Madame & Wayland - A boisterous, dirty old
lady puppet manipulated by Wayland Flowers on the comedy series MADAME'S PLACE/SYN/1982.
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
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
"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."
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 & 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.
Madame, is it true that people
who smoke get rear-ended more often?
(Wayland &) Madame:
Hi sailor, got a light?
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
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).
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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