At Manhattan's Club Ibis a plump 5'4" comedienne named Pudgy works over her audience with a flurry of verbal cuffs and backhand jibes. "What do you do?" she asks one customer. "I'm a casualty insurance salesman," he answers. "Well, let's see the casualty," she replies, turning toward the poor man's wife. Like a Don Rickles in drag, the fast-talking comic rains more zingers on her hapless but happy audience, then starts to sing in a booming voice that could break Bette Midler's bones. For Pudgy (a childhood nickname bestowed by her father), the 45-minute performance simply adds starch to her reputation as the new queen of put-down comedy. The child of a Chicago milkman and a housewife, the former Beverly Wines made her showbiz debut after graduating from Steinmetz High, snaring a small part in a local production of Bye Bye Birdie. When the play closed she considered mortuary school and tried her hand at hairdressing and waitressing. But in the evenings she hit Chicago's Rush Street piano bars, and eventually began perfecting her insults-for-every-occasion comedy style. She also began outgrowing her name, and by 1979 Pudgy weighed in at 220 pounds. Manager Mike Cardella coaxed her down to 195, and another 80 "just fell off," she says. "I was falling in love." Married to Cardella shortly thereafter, she gave birth to a son in early 1980, and within four weeks a breast-fed Michael Jr. began touring the nightclub circuit with them. Despite the loss of a second son in childbirth last year, the determined comedienne (now 140 pounds) has bounced back in grand style. This month she will appear on Showtime Cable TV, and in August the former Rush Street regular will needle the high rollers at Caesars Boardwalk Regency in Atlantic City.
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