Friday, October 23, 2009

Soupy Sales (1926-2009)

He brought a little bit of vaudeville to children's television with the pie-in-the-face gags that were part of his act, but Soupy Sales, born Milton Supman in 1926, was also a regular guest on The Mike Douglas Show and game shows like What's My Line?, the latter during its syndicated run in the late 60's and early 70's. Sales passed away Thursday in New York at 83 after a lengthy illness.

Sales had been a reporter and a radio DJ before moving to television in the 50's, with stops in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, among others, before landing in New York in the 60's. He had a hit novelty record, "Do The Mouse", which led to a short-lived dance craze and hit the top of the charts in 1965. Sales also parlayed "Do The Mouse" into a guest appearance in an issue of Archie, in which he was shown on the cover with Archie performing "The Mouse".

Some of Sales' gags went a little bit overboard, specifically one New Year's Eve stunt in New York that got him suspended for 1 week. Sales told his young audience to empty their mothers' wallets and send him "the pieces of green paper with Presidents on them", meaning dollar bills.

While it was never really a comeback due to his regular appearances on television, Sales hosted his first and only national children's show in 1976, serving as MC for ABC's Junior Almost Anything Goes, which unfortunately lasted but one season, largely due to affiliate indifference more than a lack of ratings. Some affiliates, including the one in my home area at the time, opted to carry syndicated programming over Junior. Undaunted, Sales came right back with The New Soupy Sales Show in syndication the very next year, which brought all of Sales' beloved puppet sidekicks, like Pookie, White Fang, & Black Tooth, from his regional shows, to a wider audience. However, this also lasted just 1 season.

Sales made a number of films, the most recent of which I can think of is "And God Spoke", a satire on Biblical times. Sales' two sons, Hunt & Tony, made their fame as members of David Bowie's band, Tin Machine, in the late 80's and early 90's, opting not to follow their father into comedy.

Somewhere up in Heaven, they're going to be having a pie fight, and very soon. Rest in peace, Soupy.

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