Friday, October 23, 2009
Milton Supman, aka Soupy Sales (January 8, 1926 – October 22, 2009), has moved on to better planets in search of a good egg cream.
Soupy was born in Franklinton, North Carolina, the son of a Hungarian dry goods merchant. The family later moved to Huntington, WV, just across the Kentucky border from Ashland. He graduated in 1944 from Huntington High School.
Soupy's dad nicknamed his three children "Hambone", "Chickenbone" and "Soupbone". Young Milton kept the Soupbone sobriquet into adulthood, by which time it generally became shortened to Soupy.
The Soupster moved to Cincinnati in 1949, where he worked in radio and as a performer in some of the area's seedy nightclubs. He began his television career on WKRC-TV with Soupy's Soda Shop (which is said by some to be the very first "Corny Collins"-style teenage dance television program) and Club Nothing!, a late-night variety show. Another variety TV show, Soupy's On!, followed in Cleveland a couple years later.
By 1953 Soupy was in Detroit, doing a puppet-filled kid's show called Lunch with Soupy Sales that ended up making him a nationwide success. The show, which changed its name to simply The Soupy Sales Show somewhere along the way, ran from 1953 to 1966, featuring many interesting guests for a kid's show, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and T-Bone Walker. This was probably the most awesome aspect of Soupiness, although playing Mrs. Drysdale's nephew on The Beverly Hillbillies and being parodied in a 1963 episode of The Jetsons as "Soapy Sam" is pretty damn cool too.
From 1968 to 1975, Sales was a regular panelist on What's My Line? and then was the host of a children's stunt show called Junior Almost Anything Goes. This ran on Saturday mornings for exactly one years, from September 1976 to September 1977. Next came The New Soupy Sales Show in 1978-1979, an attempt to recapture the glory of his 1960s show. It only aired 65 episodes, despite interesting guests like Alice Cooper.
Soupy's last TV starring role was 1983-1985, as the voice of Donkey Kong in the animated Saturday Morning Cartoon show Saturday Supercade.
Uncle Soupy spent the rest of the 1980s doing a radio show in NYC. His competitors in the market, Howard Stern and Don Imus, insulted and ridiculed him mercilessly on-air on their own shows. At least Soupy lived to see Imus' career hit rock bottom when Imus made racist remarks live on the radio. Soupy Sales, thou art avenged!
In addition to his bold TV surrealism, his promotion of puppetry, his biggest contribution to what we call Voraxical Theatre would be his show-within-the-show The Adventures of Philo Kvetch, wherein Soupy plays a noir-ish private detective (and actually smokes cigarettes on a children's show, which would be unthinkable in this politically correct era).
View: The Adventures of Philo Kvetch, Episode 8, Part 1