Former Clevelander Heidi Rotbart is back in the news – for a sad reason: The death of her good friend, comedian Phyllis Diller. Rotbart met Diller in the early ’80s when she was public relations and marketing director for the Carousel Dinner Theatre in Ravenna.
Diller, who performed at the Carousel, took such a liking to Rotbart that she hired her. “I was on the road with her for close to seven years and she has been the biggest influence in my life after my family,” Rotbart said from Los Angeles.
Rotbart now heads Heidi Rotbart Management, specializing in managing stand-up comics and developing television and film projects for her clients.
As tour coordinator for Diller, she worked with such stars as former Clevelander Bob Hope, Sammy Davis Jr., Neil Sedaka and Frank Sinatra. “I didn’t realize who I was meeting in my ‘20s,” Rotbart said. “I look back and I think, kinda cool.”
When she heard that Diller died Aug. 20, Rotbart was stunned. She had just seen the Lima, Ohio, native a few weeks earlier. People began to call her from all over, “lighting up” her Facebook page. “Everyone remembers this 22-year-old moving to Los Angeles to work for this legend,” she said. “I remained in really close contact with her.”
In the early ’80s, Rotbart recalled, Diller’s address book was stolen. Diller was staying in a condominium attached to the Carousel when she was robbed. Diller’s initials, “PD,” were engraved on the front of the address book. Years later, police recovered the item, identifying it through those golden letters. “The burglars didn’t even take off the ‘PD,’” Rotbart said. “They weren’t smart enough to wrap the address book up in something else.”