Wayland Flowers (1939 – 1988)
Wayland Flowers, ventriloquist, is the creator of the immortal loud-mouthed puppet known as “Madame.” Seen on the Johnny Carson show and various other venues around the country, he was one of the most visible puppeteers of this century.
Born in Dawson, Georgia on November 26th,1939 he was the second of three children. Flowers received his first marionette set and learned to manipulate them at a very early age of 7 or 8. He began carving his own figures and using a variety of mediums. He also began to take lessons in dance, music and movement in an effort to better understand the puppetry process and different production styles.
When he finally graduated from Terrell Country High School, he had a working knowledge of puppetry stagecraft and its procedures.
College confirmed his desire to become an actor and after a trip to New York, he decided his future was there. However, acting proved not to be profitable and Flowers returned to his first love, puppetry. He worked in construction and design of puppets with different puppetry troupes around the area including the Captain Kangaroo Show. During this time, he was given a puppet by a dear friend; “It looked like a frog with yarn hair and a black velvet shroud. But the way he had painted it, the eyes had such depth. It really looked at you.” With puppet in tow he traveled to bars and sat around entertaining the customers. There he met an older woman with an explosive vocabulary: he found his puppets character and named her “Madame.”
By adding a bit more clay and fabric, the character was ready. He put on his first show in 1971, Kumquats, “the world’s first erotic puppet show.” The show was somewhat falsely billed, yet it was Madame’s ribald personality that rocketed Flowers to stardom. After winning an Emmy and working in movies and on the West Coast, he was billed as “highly entertaining and often hysterically funny… Madame, whom Flowers manipulates with amazing precision, is crème de la crème of high ‘camp’.”
Flowers was featured on The Andy Williams Show, Hollywood Squares, Laugh-In, Solid Gold, as well as Madame’s own featured specials. In addition to Madame, Wayland created Crazy Mary, Jiffy, Mr. Mackelhoney, and Baby Smedley. Madame, however, was always closest to his heart. By the end of his career, Wayland had won two Emmys, a “Specialty Act of the Year Award”, a “Jimmy” Award, the Sebastion International Fabulous Imagery Award and had played such venues as the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, Radio City in N.Y., Symphony Hall in Atlanta, the Universal Amphitheater in L. A., the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the Warner Theater in D.C. When he died at 48 he was buried with his dummy, Madame.