Tue. Feb 27th, 2024
Courtesy latimes and AP
Courtesy latimes and AP

Soupy Sales is dead at 83, one of my icons I base my routines on.

It was rare when my middle brother and I agreed as kids. When Bullwinkle offered two alternate titles for the next episode we would choose different ones. I’m surprised we even agreed about Bullwinkle or Crusader Rabbit. Since he ran the TV early Saturdays, I finally saw Howdy Doody at the end of the last show.

“Hey that looks like it might have been good!’
“No, it’s stupid.”

(Hence I’m the children’s entertainer with puppets and he’s not.)

But we agreed about Soupy. Soupy Sales offered one of the best versions of slapstick, deadpan looks at the camera and fiction narratives about, amongst many things, his pretty much never seen dog “Fang” during the 60s. I think at best we may have seen a huge paw coming from off camera. “Fang” was specifically funny for us because we had had a dog named Lucky who probably bit everyone in the family we eventually had to put down, adding humor to a very unfunny, tense, then sad situation. He even managed to make pies in the face funny sometimes, amazing even back then when it was already a ho hum cliche’.

I’ll never forget that we were watching when he got kicked off the air for a brief while. He looked into the camera and, with what should have been a trademarked smirk, he said; paraphrased…

“Do you know where your Mommy’s purse is boys and girls? Find the thing inside with green stuff sticking out, put it into a stamped envelope and send it to Soupy Sales, Channel 5…”

I turned to my brother and said, “He’s going to get in trouble for that…”

How’s this for irony…

“He was born Milton Supman on Jan. 28, 1926, in the North Carolina backwater of Franklinton. The Supmans were the only Jews in town. Sales’ father ran a dry goods store that sold sheets to the Ku Klux Klan.”

“The family name was often mispronounced as “Soupman.” To make matters worse, his parents, who had nicknamed his brothers ‘Hambone’ and ‘Chickenbone,’ dubbed him ‘Soupbone.’ Eventually, Milton became just Soupy.”

Because any good comedian knows where the line is between acceptable and not, they walk that line and may step over it occasionally. I find those who don’t usually beyond “un-funny.”

Soupy knew where that thin line was and his dance down it was a marvel to watch. Since some of his shows were live, if I remember right, his missteps and trips were even better.

So let’s be serious for a moment and remember Soupy…

Courtesy i.zdnet.com
Courtesy i.zdnet.com

Hard isn’t it? Good. Soupy would have wanted it that way.

By Ken Carman

Retired entertainer, provider of educational services, columnist, homebrewer, collie lover, writer of songs, poetry and prose... humorist, mediocre motorcyclist, very bad carpenter, horrid handyman and quirky eccentric deluxe.

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jim carman
jim carman
14 years ago

Yes dear youngest brother… and if my memory serves me correctly he was also kicked off the air for a while after he did a short live/on camera routine. He was showing how interesting it is that one’s fingers are used for quite specific functions. Saving the middle one for last he said something like, “and this one is for my producer”.

RS Janes
14 years ago

LOL, Jim. I hadn’t heard that story before. R.I.P. Soupy; I grew up watching him.

Chuck McCoy
14 years ago

I remember Soupy performing “The Mouse” live in The Ed Sullivan Show. Headlining guests that night were The Beatles. It was to be their last live appearance with Ed.

While living in southwestern Connecticut for a few years in the mid-late 80s, I regularly listened to his mid-day show on the old WNBC radio. Not a bad show, but never really took off in the ratings — one wag put it this way: “you can’t throw pies on the radio.”

Soupy di threw some great pies on TV and will be missed. Thanks for all the fun moments, Soupy.

RS Janes
14 years ago

Anyone performing on the same show as The Beatles in those days, no matter how great, might as well have phoned it in. I don’t recall that particular show with Soupy, but I know I watched every Ed Sullivan where the ‘Fab Four’ played. The only two that stand out was one with Topo Gigio and another with a comedian who was a little pissed that the audience wanted to get rid of him and get on to the Beatles. As I recall, there were few laughs at the punch lines and the guy was acting kind of desperate. The comedian’s name I just can’t remember, but I have a vague notion it was Jack Carter.

Samantha K
14 years ago

Soupy Sales took so many pies to the face over so many years; truly, he was a man dedicated to his trade — he’ll be missed

Ye Olde Scribe
14 years ago

I left NYC area in the late 60s/very, very early 70s. (It was progressive process.) If the same dynamic held it was hard to compete with the monolith that WABC had become. And “pies in the face on the radio doesn’t work” is probably quite accurate assessment, but that doesn’t stop radio programmers and their bosses from thinking it does. having been in radio for a number of years I can tell you the WKRP “I swear turkeys could fly” episode is almost an underestimation of the talent and insight those who order the Js around have. One of the largest personalities in the Albany area on public radio once ordered a record of his vent act with the second record company I worked for in Nashville in the early 80s. As my boss said, “How do you carry the illusion of vent over to a record? It’s a visual art.”

I think I may have been watching the finger incident but seems to me it either happened so quick I missed it, or was misinterpreted. But like any human I don’t catch everything, especially at that age.

Jack Carter sounds familiar, but that’s all I can say.

I think Soupy may have also been passed by due to a trend I’ve never been all that comfortable with. These days toons and other things once assumed for children can be beyond “edgy.” Think South Park, Simpsons and Family Guy. Between this era and that we had the rush in of Transformer/super dooper hero type programming. That was met by a reaction way over the top; beyond bland, as represented somewhat by the Smurfs, more by Barney. Programming so tasteless in the opposite direction that, as Sheri Lewis said, “Anything that makes adults run out of the room screaming can’t be good for children.”

Because Soupy really was more than pies in the face he, like Homer, was “between a rock and a hard place.” “Doh.” I understand, filtering puns and mild spoofs of popular characters into my own shows I’ve had to battle the “bland it down to boring” crowd many times, while not going where many toons go these days… despite the fact I still enjoy them as an adult. Occasionally the “don’t say anything that might amuse an adult no matter how inoffensive it may be” nonsense rears its head now; it comes and goes. But mostly it has gone away, probably because the contrast between that and South Park type shows is so vast. Animaniacs, the cartoon version of Alf and other revivals of the Bullwinkle/Crusader style helped. Even Sponge Bob gets into the act.

Any form of entertainment that ignores sometimes half of the audience: adults, isn’t entertainment at all. I started in the middle of the trend. Unfortunately Soupy slammed right into it towards the end of his. What a damn shame.

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