From the Archives: Phyllis Diller hates fruitcake

Nov. 8, 1995: Portrait of Phyllis Diller with fruitcake.
Nov. 8, 1995: Portrait of Phyllis Diller with fruitcake.
(Rick Meyer / Los Angeles Times)

Comedian Phyllis Diller hated fruitcake – so much so that she wrote about it in the Dec. 17, 1995, Los Angeles Times:

Some scientists who went pawing around under the Siberian tundra found a perfectly preserved fruitcake with one large bite missing. Nearby, they found the remains of a mastodon. The autopsy proved what I had guessed all along: The mastodon passed away of starvation. He'd taken one bite out of that fruitcake — the only food within 50 miles — and then decided he'd rather die.

Maybe there was once a point in making fruitcakes, but I doubt it. It all started as the kind of handmade gift of love that could be transported over long distances without spoiling. But you can say the same thing about a wool muffler, and it tastes a lot better.

People are always sending me fruitcakes. Unfortunately, ever since I threw away my first boyfriend back in the fourth grade, I haven't been able to throw anything away. So I have several refrigerators filled with fruitcakes.

A couple of years ago, I had a bright idea. I took the 73 cakes on hand and sent them out as Christmas presents. For a year I knew peace. But the next Christmas I got all 73 back, plus four new ones. …

Have you ever known anyone who bought a fruitcake for himself? Of course not. They are purchased as Christmas gifts, mostly for people you don't particularly like. The only exception is during wartime, when anxious relatives buy them up by the millions and send them overseas, or wherever we're fighting at the moment. For some reason, war hysteria seems to wipe out all the facts about fruitcake, except that it doesn't spoil easily. (How can something spoil when it is already rotten?)

During World War II an estimated 700 million fruitcakes were sent to the European Theater of Operations. A few traveled in pairs, but most were alone. On VE Day a crusty old general said to me (in between indecent proposals), "We could have won that war six months sooner if we hadn't tied up so many ships transporting those goddamned fruitcakes." …

I did have a fruitcake once that must have been made by a swinging baker. It was drenched in so much rum and brandy that all I had to do was hammer a hole in the top and put in a straw to get the old-fashioned thrill grandma must have known.

But beyond that, I've never met a fruitcake I liked.

Here’s a link to the full Phyllis Diller article, Death Before Fruitcake.

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here