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Billie Armstrong Brosch
August 5, 1924
Du Quoin, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||April 29, 2021 (aged 96)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Hayes was born Billie Armstrong Brosch, in Du Quoin, Illinois, on August 5, 1924, to Charles and Marie (Armstrong) Brosch. Her father was from Germany, and was a coal miner who headed the local miners' union. Her mother was from Illinois, and worked in administration relief. She had an older brother, Louis Brosch. She started working professionally in entertainment at the age of nine, tap dancing in local theatres. By the time she was in high school, she played in bandleader Vince Genovese's orchestra, then toured with her own singing and dancing act throughout the Midwest. Hayes then moved on to New York City, where she auditioned for theatre owner/operator and producer J.J. Shubert, and was hired for principal roles in three roadshow operettas: The Student Prince, The Merry Widow, and Blossom Time.
Hayes was best known for her comic portrayal of Wilhelmina W. Witchiepoo on NBC's Sid and Marty Krofft television series H.R. Pufnstuf. Her characteristic cackle and animated physicality were notable during the show's 17-episode run in 1969–70. She reprised this role in another Sid and Marty Krofft program Lidsville, in The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976), and in the second (final) season of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (September 6-December 13, 1969). Hayes portrayed similar characters in other television roles, including the gingerbread-house witch in Episode 8, Season10 (1971) of Bewitched ("Hansel and Gretel in Samantha-Land"), Weenie the Genie in Lidsville, and Maw Weskitt in Episode 39 of the second season of The Monkees ("Hillbilly Honeymoon").
Hayes played Mammy Pansy Yokum in the Li'l Abner 1956 Broadway musical, the 1959 film version, and a 1971 television special. In 1966, she toured with the national company of Hello, Dolly! starring Betty Grable. Hayes made television appearances on “Murder, She Wrote,” and on the soap opera General Hospital as Robert Scorpio's mentor O'Reilly in 1981 and 1985.
Her first voice work role was as Orgoch on the Disney feature film The Black Cauldron in 1985. Other voice work has included Mother Mae-Eye in the animated series Teen Titans, One-Eyed Sally in The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald, Granny Applecheeks in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, and roles on cartoons The Further Adventures of SuperTed, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Johnny Bravo, W.I.T.C.H., The Batman, TaleSpin, The Brothers Flub, Bubble Guppies, Rugrats, Transformers: Rescue Bots, Duckman, Shrek Forever After, Bonkers, Problem Child, Siegfried and Roy: Masters of the Impossible, and Darkwing Duck.
Hayes retired from acting in 2016.
Hayes was the president of the animal rescue organization Pet Hope, which she founded in 1984 to care for and find homes for abandoned animals. On her personal website, Hayes offered autographed photos for donations to Pet Hope.
- Billie Hayes, Witchiepoo on 'H.R. Pufnstuf,' Dies at 96
- An Interview With Billie Hayes, Skip E. Lowe, 1993
- "United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KWCB-3PW : 8 January 2021), Billie Brosch in household of Charles Brosch, Du Quoin Election Precinct, Perry, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 73-6, sheet 2A, line 16, family 27, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 866.
- Li'l Abner at the Internet Broadway Database
- "Billie Hayes obituary: "H.R. Pufnstuf" star dies at 96". Legacy.com. 2021-05-04. Retrieved 2021-05-05.
- "Pet Hope". Billie Hayes.
- Billie Hayes Dies: Wicked Witchiepoo Of ‘H.R. Pufnstuf’ Was 96