Milton Supman (January 8, 1926 – October 22, 2009), known professionally as Soupy Sales, was an American comedian, actor, radio-television personality, and jazz aficionado. He was best known for his local and network children's television series, Lunch with Soupy Sales (later titled The Soupy Sales Show) (1953–1966), a series of comedy sketches frequently ending with Sales receiving a pie in the face, which became his trademark. From 1968 to 1975, he was a regular panelist on the syndicated revival of What's My Line? and appeared on several other TV game shows. During the 1980s, he hosted his own show on WNBC in New York City.
|Birth name||Milton Supman|
|Born||January 8, 1926|
Franklinton, North Carolina, U.S.
|Died||October 22, 2009 (aged 83)|
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
|Medium||Television, radio, film|
|Genres||Slapstick, word play, improvisation|
|Notable works and roles||Lunch with Soupy Sales|
Milton Supman was born in Franklinton, North Carolina, to Irving Supman and Sadie Berman. His father, a Jewish dry goods merchant, emigrated from Hungary in 1894. His was the only Jewish family in town; Sales joked that local Ku Klux Klan members bought the sheets used for their robes from his father's store.
Sales got his nickname from his family. His older brothers had been nicknamed "Ham Bone" and "Chicken Bone". Milton was dubbed "Soup Bone", which was later shortened to "Soupy". When he became a disc jockey, he began using the stage name Soupy Hines. After he became established, it was decided that "Hines" was too close to the Heinz soup company, so he chose Sales, in part after vaudeville comedian Chic Sale. He graduated from Huntington High School in Huntington, West Virginia, in 1944. He enlisted in the United States Navy and served on the USS Randall (APA-224) in the South Pacific during the latter part of World War II. He sometimes entertained his shipmates by telling jokes and playing crazy characters over the ship's public address system. One of the characters he created was "White Fang", a large dog that played outrageous practical jokes on the seamen. The sounds for "White Fang" came from a recording of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Sales enrolled at Marshall University, known as Marshall College at that time, where he earned a master's degree in journalism. While there, he performed in nightclubs as a comedian, singer and dancer.
After graduating from Marshall, Sales began working as a scriptwriter and disc jockey at radio station WHTN (now WVHU) in Huntington. He moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1949, where he was a morning radio DJ and performed in nightclubs. He began his television career on WKRC-TV in Cincinnati with Soupy's Soda Shop, TV's first teen dance program, and Club Nothing!, a late-night comedy/variety program.
Lunch with Soupy SalesEdit
Sales is best known for his daily children's television show, Lunch with Soupy Sales. It was originally called 12 O'Clock Comics, and later known as The Soupy Sales Show. Improvised and slapstick in nature, it was a rapid-fire stream of comedy sketches, gags and puns, almost all of which resulted in Sales receiving a pie in the face, which became his trademark. He developed pie-throwing into an art form: straight to the face, on top of the head, a pie to both ears from behind, moving into a stationary pie, and countless other variations. He claimed that he and his visitors had been hit by more than 20,000 pies during his career. He recounted a time when a young fan mistakenly threw a frozen pie at his neck and he "dropped like a pile of bricks".
Lunch with Soupy Sales began in 1953 from the studios of WXYZ-TV, Channel 7, in the historic Maccabees Building in Detroit. Sales occasionally took the studio cameras to the lawn of the Detroit Public Library, across the street from the studios, and talked with local students walking to and from school. Beginning no later than July 4, 1955, a Saturday version of Sales' lunch show was broadcast nationally on the ABC television network. His lunchtime program on weekdays was moved to early morning opposite Today and Captain Kangaroo.
During the same period that Lunch with Soupy Sales aired in Detroit, Sales also hosted a nighttime show, Soup's On, to compete with 11 O'Clock News programs. The guest star was always a musician, often a jazz performer, at a time when jazz was popular in Detroit and the city was home to 24 jazz clubs. Sales believed his show helped sustain jazz in Detroit, as artists regularly sold out their nightclub shows after appearing on it.
Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Stan Getz were among the musicians who appeared on the show; Miles Davis made six appearances. Clifford Brown's appearance on Soup's On, according to Sales, may be the only extant footage of Brown, and has been included in Ken Burns' Jazz and an A&E Network biography about Sales.
Sales briefly had a third dinnertime show filmed largely in Detroit's Palmer Park area. His three shows were rumored to earn him in excess of $100,000 per year. One of his character puppets was Willy the Worm, a "balloon" propelled worm that emerged from its house and used a high pitched voice to announce birthdays or special events on the noontime show; but the character never appeared when Soupy moved to Los Angeles. In his lunchtime show, Sales always wore an orlon fabric sweater. In many of his shows, he appeared in costume, performed his dance, the Soupy Shuffle, introduced many characters such as Nicky Nooney, the Mississippi Gambler, etc., and took "zillions" of pies in the face.
