Soupy Sales, was an comedian, actor, and a radio/television personality. He was best known for his network children's television show
'Lunch with Soupy Sales' (1953–1966), a series of comedy sketches frequently ending with Sales receiving a pie in the face, which became his
trademark. From 1968 to 1975 he was a regular panelist on the syndicated revival of What's My Line? and appeared on several other TV game
shows. During the 1980s, Sales hosted his own show on WNBC-AM in New York.
Soupy was born as Milton Supman on January 8, 1926 in Franklinton, North Carolina, to Irving Supman and Sadie Berman. He got his nickname
from his family. His older brothers had been nicknamed "Ham Bone" and "Chicken Bone." Milton was dubbed "Soup Bone," which was later
shortened to "Soupy". He became a disc jockey and began using the stage name 'Soupy Hines'. After he became established, it was decided that
"Hines" was too close to the Heinz soup company, so he chose Sales, in part after vaudeville comedian Chic Sale. He graduated from Huntington
High School in Huntington, West Virginia in 1944. He enlisted in the United States Navy and served on the USS Randall (APA-224) in the South
Pacific during the latter part of World War II. He sometimes entertained his shipmates by telling jokes and playing crazy characters over the ship's
public address system. One of the characters he created was "White Fang", a large dog that played outrageous practical jokes on the seamen.
The sounds for "White Fang" came from a recording of The Hound of the
Sales enrolled at Marshall College, where he earned a master's degree in journalism. While at Marshall, he performed in nightclubs as a
comedian, singer and dancer. After graduating, Sales began working as a scriptwriter and disc jockey at radio station WHTN (now WVHU) in
Huntington. He moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1949, where he worked as a morning radio DJ and performed in nightclubs. Sales began his television
career on WKRC-TV in Cincinnati with Soupy's Soda Shop, TV's first teen dance program, and Club Nothing!, a late-night comedy/variety program.
Soupy is best known for his daily children's television show in Detroit, Lunch with Soupy Sales. The show was originally called 12 O'Clock Comics,
and was later known as The Soupy Sales Show. Improvised and slapstick in nature, Lunch with Soupy Sales was a rapid-fire stream of comedy
sketches, gags, and puns, almost all of which resulted in Sales receiving a pie in the face, which became his trademark. Sales developed pie-throwing into an art form: straight to the face, on top of the head, a pie to both ears from behind, moving into a stationary pie, and countless
other variations. He claimed that he and his visitors had been hit by more than 20,000 pies during his career. He recounted a time when a young
fan mistakenly threw a frozen pie at his neck and he "dropped like a pile of bricks."
Lunch with Soupy Sales began in 1953 from the studios of WXYZ-TV, Channel 7, located in the historic Maccabees Building, in Detroit. Sales
occasionally took the studio cameras to the lawn of the Detroit Public Library, located across the street from the TV studios, and talked with local
students walking to and from school. Beginning no later than July 4, 1955, a Saturday version of Sales' lunch show was broadcast nationally on
the ABC television network. His lunchtime program on weekdays was moved to early morning opposite Today and Captain Kangaroo.
During the same period that Lunch with Soupy Sales aired in Detroit, Sales also hosted a nighttime show, Soup's On, to compete with 11 O'Clock
News programs. The guest star was always a musician, often a jazz performer, at a time when jazz was popular in Detroit and the city was home
to twenty-four jazz clubs. Sales believed that his show helped sustain jazz in Detroit, as artists would regularly sell out their nightclub shows after
appearing on Soup's On. Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, and Stan Getz were among the
musicians who appeared on the show; Miles Davis made six appearances. Clifford Brown's appearance on Soup's On, according to Sales, may be
the only extant footage of Brown, and has been included in Ken Burns' Jazz and an A&E Network biography about Sales.
Sales briefly had a third dinner time show filmed largely in the Palmer Park section of Detroit. Sales' three shows were rumored to have earned
him in excess of $100,000 per year.
One of his character puppets was Willy the Worm, a "balloon" propelled worm that emerged from its house
and used a high pitched voice to announce birthdays or special events on the noontime show; but the character never appeared when Soupy
moved to Los Angeles. In his lunchtime show, Sales always wore an orlon fabric sweater. In many of his shows, he appeared in costume,
performed his dance, the Soupy
Shuffle, introduced many characters such as Nicky
Nooney, the Mississippi Gambler, etc., and took "zillions" of
pies in the face.
In 1960, Sales moved to the ABC-TV Studios in Los Angeles. ABC-TV cancelled the show in March 1961, but it continued as a local program on
KABC-TV until January 1962. The show briefly went back on the ABC network as a late night fill-in for The Steve Allen Show in 1962 but was
canceled after three months. All of the puppets on the show during its Los Angeles run were also operated by Clyde Adler. A 1962 TV Guide listing
refers to him as "West Coast disk jockey and comedian". His fame was significant enough to warrant utilizing him as a "Tonight" show guest-host
in the period between Jack Paar and Johnny Carson.
On September 7, 1964, Sales found a new weekday home at WNEW-TV in New York City. This version was seen locally until September 2, 1966.
Screen Gems syndicated 260 episodes to local stations outside the New York market during the 1965–66 season. This show marked the height of
Sales' popularity. It featured guest appearances by stars such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, Judy Garland and Sammy Davis Jr., as well
as musical groups like the Shangri-Las, The Supremes and The Temptations.
