April 10, 2005


I loved this article (below) which Lypsinka sent me on that puppet Madame's flamboyant creator. Though Dame Edna, Rupaul, and films like TO WONG FOO and PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT would nab mainstream exposure in the 90's, in the 80's, the world wasn't quite ready to permit a free-standing drag queen, so Wayland had to squat his faggot-y ass behind a couch and only put his hand in drag via this puppet. But what a puppet! I have rented MADAME TAKES MANHATTAN, the video of "their" night-club act, at least 10 times and highly recommend it. It's a little racier than Madame's sitcom or HOLLYWOOD SQUARES appearances. In fact, it has an almost racist black hooker puppet named Jiffy who is seated on a garbage can talkin' trash outside the theater where Madame is performing. Celebrity cameos include Alice Ghostly, BEWITCHED'S Aunt Alice! And for those of you who enjoyed the Madame/Dionne Warwick Separated At Birth? blog entry, it turns out that they both hosted SOLID GOLD! I hear conflicting rumors that 2 different puppeteers have obtained the rights to re-birth Madame, but she has yet to emerge. WE WANT MADAME!!!

Flowers, Wayland (1939-1988)   
The complex relationship between the puppeteer and his puppet, an inanimate
object that he has invested with a life and a personality of its own, can take
many bizarre twists. Such is the case of Wayland Flowers and his puppet
"Madame," who, arguably, was far more famous than her creator.
Indeed, a decade and a half after Flowers's death, there is little
biographical information available about him and he would seem a mostly
forgotten minor
celebrity of the 1970s, while a search of the internet reveals that "Madame"
still retains a cult following.
Sponsor Message.

Wayland Flowers was born in Dawson, Georgia, on November 26, 1939. He began
to practice puppetry at an early age, drawn, perhaps, by a puppet's license to
say and do in public a wide variety of things forbidden to its human operator.
In the 1960s, Flowers moved to New York, where he was an assistant puppeteer
for a number of children's television shows. But while he entertained children
during the day, he also developed "Madame," an "adults-only" puppet, a
grotesquely ugly and flamboyantly ribald old crone festooned in outrageous
gowns, tiaras, and rhinestones.
Flowers performed with "Madame" in nightclubs and gay bars, where her frank
and often acerbic observations about sex, men, and life in general, similar to
those expressed by drag queens in their acts, gained the "dirty old lady"
and--by extension--Flowers a following that led to frequent television guest
appearances on variety and talk shows.
By the late 1960s, Flowers and "Madame" had become regulars on the comedy
program Laugh-In, one of the most popular television programs at the time and
known for its cutting-edge topical humor that frequently challenged network
censorship. In this context, Flowers was able to present a campy gay point of
mediated through his puppet.
Naughty old ladies have long been a staple of bawdy comedy, able to indulge
sarcastically in double entendre and sexual innuendo and yet be found amusing
rather than offensive, if for no other reason than the audience perceives older
women, no matter how stereotypical, as being past any serious sexual
This comedic incongruity, then, could be taken to even greater lengths by
means of an old lady who was not only extraordinarily ugly (though pretending to
be a great beauty) but who was also, in reality, wood and wire rather than
flesh and blood.
In this way, Flowers was able to express on prime-time television the
attitudes and desires of many gay men in the early days of gay liberation--views
would otherwise have been regarded as pointedly offensive to mainstream
audiences--without censure.
Throughout the 1970s, Wayland Flowers and "Madame" appeared frequently on
television, as the hosts of Solid Gold, a weekly popular music show, and on the
game show Hollywood Squares, where, after nearly a decade of guest appearances,
they succeeded Paul Lynde, a gay comic as bitchy and queeny as "Madame," as
the all-important "central square."
By the early 1980s, the puppet/human relationship had taken a strange turn in
Flowers's career. "Madame" became the star of her own sitcom, Madame's Place,
in which she played the lead role, interacting with the other actors as if
she were human.
Flowers, ironically, remained completely out of sight, his function as
"Madame"'s voice the only outward evidence of his presence. Indeed, she seemed
take on a life of her own, eclipsing Flowers until he became invisible--both
literally and figuratively--behind her.
As a result of his invisibility, very little attention was drawn to his
personal life, and thus it was a surprise to many when Flowers died in Hollywood
October 11, 1988, a victim of the AIDS epidemic. "Madame" was buried with him.
Patricia Juliana Smith
 iPublication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture   
        Publication Date:   2003     
        Date Last Updated   December 12, 2002    
        Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/flowers_w.html    


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where does one find "Madame Takes Manhattan"?

8:46 AM  
Blogger Lady Bunny said...

I used to rent the vhs at a mom-and-pop video store in the West Village called Mrs. Hudson's. Long closed, I'm afraid, as are most mom-and-pop operations in Manhattan these days. Perhaps ebay would sell it, or try googling her. It's definitely worth a pretty penny.

