I shouldn’t take for granted that my younger readers are familiar with the world of Wayland Flowers and Madame, so I’m going to endeavor to provide some context because it’s actually pretty brilliant stuff and, at least in Stargayzing, comes with what appears to be a first-rate muffin recipe. So, it’s the late-1960s: imagine a flaming queen from a rural Georgia town (Mr. Flowers), also a ventriloquist, who became a major TV star without tamping down his sexuality by creating a ribald puppet (Madame) to express all the things he was unable to because of the social mores of the time. When you think about it this was pretty progressive, if not downright subversive. Madame’s persona was that of a Hollywood grand dame of old as refracted through the mind of quick-witted gay man. In other words, together Wayland and Flowers and Madame added up to one helluva drag queen.
Although Flowers died of AIDS in 1988, he and his alter-ego had a great run: the Andy Williams show, extended stints on the Hollywood Squares (replacing center square Paul Lynde) and the brilliant music countdown show Solid Gold (I won’t soon forget Madame dishing with the lovely Marilyn McCoo, can you?) and, finally, their own show Madame’s Place, which ran for one season in 1982 and also featured then-child actor Corey Feldman and Judy Landers, one half of the sexy Landers twins. About ten years after Flowers’ death in what might be one of the most egregious examples of identity theft in the annals of ventriloquism, some other queen stuck his hand up the puppet’s ass to try and make some dough, but there was and will only ever be one real Madame and that was Mr. Flowers.
Here are the “real” Madame and the great Bea Arthur, no slouch herself at the art of the putdown, talking about clothes, quibbling over the affection of guest Rock Hudson (ironic, that) and bringing it all home with a song “A Good Man is Hard to Find” from Miss Arthur’s 1980 CBS special. As if this is not enough homo-variety, hang tight for the aforementioned muffin recipe which, other than one mysterious sounding ingredient, might actually be pretty good for in strictly stereotypical terms, being a gay man from the South surely predisposes Mr. Flowers to knowing his way around Madame’s muffins.
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 Tbsp. grated orange rind
1 apple, chopped (or 4 ripe bananas, whipped)
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped pecans
juice of one orange added to buttermilk to make 2 cups
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350˚
Mix dry ingredients. Add rind, apples, raisins and pecans. Set aside. In separate bowl beat eggs. Blend in honey, molasses, and oil. Add orange juice and buttermilk to the egg mixture. Mix dry ingredients with egg mixture using a few strokes.
Prepare 24 muffin cups with a few drops of Vegaline* or small amount of PAM. Bake for 20 -25 minutes
*Mysterious sounding ingredient: if memory serves, wasn’t Vegaline the synthetic oil once used in chips that was later found to cause anal leakage?