Soupy Sales, whose zany television routines turned the smashing of a pie to the face into a madcap art form, died Thursday night. He was 83.May he rest in peace.
Mr. Sales’s former manager, Dave Usher, said the entertainer died in a hospice in New York City after suffering from multiple health problems.
Cavorting with his puppet sidekicks White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie the Lion and Hobart and Reba, the heads in the pot-bellied stove, transforming himself into the private detective Philo Kvetch, and playing host to the ever-present “nut at the door,” Soupy Sales became a television favorite of youngsters and an anarchic comedy hero for teenagers and college students.
Clad in a top hat, sweater and bow tie, shuffling through his Mouse dance, he reached his slapstick heyday in the mid-1960s on “The Soupy Sales Show,” a widely syndicated program based at WNEW-TV in New York.
Some 20,000 pies were hurled at Soupy Sales or at visitors to his TV shows in the 1950s and ’60s, by his own count. The victims included Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis, all of whom turned up just for the honor of being creamed.
His memoir “Soupy Sez!” (M. Evans, 2001), written with Charles Salzberg, supplied the precise ingredients for successful pie-throwing: “You can use whipped cream, egg whites or shaving cream, but shaving cream is much better because it doesn’t spoil. And no tin plates. The secret is you just can’t push it and shove it in somebody’s face. It has to be done with a pie that has a lot of crust so that it breaks up into a thousand pieces when it hits you.”
But the key to his comedy went beyond the smashing of a pie.
“Our shows were not actually written, but they were precisely thought out,” he explained in his memoir. “But the greatest thing about the show, and I think the reason for its success, was that it seemed undisciplined. The more you can make a performance seem spontaneous, the better an entertainer you are.”
For all the staged mayhem, the truly unpredictable did occur. “I remember one time we were working with Pookie at the window,” Mr. Sales recalled. “He was doing a bit where he was breaking eggs and one of the eggs turned out to be rotten. My God, the smell was terrible! And I’m sure, watching us at home, everyone knew there was something wrong from the look on our faces.”
Soupy Sales was born Milton Supman in Franklinton, N.C., where his parents, Irving and Sadie Supman, owned a dry goods store. His last name was pronounced “Soupman” by neighbors, so he called himself Soupy as a youngster.
Drawing on the physical comedy of the Marx Brothers and Harry Ritz, he entered show business after graduating from Marshall College in Huntington, W.Va. Working as a teenage dance-show host and D. J. on television and radio, he appeared on stations in Cincinnati and Cleveland, then began “Lunch With Soupy” in 1953 on WXYZ-TV in Detroit. He took the name Soupy Sales in part from the old-time comic actor Chic Sale. After appearing on local TV in Los Angeles and on the ABC-TV network, he made his debut on WNEW in the fall of 1964.
Then came an infamous moment. On New Year’s Day 1965, Soupy Sales asked youngsters to go through their parents’ clothing and send him little green pieces of paper with pictures of men with beards. He later reported receiving only a few dollar bills and said he donated them to charity, but Metromedia, the station’s owner, suspended him briefly after a viewer complained to the Federal Communications Commission that he was encouraging children to steal.
Friday, October 23, 2009
RIP: Soupy Sales
Legendary comedian Soupy Sales has passed away at the age of 83.