I actually wept each of the many times I watched the touching ending scene, where Wayland puts Madame to bed and tells her the story of his troubled childhood (ie gay queer queen) softened only by his understanding granny. When Grandma died, Madame was born as a substitute. The camera cuts back to Madame and she's snoring--she's drifted off during his schmaltzy tale. So either that Wayland was a genius puppeteer an writer or I'm a big crybaby--or both! Good luck tracking it down. Some film festival needs to get ahold of it now that the 80's are in vogue. --Bunion

10:10 PM  
Blogger Tigger said...

"Celebrity cameos include Alice Ghostly, BEWITCHED'S Aunt Alice!"

....sweetie, it was Aunt Esmerelda, not Alice darling. Enjoyed your tribute to Waylon. My parents wouldn't let me watch too much of the Madame. She made them very...nervous. It was enjoyable to watch.

12:33 AM  
Blogger kleverkloggs said...

A quick search on the net reveals 'Madame IN Manhattan' is for sale from an outfit called Lear Meadia fron the beginning of thid year. Plus two people looking for in the 'Wants' on ebay. I did come across a listing for one of the Madame puppets in a Christie's or Sotheby's sale catalogue years ago.

Lady Bunny, WHEN are you coming to London. U.K?! next.

8:17 PM  
Blogger kleverkloggs said...

Really sorry, didn't check my spelling!

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, found this doing a search on Waylon and Madame, i knew them back in the 80s when they would visit new orleans .. ive had this drawing waylon did of madame for me ..... was curious if its worth anything , other than what it obviously means to me personally......... daphiny

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gosh, i had forgotten about wayland flowers and madame. that brings back some old memories. i read an article recently about another 80s icon (or set of icons) that i had also forgotten about...the barbarian brothers, david paul and peter paul. rob bloom writes a funny article about them on his website. go to www.robbloom.com and go to the humor writer part and you'll see what i mean.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Madame was seen alive and FAAABULOUS last night at the Mao Mag party at Glow, to launch fashion week......I wept with joy at seeing her carry on once again....I was told that they just filmed for VH1, so keep watching for Madame....those of us who missed her, who have never had a problem with drag, or overt comedic talents, are dancing with glee......!!
Ellen Christine

7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


looks like madam is makin some appearences...i don't know about the new look

Stevie G. http://www.myspace.com/steviegurash

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is not the real Madame... Yes, she is back and working with a new "partner/puppeteer".... Take a look!

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had heard of, but not seen Wayland and Madame, when I got Friday night tickets to see them at the old Bijou Theater in Philadelphia. I thought I would DIE LAUGHING!

Friends were flying in from San Francisco the next day, so I got us all tickets. The woman screamed at me "You got us tickets for a f*ckin' PUPPET SHOW?" I almost had to pry her off the floor.

I last saw Wayland in Atlantic City just two weeks before his death.

To this day, I can not hear opera without thinking of Jiffy's line about "watchin' the four t*ts of Lucia down there."

When I die, I've made arrangements for friends to play a video of Wayland and Crazy Mary performing the song "Don't Take My Boop-Boop-Be-Doop Away."

Long live Wayland and long live us all.

John Petsinger
Center City Philadelphia

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Waylon Flowers was a comedic genuis! I saw a clip the other night of an old talk show and laughed into the next day at the quick quip. It is hard to find talent like that these days.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the original madame will never be re-born, sad to say, she passed with wayland and was laid to rest along side him. any "re-birthing" would be a farce in both of their legacies. i say let the poor souls rest in peace, and just release the video.
that would be like me trying to be "divine".

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew Waylon & Madame from Palm Springs California. She definately came to life. We used to go dancing all the time, hardly ever noticed Waylon. I loved them both dearly

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many years ago I saw a comedy special on HBO with Waylon Flowers & Madame. There was little doubt as to who the real star of the show was. Her First line on the show was as follows, " It's just so good to be on HBO where you can say what you want. Not like on Hollywood Squares, you say anything on there, that Peter Marshall, Peter Marshall, sounds like a bouncer in a gay bar, " from there on it was pandamonium, with her ribald tales of her life with her lovers and of course Maude , her best friend. The passing of Waylon and Madame marked an end to a truely grande age of comedy which I feel will never be seen again.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm married to Waylon's niece. His younger brother and older sister still live in Georgia. I wish I had met him but he had died before I had the chance. My wife's father sent us a copy of Madame Takes Manhattan this past Xmas! I remember as a child my parents rolling on the floor in laughter anytime Madame came on TV. Watching this makes my wife tear up as she recalls how Waylon would always seek her family out whenever he was in town, or fly them up to NYC or even London to watch one of his performances. Of course my wife was too young to go, but he never failed to make sure his brother and sister had the chance to see him perform live. He is sorely missed to this day which is evident anytime he is mentioned to my father in-law.

2:40 PM  
Blogger jettiki said...

I have an old Enquirer that goes into Wayland’s last days in the hospice entertaining other terminally ill patients in a soft voice but still leaving them in stitches (bad pun). He even had closure with Madame with her saying “I’m going to miss you when you’re gone Wayland.” and giving him a kiss and him replying “I’m going to miss you too old girl.”. Two days later he was gone with Madame at his side and according to his aunt he beloved after his death Madame would be in heaven with him. Someone has to break into the Solid Gold vaults and free that bitch.

5:42 PM  
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