In 1960, Sales moved to the ABC-TV studios in Los Angeles. ABC cancelled his show in March 1961, but it continued as a local program on KABC-TV until January 1962. It briefly went back on the ABC network as a late night fill-in for The Steve Allen Show in 1962, but was canceled after three months. All of the puppets on the show during its Los Angeles run were also operated by Clyde Adler, whom a 1962 TV Guide listing describes as "West Coast disk jockey and comedian". Sales' fame was significant enough that he was hired as a Tonight Show guest host in the period between Jack Paar and Johnny Carson.
On September 7, 1964, Sales found a new weekday home at WNEW-TV in New York City. This version was seen locally until September 2, 1966. Screen Gems syndicated 260 episodes to local stations outside the New York market during the 1965–66 season. This show marked the height of Sales' popularity. It featured guest appearances by stars such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, Judy Garland and Sammy Davis Jr., as well as musical groups like the Shangri-Las, The Supremes and The Temptations.
The New Soupy Sales Show: Los AngelesEdit
The New Soupy Sales Show appeared in 1978 with the same format, and ran for one season. 65 episodes were briefly syndicated, through Air Time International, to local stations in early 1979. It was taped in Los Angeles at KTLA, with Clyde Adler returning to work as a puppeteer with Sales.
Clyde Adler, the show's floor manager and a film editor at Detroit's WXYZ, performed in sketches and voiced and operated all puppets on Sales' show in Detroit in the 1950s and in Los Angeles from 1959 to 1962, as well as in 1978. Actor Frank Nastasi, who played the part of Gramps on WXYZ-TV's other kids' show Wixie Wonderland, assumed the role of straight man and puppeteer when Sales took the show to New York from 1964 to 1966. Nastasi was originally from Detroit and had worked with Sales at WXYZ. Appearing on the show were both puppets and live performers.
The puppets were:
- White Fang, "The Biggest and Meanest Dog in the USA", who appeared only as a giant white shaggy paw with black triangular felt "claws", jutting out from the corner of the screen. Fang spoke with unintelligible short grunts and growls, which Soupy repeated back in English, for comic effect. White Fang was often the pie thrower when Soupy's jokes bombed.
- Black Tooth, "The Biggest and Sweetest Dog in the USA", also seen only as a giant black paw with white triangular felt claws, and with more feminine, but similarly unintelligible, dialogue. Black Tooth's trademark was pulling Soupy off-camera to give loud and noisy kisses.
- For a short time there was a third dog character that became White Fang's girlfriend, Marilyn Monwolf. She caused some rivalry of affections between Black Tooth and White Fang, but later jilted them both for Joe Dogmaggio.
- Pookie the Lion, a lion puppet appearing in a large window behind Soupy (1950s), was a hipster with a rapier wit. For example: Soupy: "Do you know why my life is so miserable?" Pookie: "You got me!" Soupy: "That's why!" One of Pookie's favorite lines when greeting Soupy was, "Hey bubby... want a kiss?". In the Detroit shows, Pookie never spoke but communicated in whistles. That puppet also was used to mouth the words while pantomiming novelty records on the show.
- Hippy the Hippo, a minor character who occasionally appeared with Pookie the Lion. Frank Nastasi gave Hippy a voice for the New York shows. Clyde Adler also voiced Hippy in the shows done in the late 1970s.
New Year's Day incidentEdit
On January 1, 1965, miffed at having to work on the holiday, Sales ended his live broadcast by encouraging his young viewers to tiptoe into their still-sleeping 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 and I'll send you a postcard from Puerto Rico", Sales instructed the children. Several days later, substantial amounts of money had begun arriving in the mail; Sales stated that the total amount received was in the thousands of dollars but qualified that by stating that much of that was Monopoly or play money. Sales said he had been joking, and that whatever real money had been sent would be donated to charity, but as parents' complaints increased, WNEW's management suspended Sales for two weeks.
One of the fans of the Soupy Sales show was Frank Sinatra. It appears Sinatra became a fan after his daughter Nancy begged him to visit the show . When Sinatra started his own record label, Reprise Records, he signed Sales to a recording contract, which produced two albums: The Soupy Sales Show in 1961 and Up in the Air in 1962.
Sales' novelty dance record, '"The Mouse", dates from the mid-1960s period of his career, when his show was based in New York. The single, released on the ABC-Paramount label, peaked at #76 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in May 1965. Sales performed "The Mouse" on The Ed Sullivan Show in September 1965, just prior to The Beatles' segment on the show. Sales signed with Motown Records in 1969, releasing the single "Muck-Arty Park" (a play on the 1968 hit "MacArthur Park"), as well as the album A Bag of Soup. Soupy and Frank Nastasi also cut and recorded a comedy and song story disk, "Spy with a Pie", for ABC-Paramount. It was re-released by "Simon Says" children's records.
From 1968 to 1975, Sales was a regular panelist on the syndicated revival of What's My Line?. (He had been a guest panelist on one episode of the original version in 1965.) He was usually the first panelist introduced and occupied the chair on the far left side (facing the camera), next to Arlene Francis. In 1969, he appeared on Storybook Squares, a children's version of Hollywood Squares, as Henry VIII. In 1976, he hosted Junior Almost Anything Goes, ABC's Saturday morning version of their team-based physical stunt program. He was also a panelist on the 1980 revival of To Tell the Truth; he had appeared as a guest on the show during the mid- to late 1970s. Other game show appearances included over a dozen episodes of the original Match Game from 1966 to 1969 as well as one week of the revived version in 1976; a week of shows on the 1970s edition of The Gong Show; a couple of guest spots on Hollywood Squares (December 12, 1977 and April 4, 1978) and a few appearances on the combined version (Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour) in 1983–84; and a recurring role in all versions of Pyramid from 1973 to 1988 and 1991 (in one famous episode of which he repeatedly uttered the word "bacon", trying to get a confused contestant to say "greasy things"). He was considered as a host in Nickelodeon's game show, Double Dare, but was deemed too old (the job went to Marc Summers). He also made an appearance on Pictionary in 1997.
Sales hosted a midday radio show on WNBC in New York from March 1985 to March 1987. His program was between the drive time shifts of Don Imus (morning) and Howard Stern (afternoon), with whom Sales had an acrimonious relationship. An example of this was an incident where Stern told listeners he was cutting the strings in Sales' in-studio piano at 4:05 p.m. on May 1, 1985. On December 21, 2007, Stern revealed this was a stunt staged for "theater of the mind" and to torture Sales; in truth, the piano was never harmed. Sales' on-air crew included his producer, Ray D'Ariano, newscaster Judy DeAngelis, and pianist Paul Dver.
Sales had a sporadic film career that spanned over 40 years, including:
- 1961 – The Two Little Bears
- 1963 – Critic's Choice
- 1966 – Birds Do It (starring role). Sales was vocal in his dislike for this film.
- 1977 – Don't Push, I'll Charge When I'm Ready
- 1983 – Superman III (cameo appearance)
- 1993 – The Making of... 'And God Spoke' - his memorable appearance as himself, hired by two incompetent filmmakers to portray Moses because Charlton Heston was not available.
- 1999 – Palmer's Pick Up
- 2000 – A Little Bit of Lipstick
- 2000 – Behind the Seams
- 2001 – This Train
- 2005 – The Innocent and the Damned
- 2005 – Angels with Angles
- Sales' first dramatic acting roles came in 1960 as an unnamed stable owner in "The Legacy" and as Meyers in "The Hope Chest" on the ABC western television series The Rebel, starring Nick Adams.
- Sales appeared as himself in one of the later episodes of the CBS military sitcom/drama series Hennesey, starring Jackie Cooper.
- Sales made several guest appearances on The Carol Burnett Show.
- 1962 – Miss Teen USA pageant at Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica, California, where Sales hosted and crowned the winner (Linda Henning, 15, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
- 1962 – Ensign O'Toole TV show, Season 1, Episode 5, "Operation Jinx", with Sales as Jinx Johnson
- 1963 – Sales played "Hank Salamanca", a musician guest at the farm, on The Real McCoys, episode 32 "The McCoy Sound".
- 1964 – "This is Going to Hurt Me More Than It Hurts You", Route 66, Episode 113 in the fourth and last season, fourth-to-last episode
- 1969 – The Beverly Hillbillies: Milburn Drysdale's nephew, Air Force ace Jet Bradford.
- 1989 – Monsters: Season 2 Episode 6, as "Traveling Salesman".
- 1994 – Wings: Season 6 Episode 8, "Miss Jenkins": Sales played a character named Fred Gardner, and performed "Simon Says" with Lowell.
- 2001 – Black Scorpion: super-villain Professor Prophet
Sales was married twice: first to Barbara Fox, from 1950 until their divorce in 1979. They had two sons, both of whom are rock musicians: bassist Tony Sales and drummer Hunt Sales (who were in the band Tin Machine with David Bowie). In 1980, Sales married dancer Trudy Carson, who survives him.
- ABC replaced The Soupy Sales Show in 1961 with Cynthia Pepper's short-lived sitcom, Margie. Sales and Pepper later became good friends.
- Howard Stern named Sales as one of his childhood heroes, and in an interview on the 2007 Sirius Satellite Radio program The History of Howard Stern, he expressed regret over his harsh words and actions towards Sales.
- Cited as an influence by Iggy Pop in the movie Gimme Danger. Pop included both of Sales' sons Hunt and Tony as part of his backing band.
Janet Oseroff was Sales' manager in the last years of his life, and continues to represent his estate with Sales' wife Trudy. They license reruns of over 100 shows, including the entirety of The New Soupy Sales Show and the extant episodes from Sales' earlier black-and-white shows. Sales' shows have aired since 2011 on Jewish Life Television and since 2013 on Retro Television Network, the latter airing once a week.
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In 1955, the show was picked up by ABC as a summer replacement for “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” and renamed “The Soupy Sales Show.”
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Photo caption: Linda Henning (center), 15, Sioux Falls, S D. [South Dakota], is crowned Miss Teen USA at Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica, Calif., by television comedian Soupy Sales.
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