Soupy Sales (January 8, 1926 – October 22, 2009) – born Milton Supman – died on Thursday at the age of 83. `Soupy’ was a shortened version of his childhood nickname, `Soup bone’, and he used it first as a DJ and then later in television.
Sales earned a masters in journalism from Marshall College, but worked on the side in nightclubs as a singer, dancer, and comedian.
During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s Sales worked on locally produced TV shows for stations out of Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Detroit. Everything from teen dance shows, to a late night TV variety format.
In 1953, the Soupy Sales Show (aka Lunch with Soupy Sales and before that 12 O'Clock Comics) was broadcast locally in Detroit by WXYZ-TV, and was picked up by the ABC network in 1959 for national syndication.
In 1960 the show moved to Los Angeles, but the show was dropped by ABC in 1961. It ran locally, and was picked up again by the network as a late night replacement for Steve Allen in 1962. That run didn’t last very long, either.
In 1964, Sales moved to New York, where his kids show was broadcast on WNEW-TV. Screen Gems licensed 260 episodes for syndication, and it is this show that is best remembered today.
The show was a combination of slapstick, comic skits, and appearances by guest stars . . . including Fess Parker, Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, and the Shangri La’s. While most thought of it as a `kids show’, much of the humor was directed at a more adult audience.
Below is a clip with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.
Some of the puppets used in the show included:
- White Fang, "The Biggest and Meanest Dog in the USA,"
- Black Tooth, "The Biggest and Sweetest Dog in the USA",
- Pookie the Lion
- Hippy the Hippo
The show is famous for two `incidents’, both of which have become part of the legend of early TV.
On New Year’s Day, 1965 – peeved at having to work on a holiday – Sales ended his show with an appeal to kids to tiptoe into their 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 told the children. "And I'll send you a postcard from Puerto Rico!"
But hey, listen to Soupy tell the story.
The second incident involved an `unseen guest’ at the door (a recurring bit) that unexpectedly turned out to be topless stripper. The show was filmed late at night – without an audience – and so practical jokes like this were common.
Soupy shares the story – and the film clip that didn’t get aired – on the Bob Costas show.
And last, but not least, a full episode of the Soupy Sales show from 1965 on the Internet Archive.
The Soupy Sales Show
An episode from 1965.
While Sales reached the height of his popularity in the mid-1960s, he was a regular contestant on several game shows in the years that followed, including What’s My Line, The Match Game, and Hollywood Squares.
He also had a mid-morning radio show on WNBC (AM) during the 1980s. He was famously `relieved’ from duty in the middle of a show after ranting about the failure of the station to renew his contract.
Sales died this week after a long illness, at the age of 83.