Actress/dancer Billie Hayes was born Billie Armstrong Brosch August 5, 1924 in DuQuoin, Illinois. She passed away April 29, 2021 in Los Angeles, California, of natural causes, at the very respectable age of 96. She has already been cremated and her ashes scattered at sea.
If you were a child in the Sixties or Seventies, you knew Billie Hayes through the works of Sid and Marty Krofft, as Witchiepoo on the H.R. Pufnstuf television series and the movie, and as Weenie the Genie on Lidsville. If you were a fan of musical theater – or Al Capp’s comic strip – you knew her as Mammy Yokum in Li’l Abner. From the 1980s onward she concentrated on voice acting, often as an old woman or a witch. She had a magnificent cackle.
On Broadway, she stole the show in New Faces of 1956. She was so popular that the producers refused to let her out of her contract to accept the role of Mammy Yokum in Li’l Abner. The part went to Charlotte Rae (Mrs. Garrett on Facts of Life, Agatha Cackle in The Worst Witch) instead, but Hayes eventually replaced Rae not only on Broadway but in the movie version of Li’l Abner.
Billy Hayes’ career as an entertainer stretched from 1934 to 2016. She danced, she sang, she acted. When she started her career as a tap dancer, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the White House.
Her voicework included Disney’s The Black Cauldron, Hanna-Barbera’s Paw Paws, Teen Titans, Shrek Forever After, and Transformers: Rescue Bots.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.