Interviews For Laxative
“Ladies and gentlemen,
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.
At 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 Reporter.”
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 used for.
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.