Cary said his first encounter with Diller took place in Grand Forks, where he was involved in a media interview with the comic star of stage and screen. Through the course of the interview, Diller invited Cary and crew to her hotel to chat some more.
"It was just like we knew her," Cary said. "She was very accommodating and friendly, and of course, lots of fun. It was a hoot to hear that funky, whiskey voice laugh of hers. We asked her if it was from smoking the signature cigarette she was always holding. She told us she never actually smoked and showed us that it was a wooden prop."
The next time Cary met Diller, he was playing bass guitar in the band "Mike and the Monsters" at a corporate show at the Fargo Civic Center, where Diller was performing as an opening act of all things.
"She came backstage where the band was gathered and was picking her way through darkness and backstage clutter," Cary recalled. "I happened to have my bass on a stand near the walk way. She must have thought it was some kind of handle as she grabbed the headstock and of course the bass nearly went down and nearly she along with it.
"Luckily, I was very near and gave her a hand to her waiting limo, and we all had a laugh. Thankfully, in the process, I saved my bass. Good thing. It was the only axe I had with me and we were on in minutes!
Cary said, in both brushes with fame, Diller came across extremely cordial and friendly in spite of her oft-times self-deprecating and tell-it-like-it-is stage persona.
Barry Brode, UND Television Center director, also met Diller during one of her stops in Grand Forks. He remembers her much the way Cary did.
"I was fortunate to be able to visit with her in the Chester Fritz Auditorium before her show," Brode said. "I was the announcer who introduced her – so while the opening act was performing we visited back stage.
"I still remember the line I was given to introduce her, 'And now ... here she is, the Bo Derek of the Geritol set, Phyllis Diller.'"
Diller also appeared as a special guest on UND's popular news and variety program Studio One in 1989.
by David Dodds, University Relations writer/editor