New Orleanians who like to laugh will be mourning the death of British actor Mollie Sugden, known in the States for one major role -- that of Mrs. Slocombe in the Britcom Are You Being Served?, which had a long, long life in reruns on New Orleans public television stations, first on WLAE-TV and then on WYES-TV. With her cotton-candy-colored hair, imperious attitude, and innocent double-entendre references to her housecat ("My pussy got soaking wet. I had to dry it out in front of the fire") Mrs. Slocombe was always a reliably hilarious companion every time one would stumble across one of the old AYBS? reruns.
Some may remember the controversy in the early 1990s when WLAE pulled the show off the air without warning or notice. In response to readers, The Times-Picayune inquired and was told:
The station involved, Diocese-owned WLAE, at first wouldn't even say what had happened. When they did respond, it was by fax, saying the series had been withdrawn by order of Archbishop Phillip M. Hannan, then station general manager. And that was all they'd say.
It's a safe bet that Mrs. Slocombe's cat displeased the Archbishop. Fortunately, WYES picked up the show shortly afterward and kept it on the air for everyone to enjoy.
Mollie Sugden, one of TV's true comic geniuses, was 86 when she died yesterday. In her honor, here's a collection of Mrs. Slocombe's greatest hits: