Thursday, October 29, 2009


I was glad to see so many write-ups on Soupy Sales...newspapers, blogs, even International coverage. Maybe he's looking down from that big pie in the sky, thinking, "Wow, I really did make a lot of people happy." Because that's all he wanted to do.

Unlike some of the celebs profiled here, Soupy was not underappreciated, though he may have been underused. In his prime, he had a hit single ("The Mouse,") appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show with The Beatles, hosted "Hullabaloo," issued six albums and was such a fad favorite there were Soupy trading cards, flicker rings, Halloween masks and magazines. He was offered the lead for "Gilligan's Island," but turned it down, holding out for (and getting) what he thought was better: a lead in a movie ("Birds Do It") followed by Broadway ("Come Live With Me').

While the fad for his pie-in-the-face hipster/kiddie comedy faded in the late 60's, he really didn't, because he was beloved. He became a panelist on "What's My Line" in 1967 and was a regular on game shows for decades. Fans went to see him in stand-up, they bought his joke book, and they listened to him on local radio stations. Long after the days when he hung around with puppet-hands Pookie, Black Tooth and White Fang, he was recording songs for Motown and a stand-up comedy album for MCA.

He never lost that soft North Carolina accent, with which he drawled a cheery " are ya," to fans recognizing him on the street. He and his family had an apartment in the East 30's, in New York City, and he was known around the neighborhood for being friendly and kind-hearted.

Sure, he had a cranky side, but he generally kept it private...he was painfully irked by all the "legendary" anecdotes about him that were not true. NO, he didn't go on camera and tell kiddies a baseball joke about a fan who kissed his girl between the strikes while she kissed him between the balls. So many other dumb jokes attributed to him never happened.

He was also not pleased that he couldn't live down the one gag that was real; the time he jokingly told kids to send him some of their parents' "green pieces of paper." The important word: JOKINGLY. People remember it and tell it as if he really wanted money. The truth: "I never did it to get any money, it was just a joke. The punch line was "If you send me those pieces of paper, you know what I'm gonna send you? A postcard from Puerto Rico!"

And NO, he didn't get fired for having a naked girl jiggle on camera. She was off screen and the existing tape of the practical joke was taken by a camera that wasn't broadcasting. The joke wasn't done by Soupy, it was done TO Soupy. The girl was well out of camera range, standing in the same area usually reserved for Frank Nastase (the guy who wore the White Fang claw and arm, the only part of the monster dog that was ever shown).

NO, he wasn't called "Soupy" because his real name was "Hines" same as a soup company, it was a play on his real last name, Supman. So yes, this type of stuff, plus any demeaning comments about him being just a kiddie host involved in low humor, tended to knit Soupy's brow.

What un-knit that brow was turning up at memorabilia shows and seeing how many thousands of fans remembered him so fondly. He was always busy signing pictures and kidding with the fans, but around 2006, we all became more and more worried about the glassy look in his eye, and the literal jaw-drop, and his wandering attention span. It was sadly just a matter of time before he no longer attended the shows, or turned up at the Friar's Club.

The obits and comments out there are vivid and plentiful because those who bought his records, saw him on TV , heard his radio shows, and met him in person, take this loss personally, because he was everyone's friend. He sure was one of mine.

A little bit of Soupy silliness for you..."Soupy Sez," with the puppets of course, and Neil Hefti's theme song for the TV show. No waiting, no ads for porn or whiter teeth, and no captcha words to type in. Just download or listen on line:



Tommy said...

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, Vichyssoise?

Ill Folks said...

"Cuthbert, that Vichyssoise."
W.C. Fields