here and they recognize that still with Phyllis. She’s been gone for seven years, but it doesn’t feel like it because her legacy lives on,” Potempa said.
Potempa’s books can be purchased through Amazon.com.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.