Talk to the hand

Madame is back -- on the arm of a new man.

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You've got to hand it to her

superego@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO You may remember Madame, the giddy grande dame of this glorious puppet show we call life — or at least gay life in the ’70s. Chanteuse, raconteuse, free booze — the legendary Madame does it all. When I heard she was out of retirement and performing onstage again, I leaped at the chance to grill this delightful morsel about her recent whereabouts. How could I resist? We have so much in common. She's a sasspot. I'm a sasspot. Her new show is "It's Madame with an E!" I'm Marke with an "e." She only comes alive when a man sticks his arm up her behind. I'm at the midpoint of my once ambitious writing career, interviewing a sexagenarian marionette. It's kismet!

SUPER EGO: Madame, I love you. My memories and dreams have forever been haunted by your exquisite form, which first appeared to my young gay eyes as a frequent guest on TV's Laugh In, then as a presenter on Solid Gold, and also as the center square on Hollywood Squares. How does it feel to be such a cultural icon?

MADAME: Me? A cultural icon? My word, darlin' ... all this cheap flattery will get you everywhere. I do adore anything cheap. Cheap flattery, cheap booze, you ... I've spent so many years giving and giving, and now that I'm a few years wiser, I'm ready to receive. Honey, I'll take it three times a night if I can get it.

SE: You've won two Emmys, untold accolades, and even — along with your former partner, Wayland Flowers — a Sebastian International Fabulous Imagery Award, presented by Bette Davis in 1982. The worth of your career merchandise on eBay is priceless. But you’re also a survivor. Since Wayland passed on many years ago, you've been pining away in self-imposed exile, only leaving your box for the occasional dry martini and foot massage. And here's the big comeback, with you emerging from your emotional cocoon on the arm of a handsome new man. Why now? Is Madame out to change the world again?

MADAME: I am thrilled to death to be treading the boards once again, with my new right-hand man, Joe Kovacs. I could never give up entertaining. Even though I was out of the spotlight for far too many years, I did not completely stop, um, performing. Unfortunately, every time the cops would show up, I'd have to hide behind a bush until the coast was clear. But certainly, at my advanced age, I am not out to change the world ... just my Depends.

SE: What can we expect to see in your new show — a personal journey? Songs of redemption? Alcoholics Anonymous testimonials?

MADAME: My new show has a little bit of something for everyone. Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something oh-so-very blue. Just like my new vibrator. So leave the little ones at home ... or I guess you could crack the window and leave them in the car.

SE: As a woman of a certain age, how do you stay so well preserved? What's your secret?

MADAME: Good, hard living. Plus the occasional application of Murphy's Oil Soap and a light buffing.

SE: Any inspirational words of wisdom you'd like to share with the young people of today?

MADAME: Honey, when it all seems too dark and everything's closing in on ya, get out of the back room and hit the dance floor! Just reach out and touch someone other than yourself for once. And for God's sake, laugh, dammit, laugh!

IT'S MADAME WITH AN E! Thu/30–Sat/2, 8 p.m. York Hotel, Empire Plush Room 940 Sutter, SF $30 1-866-468-3399 www.empireplushroom.com

HELP IS ON THE WAY FOR THE HOLIDAYS VIII With Madame and Nancy Sinatra Sun/3, 5:30 p.m. Herbst Theatre 401 Van Ness, SF $45–$150 (415) 273-1620 www.helpisontheway.org www.madameandme.com

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