Saturday, October 24, 2009
My personal encounter with Soupy Sales
Just in case you hadn’t heard, Soupy died the other day at the age of 83. Not bad for a old pie-thrower.
If you read any of the obits or career history of Mr. Sales (nee Milton Supman), you know that he had a brief, two-year run (1964-1966) as the host of a daily children's after-school show on WNEW – Channel 5 in New York. According to Wikipedia, The Soupy Sales Show was nationally syndicated in the second year making Soupy a household name.
Sales’ shows implemented several memorable shticks including the frequent throwing of cream pies into the faces of famous people, and bizarre characters - many of whom were puppets - that he conversed with throughout the 30 minute show. To the 11-13 year old audience of which I was part, he was simply nuts. Adding to his “kid appeal” was the fact that he had become rather controversial and the watching of his show had to be a covert behavior for many kid fans. The “hey-kids-send-the- green-pieces-of-paper-with-the-pictures-of-guys-with-beards-to-Soupy” episode is perhaps most famous.
I'm guessing it was in about 1965 that we (my sisters, dad and I) had our ever so brief, but completely memorably run in with Mr. Sales.
My dad worked in an office located on the corner of E 69th St and Third Ave, in Manhattan. It was a Saturday, and Dad had to make a stop at the office for something. We had parked, visited the office and were on our return to the car as we walked along Third Ave. It was a bright, sunny, winter day around noon and the streets were crowded with pedestrians burdened with shopping paraphernalia heading to Gristedes, or to lunch at Mahews, or perhaps a trip down to Bloomingdales.
I was 12 in 1965 and definitely into “people watching,” when I suddenly spotted the very familiar face coming at us as we walked south on Third. It was Soupy Sales walking along wearing a black, full-length coat, his hands buried deep in his coat pockets. WNEW was located on E67th St, just off of Third, so it was Soupy's stomping ground.
I can’t remember if we made eye-contact, but there was that momentary-delay that always happens when you see a celebrity in the flesh. It caused me to stop dead in my tracks. Now, mind you, at 12, I was not very experienced meeting celebrities then, but I’ve had my fair share over the years. And each time it happens, I experience that stop-in-your-tracks feeling.
Anyway, Soupy passed us and I alerted my sisters, “That was Soupy Sales, that was Soupy Sales!”
I think the girls had both noticed him as well and now turned to face north, my eyes following Soupy as he almost disappeared into the New York backdrop. Spontaneously, I shouted, “Hey Soupy!” as loud as I could. My pronouncement did nothing to upset the hardened NY crowd, nary an eye moved from the throng.
My sisters and dad had now also stopped and turned to look back when Soupy suddenly broke step, spun around and with his hand still in his coat pockets spread his arms out, slightly squatted his knees, and shouted back in that characteristically silly voice some gibberish exaltation like “Be-lah” – his face grinning from ear to ear, his tongue sticking out.
Before we could react, and without missing a step, he suddenly spun back around, pulled his arms back and solemnly disappears into the din.
That was it. No pie in the face, no autograph. Just a “Be-lah” from Soupy Sales.
Rest in Peace, Soupy.