Billie Hayes (née Brosch), known for playing Witchiepoo in the beloved 1969 children’s show H.R. Pufnstuf, has died. She was 96.
The veteran actress died Thursday of natural causes at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to Deadline. Her family announced the news of her death.
She was best known for her performance on H.R. Pufnstuf, which ran for 17 episodes on NBC in 1969, as well as the 1970 feature adaptation, Pufnstuf.
Hayes entertained audiences with a slapstick, vaudeville style performance of Witchiepoo, the villainous witch who was constantly trying to steal the magical Freddy the Flute.
Hayes revived the role of Witchiepoo in Sid and Marty Krofft’s other shows, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour and Lidsville, and again on The Paul Lynde Halloween Special in 1976.
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She also gave a memorable performance as Mammy Yokum in the 1956 Broadway musical adaptation of the comic strip Li’l Abner. She also played the role in the 1959 movie and a 1971 TV special.
The Illinois native’s other credits include appearances in The Monkees, Bewitched, Donny and Marie and Murder, She Wrote.
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She also had a number of voiceover roles in animated series including The Flinstones Comedy Show, The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, The Black Cauldron, The Real Ghostbusters, The Night Before Christmas, Rugrats and The Powerpuff Girls.
Born April 11, 1925 in Du Quoin, Illinois, to an assistant relief administrator to the underprivileged and a coal miner union leader, she began performing at age 9, when she danced at local nightclubs. Hayes performed a solo act in Chicago during her teens, touring around the Midwest, before landing in New York City.
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She made her Broadway debut in Leonard Sillman’s New Faces of 1956, alongside Maggie Smith, after appearing in the revue What’s New with Paul Lynde.
After her turn in Li’l Abner, she played Minnie Fay, touring with the national production of Hello Dolly! starring Betty Grable.
An animal lover and vegetarian, she founded the animal rescue non-profit Pet Hope in 1984. She served as the organization’s president until her death.