Billie Hayes, whose portrayal of the flamboyantly and comically depraved witch Witchiepoo on the 1969-70 Saturday morning live-action youngsters’s traditional H.R. Pufnstuf, died of pure causes April 29 at Cedar’s Hospital in Los Angeles. She was 96.
Her dying was introduced by her household.
A Broadway veteran by the point she reached nationwide fame because the flute-stealing nemesis to a psychedelic dragon, Hayes had starred as Mammy (*96*) in each the Broadway and movie variations of the favored late-Nineteen Fifties musical Lil’ Abner. She’d made her Broadway debut in New Faces of 1956 together with an ensemble that included actress Maggie Smith.
Following a few visitor appearances on episodic TV in 1967 – together with a Mammy (*96*)-type matriarch within the “Hillbilly Honeymoon” episode of The Monkees – Hayes endeared herself to a technology of glued-to-the-tube Saturday morning viewers in 1969 because the eccentrically costumed, ever-cackling and at all times bumbling Witchiepoo (full title: Wilhelmina W. Witchiepoo).
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With a efficiency panache that was over-the-top even by the wacky requirements of the Sid and Marty Krofft universe of costumed creatures, Hayes was a right away scene-stealer. Series-stealer, truly: Though Witchiepoo was the H.R. Pufnstuf villain, intent on stealing the magical, speaking Freddy the Flute as if he have been a pair of ruby slippers, Hayes’ wildly entertaining vaudeville, slapstick type had legions of younger viewers rooting her on to a victory that by no means got here. “Why me?,” she’d whine or sob after the inevitable backfiring of her newest evil scheme.
Born in Du Quoin, Illinois, Hayes started her show enterprise profession at age 9, dancing professionally in native nightclubs. While nonetheless in highschool, she joined the fourteen-piece regional orchestra of Vince Genovese, and carried out solo in her teenagers in Chicago and all through the Midwest.
After transferring to New York, Hayes carried out alternatives from her nightclub singing-and-dancing routine in an audition for famed theater impresario J.J. Shubert, who was so taken along with her comedian and musical skills he cast her in principal roles of three roadshow operettas: Student Prince, The Merry Widow and Blossom Time.
Hayes (in pink shirt holding pipe), ‘Lil’ Abner’ (1959)
Soon sufficient she was co-starring with fellow newcomer Paul Lynde within the New York revue What’s New, which led to her Broadway debut in Leonard Sillman’s New Faces show. She then took over the function of Lil’ Abner‘s Mammy (*96*) from the unique cast’s Charlotte Rae, discovering herself alongside one other up-and-comer within the substitute cast named Valerie Harper.
Hayes, with old-age make-up, a white wig and a long-stemmed pipe, would reprise the function in Paramount’s 1959 movie model and, in 1971, a TV-movie adaptation. She’d return to the stage within the late Sixties because the character Minnie Fay within the nationwide touring firm of Hello, Dolly! starring Betty Grable.
After her 1969 arrival within the destined-for-cult-classic Sid and Marty Krofft collection, which additionally starred Jack Wild (Oliver!) because the on-the-run Dorothy Gale-stand-in Jimmy and, as Pufnstuf the dragon, Lennie Weinrib in full-body green-and-yellow costume, Hayes had discovered what can be her signature function. She returned because the character within the 1970 characteristic movie adaptation Pufnstuf, together with Wild, Martha Raye and, in her sole characteristic function, “Mama” Cass Elliot (as Witch Hazel).
Hayes even reprised the function in 1976 on the ABC Halloween particular of her old pal Paul Lynde, showing with The Wizard of Oz‘s Margaret Hamilton in a comedy sketch that exposed the sisterly bond between the 2 well-known witches.
The cancelation of H.R. Pufnstuf in 1970 led to yet one more Krofft casting, this time within the twin function of Witchiepoo and the kindlier Weenie the Genie in Lidsville (1971-72), with Charles Nelson Reilly taking the show’s chief villain spot as magician Horatio J. Hoodoo.
Hayes had an extended and busy subsequent TV profession in voice roles – The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, The Flintstones Comedy Show, Trollkins, The Real Ghostbusters, Rugrats, Transformers: Rescue Bots, amongst many others – and she or he appeared in a recurring function on General Hospital within the early Nineteen Eighties as a street-wise worldwide spy named Agent Brighton O’Reilly.
Offscreen, Hayes based the Los Angeles-based animal rescue nonprofit group Pet Hope, a trigger she had championed since adopting a pet deserted within the basement of Broadway’s St. James Theatre throughout the run of Lil’ Abner.
Hayes is survived by niece Nancy Powers, nephews Tom Brosch, Louie Brosch and Guy Brosch; their spouses; and several other great-nieces and -nephews. The household requests donations in lieu of flowers to Pet Hope.
Margaret Hamilton (Wizard of Oz) as soon as advised us that Billie Hayes was “the most effective witches ever” We couldn’t agree extra. Rest in Peace expensive pal. #RIP #Billiehayes pic.twitter.com/UW6k53apOG
— 𝕊𝕚𝕕 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕄𝕒𝕣𝕥𝕪 𝕂𝕣𝕠𝕗𝕗𝕥 (@SidMartyKrofft) May 3, 2021
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