Soupy Sales, Zany Slapstick Television Comedian, Dies at 83
Soupy Sales, whose wacky television routines turned the smashing of a pie to the face into a zany art form, died Thursday night at the age of 83. A forerunner to Pee Wee Herman as a children’s television show host with wide adult appeal, Soupy bombarded television screens throughout most of his life. Frolicking with his puppet sidekicks White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie the Lion and Hobart and Reba, the heads in the pot-bellied stove, transforming himself into the private detective Philo Kvetch, and playing host to the ever-present “nut at the door,” Soupy Sales became both a television favorite of youngsters and an anarchic comedy hero for teenagers and college students.
Clad in a top hat, sweater and bow tie, shuffling through his Mouse Dance, he reached his slapstick highpoint in the mid-1960s on The Soupy Sales Show, a widely syndicated television program based at WNEW-TV in New York City. Soupy Sales became the Godfather of pie-throwing, and by his own count some 20,000 pies were hurled at Soupy or at visitors to his television shows in the 1950s and ’60s. His celebrity pie-victims included Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis, all of whom turned up just for the honor of being creamed.
By 1966, his wild stunts heightened Mr. Sales’s appeal to young people as a comedian who loved to tease authority, and when he headlined a rock ’n’ roll show at New York’s Paramount Theater on Easter of that year, as many as 3,000 teenagers were lined up throughout Times Square hoping to get seats for his morning performance. Mr. Sales was later a longtime panelist on television’s What’s My Line? and a host for a variety talk show on WNBC Radio in the 1980s.
In the 1959 video of The Soupy Sales Show: Lunch with Soupy Sales presented below, the television crew from The Soupy Sales Show sneaked an exotic dancer onto the set as a special surprise for Soupy’s birthday.
The Soupy Sales Show: Lunch with Soupy Sales, 1959
You can read more about the life of Soupy Sales in The New York Times here.
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