Born Milton Supman in Frankinton, North Carolina on January 8, 1926, Soupy specialized in children's entertainment. His biggest impact on me was his New York City based TV show that ran for 260 episodes, from 1964-1966.
I had the good fortune to chat with Soupy in 1979, at the MGM in Las Vegas. Interestingly, I also met Sylvester Stallone and Richard Dawson in the casino that same night. At the time, Soupy was a has-been, Stallone was up and coming and Dawson, as a game show host was fairly relevant. But Soupy was the only one who spoke to me.
Sales was making a late 70's comeback with a revival of his old shows but they didn't last. So I guess he was in no position to "dis" an actual fan. After getting my foot in the door by referring to one of his lesser characters, (Onions Oregano), I was able to thank him for enriching my childhood.
It speaks volumes for my sophomoric level of sophistication but I loved that old show's opening almost as much as the program. It featured a Manhattan street scene and a blank theatre marquee. A man with a gigantic ladder came into view. Then at an exaggerated high speed, he went up and down, one letter at a time, spelling, "THE SOUPY SALES SHOW."
Airing weekdays, this virtual one-man show was a series of slapstick skits, childish jokes, silly songs and other gags. Somehow Soupy managed to get his trademark, cream pie smooshed in his face at least once in every episode.
DURING HIS CAREER WHICH INCLUDED 5000 LIVE TV APPEARANCES, SOUPY CLAIMED TO HAVE BEEN "PIED" 20,000 TIMES.
The show was so hip that it gravitated to older kids and young adults. Eventually, it became an influence on future kids programming...like, "PEE WEE'S PLAYHOUSE,"
Soupy's character mainly played-off puppets. Frank Nastasi provided most of the off-stage voices, as well as the "guy at the door." A recurring gag, the "guy" was never seen and was only represented as an argumentative hand. On rare occasions, the show used film clips too, (usually filmed in Central Park with Soupy in drag as his girlfriend Peaches).
CLICK LINK FOR A 5 MINUTE VIDEO CLIP OF PEACHES
The show became chic for big-time entertainers to make cameos appearances like, Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Sam Davis Jr., Judy Garland and Jerry Lewis. Plus, Soupy had musical guests too, such as, The Supremes and the Shangri-Las.
Pookie, a lion hand-puppet was Soupy's most commonly used foil. Aside from Pookie's sarcastic wit, he was also funny pantomiming novelty songs.
A SEGMENT WITH POOKIE AT THE BACK WINDOW OPENED MOST SHOWS.
The most popular puppet had to be White Fang. Handled by a puppeteer just off-camera, White Fang was seen only as a huge, white, shaggy dog paw. During WWII, to reduce the tension aboard ship, Soupy perfected this routine and character voice while serving active duty in the South Pacific.
Frank Nastasi provided the dog's ferocious unintelligible grunts. Soupy would repeat the gibberish in English and make a snappy comeback. My friends and I loved to mimic White Fang...mostly because it didn't require talent. Using the same schtick except with a black paw with feminine growls, another puppet was Black Tooth.
WHITE FANG AT REHEARSAL.
Two other puppets, an elderly married couple Hobart and Reba lived in a pot-bellied stove. They told Soupy jokes and riddles. It has been reputed that some of their silliness had hidden humor that wasn't suitable for young ears. I was too young to specifically remember anything but I still believe those rumors were true. Assuming there isn't a lot of video tape from these shows, we'll never know for certain. Nevertheless, Soupy went to his grave denying these allegations and even offered $10,000.00 to anyone who could prove he, "worked blue." It should be noted...nobody ever stepped forward to accept his challenge.
Soupy did however get suspended by his network in January 1965 when he told his audience to, "go into your parents wallets and send him the funny pieces of green paper with presidents on them."
He is also famous for the prank his stage crew played on him when he answered the door and a nude women was there. Although the viewing audience couldn't see her, a second camera recorded the practical joke, (click on the link below, 90 second clip).
Soupy capitalized on merchandising his name and image on toys, records and books. His two big songs were, "THE MOUSE" and "PAFOLAFAKA." In 1965, everyone was singing those stupid songs.
WHILE IT WAS SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE TO SING, "THE MOUSE," I INSTINCTIVELY KNEW...EVEN BEFORE THE ONSET OF PUBERTY THAT THE ACCOMPANYING FACE AND HAND GESTURES...WERE UNMANLY !
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP1_F9zEF7o CLICK HERE FOR THE MOUSE VIDEO, 6+ MINUTES.
After the show was cancelled, Sales starred in a couple of awful movies, did guest shots on sit-coms and became a regular game show panelist.
AS CAPT. LANCE RIPROCK WITH MAX BAER IN, "THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES."
From fifth grade, I have one indelible memory of Soupy's show being preempted for a special news report. In this broadcast, the first up close photos of the moon were shown. Back then the technology was so backward that each picture had a series of unnecessary black lines. I was unimpressed by these photographs and pissed-off for missing a big chunk of the show.
My favorite memory was the serial "drama" called, "THE ADVENTURES OF PHILO KVETCH." In this ultra low-budget production, Soupy played the private detective in the title role. His nemesis was the master criminal, "The Mask." Together with the aid of his henchman Onions Oregano, they wreaked havoc on the city. Going after them, Kvetch was always in peril until Onions Oregano's bad breath gave away their whereabouts. In the absolute last Philo Kvetch episode, the Mask's true identity is revealed to be Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Hey I told you, I was a kid...it was funny to me...OKAY!
http://www.youtube.com/watchv=Am3gjCL506s CLICK HERE FOR 6 MINUTE SAMPLE OF PHILO KVETCH.
On January 5, 2005 Soupy Sales was awarded a well deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
THANKFULLY, THE POWERS THAT BE, HAD THE SENSE TO "LET HIM HAVE IT" WHILE HE WAS ALIVE.
Whether Soupy indirectly injected the "F-Bomb" into his material or had hidden sexual body parts referenced in his jokes is still up for speculation. Regardless of my age, its always been so clear in my mind that he did...so, I choose to believe...ergo...liar, liar Soupy's pants are on fire! Perhaps that's the essence of an urban legend.
In my mind, this clouded dirty joke mystery doesn't diminish Soupy's star-power in any way. I'm hoping you proved that to yourself by watching the clips above...because, the man was simply hilarious. Plus, there's tons more material to check-out on YouTube.
I'm guessing to protect Soupy Sales' greatness and positive image, it became essential to keep up the squeaky-clean charade...even to the time of his death. I just hope a splattered cream pie is etched into his casket where his face would be.