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Selma Diamond (August 5, 1920 ā€“ May 13, 1985) was an Canadian-born American comic actress and radio and television writer, is known best for her high-range, raspy voice and her portrayal of Selma Hacker on the first two seasons of the NBC television comedy series Night Court.

Biography

Diamond was born in Montreal, Quebecmarker and raised in Brooklyn, New Yorkmarker. She graduated from New York Universitymarker and published cartoons and humour essays in The New Yorker before making the jump to radio and, eventually, television. Her earliest radio writing credits included Groucho Marx, Duffy's Tavern, and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. In 1950, she became one of the staffers hired by legendary comedy writer Goodman Ace (who'd previously hired her for some work on Danny Kaye's short-lived 1940sā€™ radio show) for The Big Show (1950-1952), the ninety-minute radio variety program hosted by Tallulah Bankhead and featuring some of the biggest entertainers of the era weekly.

She moved on to television as one of the writers for Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca's groundbreaking Your Show of Shows. Diamond was reputed to have been the inspiration for the Sally Rogers character on The Dick Van Dyke Show (played by the similarly raspy-voiced Rose Marie), which centered around the head writer for a fictitious, mercurial television comedian. While writing for another Caesar vehicle, Caesar's Hour, Diamond earned an Emmy nomination. She also worked for Goodman Ace once again, writing for Perry Como's successful television series.

Diamond wasn't always taken seriously by her writing peers, however. Bob Schiller, who had also written for Duffy's Tavern and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, told author Jordan R. Young (for The Laugh Crafters), "The jury is still out on whether Selma was a comedy writer. She was really a very interesting character---salty, and she was---exactly what you saw on camera is what she was."

By the 1960s and 1970s, Diamond was familiar as a frequent guest on The Jack Paar Show and with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, and she made numerous film appearances, including It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (as the on-telephone voice of Spencer Tracy's wife, Ginger Culpepper), Bang the Drum Slowly (as hotel switchboard operator Tootsie), and All of Me (as Margo). In 1982, she appeared in My Favorite Year with a memorable small role as wardrobe mistress for King Kaiser's Comedy Calvalcade, a fictional show which clearly echoed the time and venue of her work for Sid Caesar. She was also a semi-regular for four seasons of the Ted Knight comedy series Too Close For Comfort.

For many years Ms Diamond resided in a co-op apartment at 60 Sutton Place South in Manhattan until she moved out in the late 1970s.

The diminutive Diamond was one of the original cast of Night Court until she was stricken with lung cancer and died at age 64 in Los Angelesmarker. Coincidentally her immediate successor, Florence Halop died of breast cancer while a member of the Night Court cast. Over a decade later, the gruff-voiced secretary "Roz" in Monsters, Inc., always hounding the lead characters about getting their paperwork done, was voiced by Bob Peterson in a strong impersonation of Diamond.

Diamond was the author of Nose Jobs for Peace, a 1970 collection of humour writings, some of which touched on her television work.

Further reading

  • Selma Diamond, Nose Jobs for Peace (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1970; 229 pages)
  • Jordan R. Young, The Laugh Crafters: Comedy Writing in Radio and TV's Golden Age (Beverly Hills, California: Past Time Publishing, 1999; 351 pages)


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