Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Caricature of Phyllis Diller by Ronald Searle

Two weeks ago I discussed an eBay sale of original TV Guide magazine cover art, caricatures
by the late, great Ronald Searle of "All in the Family" cast members Carroll O'Connor and
Jean Stapleton. The original artwork, probably the first to be offered anywhere since the artist's
death on December 30, sold with the Buy It Now feature within 24 hours of its listing.

Now the same seller is offering another scarce piece of original Searle artwork, a caricature of
comedienne Phyllis Diller also commissioned, we are told, by TV Guide.  The artwork, which
was not used as a magazine cover, dates circa 1972 according to the seller, the same year as
the "All in the Family" cover. I do not know in what issue it was published or, indeed, if it ever
actually saw print, but I do know that TV Guide's Fall Preview issue of September 14-20, 1968
had an article on Phyllis Diller. This 1968 issue then certainly could have featured this
illustration, particularly as this piece clearly bears an earlier Searle signature than the 1972
"All in the Family" cover art. I would welcome any information any reader might have as to its
publication history. Until I know more, I'm going to tentatively date this artwork to 1968. I've
included in this post a photograph of the actress from approximately this date as well. For
 whatever it's worth, I don't think this caricature is as successful as the "All in the Family"

Lightning did not strike twice, and this artwork did not sell within the first 24 hours of its 30-day
listing on eBay. The Buy It Now price is again $4,500. There is no Make Offer option.
Shipping is $100.

Ronald Searle Phyllis Diller, c. 1968 for TV Guide

Phyllis Diller, c. 1968

January 30, 2012 Update:  The seller has updated the listing to reflect a probable date for this drawing of approximately 1968 rather than 1972, noting that 1968 witnessed the premier of "The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show." Specifically, the seller now states, "Most likely this piece was created to promote 'The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show' ca 1968, but was unused."

February 1, 2012:  This auction listing now has a Make Offer option, which means the seller will consider offers of less than $4,500. Matt  Jones has revealed here that the seller will accept an offer of $4,000, so if you've been sitting on the fence about this one, take note.

February 3, 2012:  The Buy It Now price has been reduced to $3,500 and the Make Offer option withdrawn.

February 8, 2012:  The Buy It Now price was reduced again to $3,000. The seller is clearly looking to move this piece.

February 12, 2012:  The Buy It Now price has been lowered to $2,500.

February 23, 2012:  The listing was ended by the seller on February 20 because the item was no longer available. This cryptic statement can mean almost anything, from that the item found a buyer outside of eBay to that the seller no longer wishes to sell.

The final eBay item description

March 16, 2012 Update:  The drawing has been relisted on eBay by the same seller for a the same Buy It Now price of $2,500 plus $100 shipping.

August 20, 2012 Update:  Phyllis Diller passed away today at the age of 95.



  1. What it does do rather well – in ink and paint – is capture the essence of Diller's zaniness.

  2. Yes, Brian, it does capture that quality, I think perhaps more than it captures her likeness.

  3. You are right! I would not have instantly guessed it was PD, but I do like it as a portrait of craziness! :)