…as I was saying, the only episode of Lidsville worth watching is the eighth one. It’s the one where the show’s peculiar sense of gender identity, begun when the Kroffts cast Billie Hayes to play a male genie, comes full circle as Butch Patrick gets dragged up as a Mae West-type called “Lovey Dovey.”
Nah, it’s the one where Billie Hayes gets a chance to play two parts. Hoo Doo writes to the local Lonely Hearts Club and, in one of the all-time great television crossover episodes, Witchiepoo flies over from H.R. Pufnstuf‘s Living Island for a whirlwind courtship. It is hysterical. It’s hate at first sight, and the diabolical duo spend about four minutes insulting each other. One point of contention is that these two deeply ugly people sent fraudulent photos to each other. Witchiepoo advertises herself as a 1940s-style Betty Grable-type, and, in the most wonderful and stupid gag in the whole series, Hoo Doo pretends that he looks like Sid Krofft himself!
Eventually the two lovebirds bond over their mutual love of throwing explosions at goody-goodies, and conclude that, in the words of a then-popular movie with Ray Milland, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry that you zapped somebody.” Witchiepoo won’t be taken to a secluded parking place in the Hatamaran because she’s not that kind of girl, so they spend their first date blasting downtown Lidsville into what the script assures us is dust but the director never shows anything like that.
Sadly, it’s all too good to last, and, his heart won over by Butch Patrick praying to heaven none of his friends were up at 8.00 in the morning to see him dressed like that, Hoo Doo dumps Witchiepoo on the eve of the latest Witch’s Ball, and teleports in Pufnstuf as a consolation prize for her. Puf is at least voiced by Lennie Weinrib, but that costume looks like a cheap, cheap copy made for personal appearances at supermarket openings in Santa Monica, and it’s worn by somebody at least a foot shorter than Roberto Gamonet.
Daniel grinned hugely when Witchiepoo showed up, as well he should. He was still more interested in the song over the end credits than the show itself, though!
Surprisingly, this was far from the last appearance of Witchiepoo, who kept showing up around the edges of popular culture in the 1970s. Billie Hayes did lots of personal appearances in the role, although she was subbed by Louise DuArt when Witchiepoo had a big segment at the big 1973 Krofft live show at the Hollywood Bowl. By 1976, Hayes had befriended the actress Margaret Hamilton, best known as the Wicked Witch of the West, and the two ladies had decided that their witch characters were sisters. When celebrity Paul Lynde wanted Hamilton to reprise the Wicked Witch in his infamous Paul Lynde Halloween Special, Hamilton agreed on the condition that Hayes got to play Witchiepoo with her.
Finally, in 1978, the rarest Krofft series, The Krofft Superstar Hour, aired. This was a variety show hosted by the Bay City Rollers, and there was a recurring segment called Horror Hotel which reimagined Witchiepoo as the proprietor of a hotel and her gang (including, bizarrely, both Dr. Blinky and Hoo Doo, as played by Paul Gale) as her staff! So no, Witchiepoo never hit the big time, but she certainly showed up in lots of places, and Horror Hotel badly, badly needs to be issued on DVD. I’m sure that music clearance issues will keep the whole program on the shelves forever, but We Want Witchiepoo!
(Incidentally, mention of The Krofft Superstar Hour reminds me that when I was about seventeen, I found the book Children’s Television, the First Thirty-five Years, 1946-1981: Live, film, and tape series by George W. Woolery, which dropped the bombshell that one of the Krofft Superstar Hour segments was called Cha-Ka and Wolf Boy. I spent years trying to find just one more reference to that anywhere. Eventually, I found Usenet, and dropped Mark Evanier a line to see whether he knew, since he seemed to know everything. Mark replied the double surprise that not only did he himself write or co-write all of The Krofft Superstar Hour with Bonny Dore and Rowby Goren, but there never was such a show, and Woolery was completely wrong. There are some books that you just can’t trust!)