Interviews For Laxative
this is Madame X, your Ex-Lax reporter for Ex-Lax.”
Lincoln, Me. (DG)—
When direct selling on the radio became a reality, the
sponsors made sure there were plenty of commercials for their respective
products. With the restrictions on
what could and could NOT be said on the air during the 1930’s,
the commercials were presented professionally and always within good taste.
For the majority of products who were radio sponsors, there
wasn’t any problem on what was said about them.
However, there were also radio sponsors where it was very tricky in
presenting their products over the airwaves.
Case in point, laxative products.
You already know the main objective of a typical laxative,
so I won’t go into detail here. Since
it was very delicate to describe how a laxative worked, the radio commercials
had to be presented in the best way to get the message across about the product
without offending the radio listeners and the censors.
With this thought in mind, The Ex-Lax Company, the makers
of the famous chocolated laxative, came up with a clever idea to sell their
product on the air.
the midway point of Columbia’s EX-LAX BIG SHOW, the
studio was darkened except for a single spotlight shining at center stage.
Concealed in shadow, a mysterious woman known as “Madame X”
was going to speak in behalf of Ex-Lax. She was known on the airwaves as “The Ex-Lax
During the commercial, Madame X conducted a “Man On
The Street” interview, which was very popular on radio during the
1930’s. Her objective was to ask
the people how they were doing and if they were feeling “regular.”
Unlike other “Man On The Street” interviews, Madame X’s
interview was staged strictly for the Ex-Lax commercial.
If it was on the level, the people being interviewed were inclined to
answer “none of your business” or other comments that may not
necessarily be appropriate for radio. Since
this interview was staged, the person Madame X was interviewing didn’t mind
telling her, the studio audience, and the radio listeners that his/her bodily
functions were performing at their peak level.
When Madame X asked what that person did for those times
when nature wasn’t co-operating, he/she gladly replied it wasn’t a
problem--- as long they had their trusty package of Ex-Lax nearby.
When Ex-Lax was mentioned, Madame X informed the radio
listeners how gentle and effective it was in easing the problem laxatives were
To close out the commercial, Madame X said when those times
“When Nature Forgets” to fulfill the people’s proper bodily
functions, the listeners should buy and use Ex-Lax, “The Chocolated
Laxative.” With the
commercial completed, Madame X leaves the stage; the lights in the studio
come back on; and the program resumed.
As I have stated before, Madame X
was a woman of mystery. Everyone
involved with the EX-LAX BIG SHOW did a great job of
concealing who portrayed the mysterious reporter.
Long after the program went off the air--- and radio’s
golden age ended, the truth came out to concerning Madame X’s identity.
The radio voice of the woman of mystery was actress Betty Garde.
During the 1930’s, she was also the voice of “Sally Andrews,”
who, with announcer Ben Grauer, sold Jergens Lotion on NBC(Blue’s)
THE JERGENS JOURNAL with Walter Winchell.
Ms. Garde’s advertising experience on the Winchell program proved
valuable with her role as Madame X.
In a discussion during a SPERDVAC (Society to
Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety, and Comedy) convention, Ms.
Garde described her experiences as Madame X--- and how the mysterious Ex-Lax
reporter was to be presented on the air.
With the popularity of Winchell’s program, Ms. Garde had
to use the same machine-gun technique Winchell made famous on his newscasts.
Ms. Garde stated no matter how fast she delivered her opening lines, it
was never fast enough for the sponsor. The
man in charge of Ex-Lax sponsorship of the EX-LAX BIG SHOW
kept motioning with his hands for Ms. Garde to speak faster and faster.
Ms. Garde also stated that the radio performers who
appeared as the people Madame X interviewed were shocked beyond belief that she
was the mysterious Ex-Lax reporter.
When the EX-LAX BIG SHOW folded in 1935,
Madame X’s services on the radio were also finished.
Along with Jergens Sally Andrews and a young bellhop named
Johnny Philip Morris, Madame X was among the very first characters used strictly
for radio advertising. Her stint on
the air was short, but Madame X paved the way for likeable and even hateful
characters on future radio commercials.