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Billie Hayes (née Brosch), known for playing Witchiepoo in the beloved 1969 children's show H.R. Pufnstuf, has died. She was 96.

© Provided by People Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

The veteran actress died Thursday of natural causes at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to Deadline.

Her family announced the news of her death.

She was best known for her performance on H.R. Pufnstuf, which ran for 17 episodes on NBC in 1969, as well as the 1970 feature adaptation, Pufnstuf.

Hayes entertained audiences with a slapstick, vaudeville style performance of Witchiepoo, the villainous witch who was constantly trying to steal the magical Freddy the Flute.

Hayes revived the role of Witchiepoo in Sid and Marty Krofft's other shows, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour and Lidsville, and again on The Paul Lynde Halloween Special in 1976.

© Provided by People Everett Collection

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She also gave a memorable performance as Mammy Yokum in the 1956 Broadway musical adaptation of the comic strip Li'l Abner. She also played the role in the 1959 movie and a 1971 TV special.

© Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic H.R. Pufnstuf actress Billie Hayes died Thursday of natural causes at Cedar's Hospital in Los Angeles

The Illinois native's other credits include appearances in The Monkees, Bewitched, Donny and Marie and Murder, She Wrote.

© Provided by People Walt Disney Television via Getty

She also had a number of voiceover roles in animated series including The Flinstones Comedy Show, The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, The Black Cauldron, The Real Ghostbusters, The Night Before Christmas, Rugrats and The Powerpuff Girls.

Born April 11, 1925 in Du Quoin, Illinois, to an assistant relief administrator to the underprivileged and a coal miner union leader, she began performing at age 9, when she danced at local nightclubs. Hayes performed a solo act in Chicago during her teens, touring around the Midwest, before landing in New York City.

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She made her Broadway debut in Leonard Sillman's New Faces of 1956, alongside Maggie Smith, after appearing in the revue What's New with Paul Lynde.

After her turn in Li'l Abner, she played Minnie Fay, touring with the national production of Hello Dolly! starring Betty Grable.

An animal lover and vegetarian, she founded the animal rescue non-profit Pet Hope in 1984. She served as the organization's president until her death.

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James Hardens return gives Nets Big 3 vital opportunity before playoffs

More On: brooklyn nets Injured Net eyes miraculous playoff return before contract opt-out James Harden’s brilliant return propels Nets Nets seem to avoid Kyrie Irving disaster Nets badly need this James Harden return

Practice, as basketball philosopher Allen Iverson likely would agree, is one thing, but playing is everything. And after a five-week layoff, James Harden knew he had to play before the Nets’ games started to count for real with the onset of the playoffs.

Harden, after missing 18 straight games with a strained hamstring, made a triumphant return in Wednesday’s victory over the Spurs. And he plans to suit up again in at least one (and possibly both) of this weekend’s games versus the Bulls and Cavaliers, hoping to get on-court time with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

“Of course,” said Harden. “Preseason is one thing, the regular season is another level, postseason is an entirely other level. And then the levels increase as you go different rounds.

“So, for me I wanted to get out there and just be on the court for my teammates and let them feel my presence. And then also get my conditioning and my wind back up to where I’m able to compete and be effective on both ends of the ball for an extended period of the game.”

Since trading for Harden in mid-January, the Nets are 28-7 when he plays and 11-11 when he doesn’t. And upon his return Wednesday, he was shockingly effective on both ends of the court considering he hadn’t played since limping off the floor on April 5 during a win over the Knicks.

With Harden coming off the bench due to minute restrictions, his 18 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds weren’t a huge surprise. But he had two steals, two blocks and played underrated defense, getting stronger as the game went on.

It was a valuable step for Harden. Now he intends to take another step or two in this weekend’s back-to-back, fine-tuning before the playoffs tip off May 22.

“It’s great that he’s going to get at least another game in for his confidence, his reps, that rhythm that we keep talking about,” coach Steve Nash said. “It’s really important as a player, especially going into the high intensity of the postseason where people are going to be scheming and physical and the game raises.

“It’s important for him to get some touches out there and play. That week off where we can prepare for the playoffs is really important in particular for our team. We’re playing against teams that are running it back three, four years now in the playoffs, going deep in the playoffs.

“This season for us it’s been three teams more or less. I don’t think our four top perimeter guys have even played with Blake [Griffin] and Nic [Claxton] together. We’ve got a lot of things that we’ve got to overcome, and mainly it’s time. So that week is important for us to spend some time going over everything we need to for the playoffs and preparing to play.”

Nets stars (l-r) James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant the last time they played together on Feb. 13, 2021.AP

The Nets’ Big 3 has logged just 186 minutes together all season, spread over seven games. Irving missed Wednesday’s game with a facial contusion, so the trio still hasn’t played together since Feb. 13 at Golden State.

But with Irving cleared to play this weekend, the Nets — who led the third-place Bucks by 1 ½ games in the Eastern Conference entering Thursday — could get their Big 3 some vital time together before the postseason.

“It’d be great if we can get everyone on the court together. I’m not sure that’ll happen,” Nash said. “We’ll see what happens: It seems like something different changes by the day. But if we do have that luxury, that’d be great. You know, it won’t be a lot. It won’t be enough, but it’ll be something.”

If Harden is reunited with Durant and Irving, it won’t just be their first time playing together in nearly three months. It’ll be for the first time the Big 3 and Joe Harris have ever played in a lineup alongside either Claxton or Griffin, the Nets’ top centers.

“It’s gonna be fun,” Claxton said. “I personally haven’t played with all three of those guys yet, so it’ll be good to catch somewhat of a rhythm before the playoffs and just being able to get those reps. I’m sure it’ll be a lot of fun.”

Filed under brooklyn nets ,  james harden ,  kevin durant ,  kyrie irving ,  5/13/21

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