Jump to content

"Madame" - She's Back!


NickAtNight
 Share

This topic is 5035 days old and is no longer open for new replies.  Replies are automatically disabled after two years of inactivity.  Please create a new topic instead of posting here.  

Recommended Posts

Madame makes a comeback, feistier than ever

Thursday, December 4, 2008

BY DAVID J. SPATZ

SPECIAL TO THE RECORD

Speechless and literally locked in a box for more than 15 years, one of the most outrageous divas to come out of the 1960s is on the comeback trail.

 

Madame, the saucy, bawdy puppet who was the alter ego of the late puppeteer and comedian Wayland Flowers, is making the rounds of cabarets and small nightclubs with a new act that draws much of its inspiration from Madame’s original material.

 

"After [Flowers] died in 1988, the people he left Madame to couldn’t bring themselves to face her for many years," says Rick Skye, a performer and writer who’s been Madame’s sidekick for the past two years.

 

Several years ago, however, Flowers’ former manager, Marlena Shell, who inherited the puppet, decided it was time to honor Flowers’ memory and see if Madame could be brought back to life.

 

"Madame really was a very big star in her day, she was a legend," says Skye, "and there was no reason why she couldn’t perform again."

 

The trick, he explains, was casting the right performer — someone with a quick wit like Flowers’, who could come close to capturing Madame’s distinctive voice while manipulating the rod puppet and remaining "invisible" to the audience.

 

"We had to find someone who loved all the same things [Flowers] loved, which made him the person he was and influenced the humor that he did," Skye says. "We found people who could manipulate the puppet, but we couldn’t find anyone who could get inside Madame’s skin, and that was the most important part."

 

Shell ultimately decided Skye was the man for the job, and he began putting the words in Madame’s mouth.

 

Madame’s new act combines fresh material written by Skye with many of Flowers’ original jokes and stories. Currently performing every Saturday at Resorts Atlantic City through Jan. 3, the show is being presented cabaret-style in the intimate, 150-seat Starlight Room.

 

"If people think she’s a little more shocking and raunchy, it’s because we’re hoping [younger audiences] are going to see her, so we have to make her relevant to them, more cutting-edge," Skye explains.

 

Madame was created around the time of the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, when Flowers was working a marionette show there. He was given a puppet that resembled a witch, and he began developing a persona for the puppet and took her everywhere he went.

 

 

Bawdy dowager

 

As Madame’s character became more clearly defined – and as Flowers "softened" her look into that of a bawdy dowager à la actress Gloria Swanson – people began taking notice.

 

"[Madame] was an underground act that took root and shot up out of nowhere," Flowers said during an interview not long before he died.

 

Madame made her television debut with Andy Williams in the mid-1960s as "an outrageous old broad" whose double-entendre humor and snappy comebacks got past television censors. Soon it was hard to turn on the tube and not see Madame, who popped up on everything from the dance show "Solid Gold" to "Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In" and even occupied the center square on the game show "Hollywood Squares."

 

Eventually, Madame landed her own syndicated sitcom – "Madame’s Place" – in 1982. Flowers continued to tour with Madame and other outrageous characters like Crazy Mary and Jiffy.

 

Skye relishes the challenge to bring a classic comedy character back to life and reintroduce her to her fans while trying to attract a new audience of people who’ve never heard of Madame.

 

"What’s funny about Madame is that she looks like an elegant woman who comes from a [privileged] background, but underneath she’s really like a brassy old chorus girl who’s risen to Beverly Hills status," Skye says with a laugh. "Madame’s whole thing is that she’ll say the things everyone thinks but is afraid to say."

 

"Madame With an E" is presented 9 p.m. Saturdays at Resorts Atlantic City through Jan. 3. Tickets are $10, available through Ticketmaster.

 

Speechless and literally locked in a box for more than 15 years, one of the most outrageous divas to come out of the 1960s is on the comeback trail.

 

 

Madame Madame, the saucy, bawdy puppet who was the alter ego of the late puppeteer and comedian Wayland Flowers, is making the rounds of cabarets and small nightclubs with a new act that draws much of its inspiration from Madame’s original material.

 

"After [Flowers] died in 1988, the people he left Madame to couldn’t bring themselves to face her for many years," says Rick Skye, a performer and writer who’s been Madame’s sidekick for the past two years.