The New Soupy Sales Show appeared in 1978 with the same format, and ran for one season. 65 episodes were briefly syndicated, through Air
Time International, to local stations in early 1979. It was taped in Los Angeles at KTLA, with Clyde Adler returning to work as a puppeteer with
Clyde Adler, the show's floor manager and a film editor at Detroit's
WXYZ-TV, performed in sketches and voiced and operated all puppets on
Sales' show in Detroit in the 1950s and in Los Angeles from 1959 to 1962, as well as in 1978. Actor Frank
Nastasi, who played the part of Gramps on WXYZ-TV's other kids show
"Wixie Wonderland", assumed the role of straight man and puppeteer when Sales took the show to New York from
1964 to 1966. Nastasi was originally from Detroit and had worked with Sales at
WXYZ. Appearing on the show were both puppets and live performers.
Fang, "The Biggest and Meanest Dog in the USA", who appeared only as a giant white shaggy paw with black triangular felt "claws",
jutting out from the corner of the screen. Fang spoke with unintelligible short grunts and growls, which Soupy repeated back in English, for comic
effect. White Fang was often the pie thrower when Soupy's jokes bombed.
Tooth, "The Biggest and Sweetest Dog in the USA", also seen only as a giant black paw with white triangular felt claws, and with more
feminine, but similarly unintelligible, dialogue. Black Tooth's trademark was pulling Soupy off-camera to give loud and noisy kisses.
For a short time there was a third dog character that became White Fang's girlfriend,
Marilyn Monwolf. She caused some rivalry of affections between Black Tooth and White Fang, but later jilted them both for Joe
Lion, a lion puppet appearing in a large window behind Soupy (1950s), was a hipster with a rapier wit. For example: Soupy: "Do you
know why my life is so miserable?" Pookie: "You got me!" Soupy: "That's why!" One of Pookie's favorite lines when greeting Soupy was, "Hey
bubby... want a kiss?". In the Detroit shows, Pookie never spoke but communicated in whistles. That puppet also was used to mouth the words
while pantomiming novelty records on the show.
Hippo, a minor character who occasionally appeared with Pookie the Lion. Frank Nastasi gave Hippy a voice for the New York shows.
Clyde Adler also voiced Hippy in the shows done in the late 1970s.
NEW YEAR'S DAY INCIDENT
One of the most controversial incidents happened on January 1, 1965, miffed at having to work on the holiday, Sales ended his live broadcast by
encouraging his young viewers to tiptoe into their still-sleeping parents' bedrooms and remove those "funny green pieces of paper with pictures
of U.S. Presidents" from their pants and pocketbooks. "Put them in an envelope and mail them to me", Soupy instructed the children. Several days
later, substantial amounts of money had begun arriving in the mail; Sales stated that the total amount received was in the thousands of dollars
but qualified that by stating that much of that was in play money. Sales said he had been joking and that whatever real money had been sent
would be donated to charity, but as parents' complaints increased, WNEW's management suspended Sales for
One of the fans of the Soupy Sales show was Frank Sinatra. When Sinatra started his own record label, Reprise Records, he signed Sales to a
recording contract. He produced two albums with Reprise, The Soupy Sales Show in 1961 and Up In The Air in 1962. Sales' novelty dance record,
'"The Mouse", dates from the mid-1960s period of his career, when his show was based in New York. The single, released on the ABC-Paramount
label, peaked at #76 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in May 1965.
Sales performed "The Mouse" on The Ed Sullivan Show in September 1965, just
prior to The Beatles' segment on the show. Sales signed with Motown Records in 1969, releasing the single "Muck-Arty Park" (a play on the 1968
hit "MacArthur Park"), as well as the album A Bag of Soup. Soupy and Frank Nastasi also cut and recorded a comedy and song story disk "Spy with
a Pie" for ABC-Paramount. "Spy with a Pie" was re-released by "Simon Says" children's records.
From 1968–75, Sales was a regular panelist on the syndicated revival of What's My Line?. (He had been a guest panelist on one episode of the
original version in 1965.) Sales usually was the first panelist introduced and occupied the chair on the far left side (facing the camera), next to
Arlene Francis. In 1969, Sales also appeared on Storybook Squares, a children's version of Hollywood Squares, as Henry VIII.
In 1976, Sales was the
host of Junior Almost Anything Goes, ABC's Saturday morning version of their team-based physical stunt program. Sales was also a panelist on
the 1980 revival of To Tell the Truth; he had appeared as a guest on the show during the mid- to late 1970s. Other game show appearances
included over a dozen episodes of the original Match Game from 1966 to 1969 as well as one week of the revived version in 1976, a week of
shows on the 1970s edition of The Gong Show, a couple guest spots on Hollywood Squares (December 12, 1977 and April 4, 1978) as well as a
few appearances on the combined version (Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour) in 1983–84 and a recurring role in all versions of Pyramid from
1973 to 1988 and 1991; in one famous episode, he repeatedly uttered the word "bacon" in an attempt to get a confused contestant to say "greasy
things". He was considered for the role of host in Nickelodeon's game show, Double Dare, but was deemed too old. He also made an appearance
on Pictionary in 1997.
ON THE RADIO
Sales hosted a midday radio show on WNBC in New York from March 1985 to March 1987. His program was between the drive time shifts of Don
Imus (morning) and Howard Stern (afternoon), with whom Sales had an acrimonious relationship. An example of this was an incident involving
Stern telling listeners that he was cutting the strings in Sales' in-studio piano at 4:05 p.m. on May 1, 1985. On December 21, 2007, Stern revealed
this was a stunt staged for "theater of the mind" and to torture Sales; in truth, the piano was never harmed. Sales' on-air crew included his
producer, Ray D'Ariano, newscaster Judy DeAngelis, and
Soupy Sales passed away on October 22, 2009.
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