Wayland Flowers

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Wayland Flowers
Wayland Flowers and Madame.jpg
Wayland Flowers and Madame from Madame's Place
Wayland Parrott Flowers Jr.

(1939-11-26)November 26, 1939
DiedOctober 11, 1988(1988-10-11) (aged 48)
Resting placeCedar Hill Cemetery
OccupationActor, comedian, and puppeteer
Years active1960–1988

Wayland Parrott Flowers Jr. (November 26, 1939 – October 11, 1988) was an American actor, comedian and puppeteer.[1] Flowers was best known for the comedy act he created with his puppet Madame. His performances as "Wayland Flowers and Madame" were a major national success on stage and on screen in the 1970s and 1980s.


Wayland Parrott Flowers Jr. was born November 26, 1939 in, and raised in, Dawson, Georgia. Flowers created Madame in the mid-1960s. Flowers' first big break was an appearance on The Andy Williams Show. The character of Madame is an "outrageous old broad" who entertains with double entendres and witty comebacks. Bedecked in fabulous evening wear and "summer diamonds" ("Some are diamonds; some are not"), Madame's look is based on movie stars such as Gloria Swanson. Madame may have been based on a Washington, DC gay icon, waitress and restaurant hostess Margo MacGregor.[2]

Madame's many TV appearances included Laugh-In; a long run on the game show Hollywood Squares (replacing Paul Lynde in The Center Square); a recurring comedy skit on Solid Gold; a regular on ABC's short-lived summer replacement show called Keep on Truckin', TV guest spots; and as the star of her own syndicated 1982 sitcom, Madame's Place.

Flowers and Madame were in the center square on the final NBC episode of Hollywood Squares in June 1980; host Peter Marshall asked Madame the final game question of the daytime series, which was "Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Strauss lived in the same place. Where did they all live?" Madame's "comic" answer: "At the YMCA!" Then her "serious" answer: Germany. (The correct answer: Austria.)

Flowers' other puppets included Crazy Mary (an escapee from Bellevue mental hospital), Jiffy (a Harlem harlot with a heart of brass), Macklehoney (a crotchety, retired vaudeville comedian). His puppet Smedley worked with Marlo Thomas on Free to Be... You and Me.

Personal life[edit]

Flowers was one of the first mainstream entertainers who was openly gay.[3]


Sometime during his four-year stint on Solid Gold, Flowers was diagnosed with HIV. He did not publicly announce his diagnosis and continued to perform. Flowers eventually developed Kaposi's sarcoma, an AIDS-related cancer. On September 2, 1988, he collapsed onstage while performing at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe. After a brief hospitalization, he returned to his hometown of Dawson, Georgia, where he visited family.[4] Upon returning to Los Angeles, he moved into the hospice Hughes House for palliative care.[5] On October 11, 1988, Flowers died at Hughes House of complications from AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma at the age of 48.[6][7] His remains were cremated at Grand View Memorial Park & Crematory in Glendale, California, and shipped back to his hometown of Dawson, Georgia, where they were interred at Cedar Hills Cemetery.[8]

Flowers bequeathed his estate to his manager, Marlena Shell.[9]


Flowers wrote the book Madame: My Misbegotten Memoirs, which was published in 1983.[10]

Ten years after Flowers's death, Madame returned to the stage with entertainer Rick Skye. After appearances on several television shows, performances of "It's Madame with an E" began November 15, 2008, at Resorts Atlantic City.[9][11] During 2010, the show also toured the US.[12]

Flowers inspired the first name of Waylon Smithers, a fictional character on the animated TV series The Simpsons, who later came out as gay.[13]


  1. ^ AP (October 12, 1988). "Wayland Flowers Dies; Ventriloquist Was 48". The New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2006.
  2. ^ Najafi, Yusef (July 26, 2007). "Universal Mother: Saying goodbye to Margo". MetroWeekly. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  3. ^ Anderson-Minshall, Diane (March 4, 2013). "Madame's Back and Randy As Ever". The Advocate. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  4. ^ Jones, Jack (October 12, 1988). "Wayland Flowers; Creator of Risque Puppet Madame". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  5. ^ Gilliam, Jerry; Braun, Stephen (October 28, 1988). "AIDS Hospices Bonds Get Tentative OK". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  6. ^ "Wayland Flowers Dies; Ventriloquist Was 48". The New York Times. Associated Press. October 12, 1988. Retrieved December 30, 2006.
  7. ^ Los Angeles County death certificate number 38819045556, registered October 13, 1988 by Donald W. Long, M.D.
  8. ^ Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3 ed.). McFarland. p. 247. ISBN 978-0-786-47992-4.
  9. ^ a b Ferber, Lawrence (December 23, 2008). "The Divine Miss M." The Advocate. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  10. ^ Flowers, Wayland (1983). Madame: My Misbegotten Memoirs. Dodd, Mead. ISBN 9780396082347.
  11. ^ Resorts Atlantic City website, retrieved November 10, 2008
  12. ^ "Tour Dates: "It's Madame with an E"". MadameandMe.com. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  13. ^ Goertz, Allie; Prescott, Julia (August 8, 2016). "I Married Marge (with Jeff Martin)" (Podcast). Maximum Fun. Event occurs at 61:28. Retrieved April 4, 2018.

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