Cultural Icon Passes

Madge the Manicurist ( Jan Miner) passed away Sunday. Jan is best known as Madge the Manicurist from Palmolive commercials.


From the Washington Post:

Jan Miner played Madge the Manicurist in an age of blissful, new-and-improved consumer disbelief. Madge came about in a time when Madison Avenue conspired to fool diners at fine restaurants by having their coffee secretly replaced by Folgers, to make Mother Nature think margarine was butter, and to surreptitiously dunk women’s hands in Palmolive dish soap.

“You’re soaking in it” was Madge’s trademark line, first uttered in a television commercial in 1966. Miner played Madge until 1992, outlasting even the original Colgate-Palmolive contract with the Ted Bates advertising agency that created her.

Miner, who died Sunday in Bethel, Conn., at age 86, enjoyed a long career as a serious stage and film actress, but she never played down or tried to escape her Madgeness.

She recognized and enjoyed the permanent spot Madge reserved for her in TV pop-cultdom, in addition to the royalty payments. She was one of those few Americans who make the ultimate sacrifice of likeness and personality to become unforgettable commercial mascots; consequently she would never walk through an airport again without hearing “You’re soaking in it.” (International airports, too: To Germans, Madge was called Tilly. The French knew her as Francoise. Miner read Madge’s lines phonetically in different languages.)

Madge also made for excellent and lasting camp: Gay men of three decades have especially enjoyed telling one another, Madgelike, just how much “you’re soaking in it,” whether “it” was a metaphor for something emotional, political, fashionable or simply circumstantial. It’s a gentle reminder that things aren’t quite what they seem, Miss Thing. It’s comeuppance. It’s surprise. You think you’re above all that, but you’re soaking in it. Madge knows.

According to a Web site called TV Acres, which devotes itself to such trivia, the talkative, fictional Madge worked in “Salon East Beauty Parlor,” where she put her lady customers’ hands in a shallow bowl secretly filled with green, sudsy Palmolive. As Madge prattled on about how “Palmolive softens hands while you do dishes,” the customer would predictably express doubt, and therefore had to be told:

“You’re soaking in it.”

Sometimes they’d gasp and start to pull their hands out, and Madge would coax them back in, saying relax, relax. You’d been punk’d by Madge, tricked into having such soft hands.Ashton Kucher couldn’t carry Madge’s girdle…

Open Mic Day
Bonfire Of The Vanities - Week 33