One of the best-recognized commercial characters on Maine TV – “The Marden’s Lady” – will have to find herself a new place for “bahgains.”
Karmo Sanders of Scarborough, the playwright and actress who has portrayed the slightly crazy shopper Birdie Googins on commercials for Marden’s Surplus & Salvage for at least five years, said Wednesday that the Waterville-based chain has decided it will no longer use her in advertising.
Sanders said she didn’t have a contract with Marden’s but had been making at least four commercials a year for the chain, usually one per season.
She said she was told in January that she would no longer be used for commercials. But since Marden’s never announced its departure from the Birdie Googins commercials, Sanders said she didn’t feel right announcing it herself. So she kept silent until asked about it by a reporter on Wednesday.
“If you want my humble opinion, I think it was a little rude of them not to announce it. I was wicked popular and one hell of a real deal for Marden’s,” said Sanders, sounding somewhat like Googins as she talked.
No one from Marden’s was available for comment.
Sanders’ persona as “The Marden’s Lady” was so well-known statewide that she couldn’t go anywhere without being recognized. She has been a playwright and actress for most of her life, but said she had to start doing stand-up comedy around Maine because so many people wanted to see her Googins character live after seeing her on TV.
“It was fascinating and wonderful exposure for me. I couldn’t go anywhere without people wanting to hear from me, so I figured I better do stand-up,” said Sanders, a native of the Oxford County town of Norway.
Sanders said she can still play Birdie Googins because she created the character well before the Marden’s commercials, for an off-Broadway show called “Radical Radio” in 1995.
“In that, the character was a percussionist and her instrument was a box of rice pilaf,” said Sanders.
She wrote “Radical Radio” with her husband and creative collaborator, Jerry Sanders. He died of colon cancer in May at the age of 63. The couple had been married for 42 years.
Sanders said she didn’t want to “say anything bad” about Marden’s and understands that the company had no obligation to continue hiring her. But she thinks that her character’s popularity was good for business.
And as an artist who cobbles together a living by performing and writing, she’ll miss the income.
“I didn’t have a retainer or anything, but I was just happy to have the work,” Sanders said.
Sanders said she will continue to perform and write, and she’ll still do stand-up as Googins.
She’s now working on “Gold Rush Girls,” a musical play that she and her husband wrote. A version of it was performed in Anchorage, Alaska, last summer. Sanders and her husband were in Anchorage for the production and rehearsals.
Sanders is trying to get it produced in other locations.
And she sees a positive side to not being in Marden’s ads.
“Not being on the commercials might be freeing for Birdie — she can be a little more sexy and political now,” said Sanders. “I’m more than just a pretty face.”
Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: