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Ventriloquists & Their Dummies

Madame & Wayland - A boisterous, dirty old lady puppet manipulated by Wayland Flowers on the comedy series MADAME'S PLACE/SYN/1982.

Madame: My Misbegotten Memoirs - Wayland Flowers

Madame was a throwback from the days of vaudeville and golden age movies. A self-described "alcoholic sex fiend," Madame lived glamorously wearing evening gowns, tiaras, rhinestones and feather boas and hosted her own talk show from her Hollywood mansion. Her chief job was to put down people with wicked one-liners and chase after handsome young men.

Support cast included Johnny Haymer, as Madame's butler, Walter Pinkerton; Judy Landers as Sara Joy, Madame's well-proportioned niece; and Hector Elias as Rollin Espinoza, the leader of Madame's All-Divorced Band.

Produced by Paramount Studios, the program ran five days a week for 150 episodes. Madame, a refugee from a Gloria Swanson movie Sunset Blvd. (1950) was operated by puppeteer Wayland Flowers whose sassy old lady puppet was a popular guest on the talk show circuit. 

"Ladies, are you tired of keeping your traps shut when your old man screws up real bad? Do you have to try to be in control of your temper when he does something so stupid even you can't believe it? Are you fed-up with being the nice quiet little wife when he can be a dumb loud-mouth oaf of a husband any time he pleases? If you answer yes to any of these questions, it's time you ordered your very own Inflatable Husband Doll. Yes folks, this wintery little doll will just sit there and look frightened no matter what you say...Yes ladies and gentlemen, the Inflatable Husband Doll. Available at Pretend-O-Rama and your local If-Only Stores." -- Madame

In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer (3/11/1988) Wayland Flowers revealed the origins of his Madame character which was based partly on his mother. "My mother was not as wild as Madame," said Flowers, "but she had a great dry wit." Then "one day" he was "sitting in a bar when this little old lady came in. She had on a straw hat and sensible shoes, and she had this dog on a leash with a rhinestone collar, and it was a real mutt. The little dog teetered in and she was teetering right behind him. She looked so sweet and then bammo!" Out came the vulgarity.

Wayland and Madame
Wayland & Madame

During his early career, Wayland Flowers worked on TV as a puppeteer in the landmark ABC children's special Free to Be...You and Me. He later made personal appearances with Liberace before touring on his own. Wayland also appeared on KEEP ON TRUCKIN' (1975); THE HOLLYWOOD SQUARES (1976-81); THE ANDY WILLIAMS SHOW (1976-77); LAUGH-IN (1979); THE BEATRICE ARTHUR SPECIAL (1980); and SOLID GOLD (1980-84). Wayland and Madame also appeared in the 1976 film Norman...Is That You?

While Flowers TV material was funny and clean by network standards, his adults-only nightclub routine in Las Vegas was so outrageous that his act was considered too dirty for Sin City. Much of Wayland's material is based on old jokes, one-liners from old burlesque show.

From 'The Hollywood Squares'

Peter Marshall: Madame, is it true that people who smoke get rear-ended more often?
(Wayland &) Madame: Hi sailor, got a light?

Peter Marshall: Do most women think a gambling casino is a good place to meet a man?
(Wayland &) Madame: I'll lay ya eight to five...or ten to midnight!

In the mid 1980s, Flowers retired from show business when the hassle and pressure of the "big rooms" became too intense. But, eventually he returned from his self-imposed exile to entertain his faithful fans but this time in "small rooms" like lounges at the Harrah's Marina Hotel Casino Bay Cabaret in Atlantic City. Now content with his new less stressful venue, he said " All I want to do now is go out, make people laugh and leave."

Born in Dawson, Georgia on November 26, 1939, comedian, actor, puppeteer Wayland Parrott Flowers died of an AIDS related illness at the age of 48 on October 11, 1988. He was cremated.

To read more about Wayland Flowers and his saucy, wooden-headed alter ego, checkout the book "Madame: My Misbegotten Memoirs as told to Wayland Flowers" (overheard and written by Gary Simmons). Dodd, Meade & Company, 1983.

The book shares Madame's life story, her show business successes, and her ups and downs. The antics of Wayland and Madame can also be enjoyed by viewing the VHS/DVD Madame in Manhattan (1984) which was originally filmed and aired as a Showtime special.

Wayland Flowers and his Madame were the recipients of an Emmy Award, a Jimmy Award (the Best of Las Vegas), and a Georgie Award for Best Specialty Act from AGVA.

In September 2004, the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry (and Thom Fountain) presented a retrospective on the life and career of puppeteer Wayland Flowers.

One of the 'Madame' hand and rod puppets used by Wayland Flowers circa 1980 can be found on display at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Georgia (a gift of Marlena Shell).

The Fabulous...Madame

As of 2002, Madame is back on the stage thanks to Marlena Shell - and the blessings of Gary Simmons and other past Wayland friends & family. Puppeteer Joe Kovacs replaces Wayland Flowers as Madame's partner in the act.


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