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Soupy Sales, SpongeBob SquarePants and Mr. Rogers
I wake up as you do to sad but expected TV news this morning: TV great Soupy Sales is gone.
He died last night after a long illness at age 83.
I've posted an obit below - AP's.
If you've never heard of Soupy Sales - though that's inconceivable - I almost can't begin to explain his impact on both national and New York TV - as an entertainer and force who defined a certain type of humor for kids that lives on to this day in shows like "SpongeBob Squarepants" (even though its creator Stephen Hillenburg was probably too young to even remember him.)
The Soup's antics were pure flights of non-sequitur lunacy; they were also subversive, in their own glorious way - inciting kids to pick their parents pockets of greenbacks because, what the heck, that's what TV commercials do anyway. (He was suspended for a stunt that probably didn't get him enough dollars to buy a good hamburger; but it was all for a joke.)
His pie-throwing was absolutely a fixture of '60s TV - something so emblematic that I'll bet fans of Soupy today can't even look at a Boston cream pie without wondering whether it's going to go flying in their face.
In fact, a famous and true anecdote: Fred Rogers had never even seen a TV set in his life when he had just gotten out of seminary school. He finally saw one in his parent's living room and the minute he turned it on, there were two people - believed to be the Soup and a victim - heaving pies at each other.
Fred was so appalled that right then and there, he decided: I have to get into this business just to counteract shenanigans like this.
So even Fred was inspired by the Soup.
He broke color barriers, at least in music, or so the Reuters obit says. I believe it.
A major TV figure is gone.
I've posted four quick videos; the last one is part of Stewart Klein's history-of-TV interviews. Fortunately, the web is chalk-full of Soup-related material.
Here are just four...First, the obit:
Soupy Sales, the rubber-faced comedian whose anything-for-a-chuckle career was built on 20,000 pies to the face and 5,000 live TV appearances across a half-century of laughs, died Thursday. He was 83.
Sales, who had health problems and entered Calvary Hospice last week, died in the Bronx, New York, said his former manager and longtime friend, Dave Usher.
At the peak of his fame in the 1950s and '60s, Sales was one of the best-known faces in the nation, Usher said.
At the same time, Sales retained an openness to fans that turned every restaurant meal into an endless autograph-signing session, Usher said.
Sales began his TV career in Cincinnati and Cleveland, then moved to Detroit, where he drew a large audience on WXYZ-TV. He moved to Los Angeles in 1961.
The comic's pie-throwing schtick became his trademark, and celebrities lined up to take one on the chin alongside Sales. During the early 1960s, stars such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis and Shirley MacLaine received their just desserts side-by-side with the comedian on his television show.
Sales was born Milton Supman on Jan. 8, 1926, in Franklinton, N.C., where his was the only Jewish family in town. His parents, owners of a dry-goods store, sold sheets to the Ku Klux Klan. The family later moved to Huntington, W.Va.
His greatest success came in New York with "The Soupy Sales Show" — an ostensible children's show that had little to do with Captain Kangaroo and other kiddie fare. Sales' manic, improvisational style also attracted an older audience that responded to his envelope-pushing antics.
Music and White Fang too. Here you get a flavor of the Soups' musical tastes - sophisticated - and White Fang, who was kind of Patrick to his SpongeBob...
The great dollar heist! Here, Soupy explains one of the most famous exploits in TV history.
Soup, as Cal, the used car dealer. Soupy loved to skewer hucksters - particularly TV execs.
O'Reilly interviews Soup. Growing up in the NYC area, as O did, he had memories too. This piece has a nice collection of clips...
Here's the Stewart Klein interview and includes other New York TV kids stars Sandy Becker and Fred Scott - Fred was a Long Islander, and I believe Sandy might well have been too.
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