Jeanne Bice, the creator and on-air peddler of QVC mainstay clothing line Quacker Factory, died Friday at 71. The cause of her death was not announced.
Bice, who first appeared on QVC in 1995, was known for her headbands, boisterous personality and even more boisterous clothing, which was typically sold in bright colors and embroidered with seasonal and holiday-themed adornments. She had a call-and-response catchphrase/greeting with home-shoppers who would call in: "Quack, quack!" It was clearly a derivative of the name of her brand, which itself came from a time when she was under pressure to meet deadline and exclaimed, "I feel like I'm going Quackers!"
Bice was born July 20, 1939 and grew up in Fond du Lac, Wis. As an adult, she lived in Ripon, Wis., where she raised her two sons, Tim and Lee, with her husband Butch. Boredom led her to open a gift shop called The Silent Woman with a friend, MaryAnn. What started as a hobby turned into a needed source of income when Butch died unexpectedly. Jeanne and MaryAnn translated their knowledge of seasonal gift-shop buying habits into a line of apparel and what would become Quacker Factory was born. Bice chronicled her life's highs and lows in the 2005 memoir, Pull Yourself Up by Your Bra Straps and Other Quacker Wisdom.
As of March this year, Quacker Factory was worth a reported $50 million. Moreover, Bice's several appearances on QVC made her something of a cult figure — she was featured often on The Soup and honored on The Soup Awards. Additionally, she was satirized on MADtv. Bice seemed to take the ribbing in stride, telling the Huffington Post, "[Soup host] Joel [McHale] has always picked on me, but with love. MADtv are mean, but Joel has never been cruel or said anything untrue about me. I have my Soup award over my office door. We can all tease each other, I don't take myself too seriously. I'm a 72-year-old overweight woman who wears funny clothes and a headband for God's sake! That's funny!"
Doug Howe, QVC's executive vice president of merchandising, planning and sales, wrote in a QVC forum: " Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones during this difficult time. ... Her passion and spirit will be greatly missed by all who knew her."
A lengthy obituary on the official Quacker Factory site includes this look back at Bice's on-screen work: "She loved QVC. Everything about it," it reads. "She loved the people: the executives who ran it, and the production people who worked so hard to make every show perfect. She loved the famous stars who appeared there, and had to pinch herself when others considered her one."