 

Several years ago, however, Flowers’ former manager, Marlena Shell, who inherited the puppet, decided it was time to honor Flowers’ memory and see if Madame could be brought back to life.

 

"Madame really was a very big star in her day, she was a legend," says Skye, "and there was no reason why she couldn’t perform again."

 

The trick, he explains, was casting the right performer — someone with a quick wit like Flowers’, who could come close to capturing Madame’s distinctive voice while manipulating the rod puppet and remaining "invisible" to the audience.

 

"We had to find someone who loved all the same things [Flowers] loved, which made him the person he was and influenced the humor that he did," Skye says. "We found people who could manipulate the puppet, but we couldn’t find anyone who could get inside Madame’s skin, and that was the most important part."

 

Shell ultimately decided Skye was the man for the job, and he began putting the words in Madame’s mouth.

 

Madame’s new act combines fresh material written by Skye with many of Flowers’ original jokes and stories. Currently performing every Saturday at Resorts Atlantic City through Jan. 3, the show is being presented cabaret-style in the intimate, 150-seat Starlight Room.

 

"If people think she’s a little more shocking and raunchy, it’s because we’re hoping [younger audiences] are going to see her, so we have to make her relevant to them, more cutting-edge," Skye explains.

 

Madame was created around the time of the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, when Flowers was working a marionette show there. He was given a puppet that resembled a witch, and he began developing a persona for the puppet and took her everywhere he went.

 

 

Bawdy dowager

 

As Madame’s character became more clearly defined – and as Flowers "softened" her look into that of a bawdy dowager à la actress Gloria Swanson – people began taking notice.

 

"[Madame] was an underground act that took root and shot up out of nowhere," Flowers said during an interview not long before he died.

 

Madame made her television debut with Andy Williams in the mid-1960s as "an outrageous old broad" whose double-entendre humor and snappy comebacks got past television censors. Soon it was hard to turn on the tube and not see Madame, who popped up on everything from the dance show "Solid Gold" to "Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In" and even occupied the center square on the game show "Hollywood Squares."

 

Eventually, Madame landed her own syndicated sitcom – "Madame’s Place" – in 1982. Flowers continued to tour with Madame and other outrageous characters like Crazy Mary and Jiffy.

 

Skye relishes the challenge to bring a classic comedy character back to life and reintroduce her to her fans while trying to attract a new audience of people who’ve never heard of Madame.

 

"What’s funny about Madame is that she looks like an elegant woman who comes from a [privileged] background, but underneath she’s really like a brassy old chorus girl who’s risen to Beverly Hills status," Skye says with a laugh. "Madame’s whole thing is that she’ll say the things everyone thinks but is afraid to say."

 

"Madame With an E" is presented 9 p.m. Saturdays at Resorts Atlantic City through Jan. 3. Tickets are $10, available through Ticketmaster.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

I went to see the show Saturday Night and was a bit disappointed. I loved Wayland Flowers and the way he presented "Madame" back in the day however Rick Skye's redition of "Madame" was a bit off. He just didn't have the same charm and charisma that Wayland had. In fact 90% of his act was old material from back in the 80's that Wayland did on his HBO Special "Madame In Manhatten". Maybe just switched a few words here and there but basically the same old jokes. Rick did however have quite a good strong singing voice. That "Old Queen" has quite a set of pipes on her!

 

Was also disappointed that the audience at Resorts Casino was about 99% straight with most being Senior Citizens. I thought it would have been an older gay campy crowd but I was wrong. :-(

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This looks like Attempt #3 to resurrect Madame. 2 years ago she appeared in the SF Pride Parade (sponsored by Tylenol PM, of all people) and I think it was concurrent with a local cabaret appearance. (I don't know if it is the same man named above).

 

I didn't go to that one because I was sorely disappointed by the attempt in the 90's with a man who had Madame laughing riotously at all her own jokes.

 

I think all these efforts would be better placed finding existing video of Flowers' act (beyond the one movie appearance and "Madame in Manhattan") and preserving him AND Jiffy and Crazy Mary (who barely get seen on video).

 

I miss him, too, but I think it's time to admit they're both gone. Maybe these young men could come up with their own puppets just as fun.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...