Sunday, October 25, 2009


A few minutes ago I saw Alice Cooper take a pie in the face.
Not here in my box, I've never met the rock singer personally. But on that wonderful Internet invention, Youtube.
It was back in 1979 that Alice (Vincent Damon Furnier) got whacked with his pie (and not really a pie, but rather a pie pan filled with yummy whipped cream), on some version of the Soupy Sales Show.
I say some version as I'm not exactly sure what Soupy was doing in 1979, well past his hay day from the 1960's. Supposedly during this period he was appearing as a panelist on game shows and not hosting an incarnation of one of his own, but there is the evidence, right on Youtube. Soupy, his pals White Fang (The Biggest and Meanest Dog in the USA), Black Tooth (The Biggest and Sweetest Dog in the USA... Soupy was into dogs, and how both dogs could be the "biggest" is a matter of conjecture), and Alice Cooper of all people, in Soupy's familiar house, auditioning for his opening act a bug Soupy had found in his garden which, as chance would have it, knew how to play the piano and sing. Just as Soupy was signing the contract (he was the bug's agent) White Fang squashed it with a hammer, whereupon Alice grabbed back the contract, tore it to pieces, and got a pie right in the smacker.
Of course, usually it was Soupy himself who was the ultimate target for these whip cream pies. He has said that throughout his career he and his guests had been hit in the face with a pie more than 20,000 times. Soupy developed pie throwing into an art form. There was the old straight to the face, on top of the head, a pie to both ears from behind, moving into a stationary pie, rearing back to throw a pie at someone in front of you while actually hitting a person standing behind you, on and on.
About the only other venue you'd find so much pie throwing activity is the classic bakery scene in Blake Edwards film, "The Great Race," where Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk, Keenan Wynn, and Marvin Kaplan participated in the longest pie fight in cinematic history (I actually saw them filming the Russian seaport scene for this film while taking the tour at Universal Studios when I was a young lad. The set was of an icy seaport and the actors dressed appropriately, while filming outside in 100 degree heat).
I to have received a pie in the face. Lemon Merengue. I was performing in a skit while in the Cub Scouts. I played a gangsters moll, that's right, a woman in an alluring black dress. The skit was a combinatorial parody of the silent movie era, with other scouts playing Laurel and Hardy, the Keystone Kops, Charlie Chaplin, etc., and I was the only girl. I looked good, if I do say so myself. Anyway, during a pivotal moment one of the kops is throwing a pie at Chaplin who uses the old Duck Maneuver, wherein he ducked and I got it straight in the face. My mother said she laughed so hard that her mascara ran down her face.
There is only so much one can do when struck with a pie in the face. I've made a point of studying the reactions of those struck on Soupy's show, as well as Soupy himself. At first you are almost paralyzed with shock, standing rigid while you process the fact that you just got hit in the face with a pie. Psychologists call this the "Pie Shock Syndrome" (DSM-IV 309.24). The ferocity of the attack is dumb-founding. One moment you're gazing innocently off into the distance, or perhaps in conversation with someone trusted nearby, then Smack!... your entire face and hair is covered in sticky, sweet goo, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it, and you know it. A look a sigh of resignation can ofttimes be discerned. You blink stupidly, opening your mouth to make sure you can breath. You might use your fingers to clear pie debris away from your obstructed eyes if needed. Then inevitably your tongue will snake its way out to have a taste. And from there you move on.
Soupy Sales was born Milton Supman in Franklinton, South Carolina, on January 8th, 1926. His was the one Jewish family in town. His parents had made a habit of nick naming his older brothers "Hambone" and "Chicken Bone," and when it became Milton's turn he was deemed, "Soup Bone." He began using the name Soupy Sales while working as a disk jockey.
Like me Soupy enlisted in the United States navy. Unlike me he served on an armed transport ship during a time of war, the later part of World War II to be exact. He formulated some of his future staple characters while serving on that ship, and used to entertain his fellow sailors over the P.A. system.
Soupy is best known for his television shows, and their different incarnations, starting in the 1953 and lasting until 1966. That's the period I became entranced with him and the show. "Lunch with Soupy Sales," or "The New Soupy Sales Show," always using variations of the same set, and the same characters. Ostensibly a children's show, it was just as much fum for adults as well, and he had a large fan base of other entertainers like Frank Sinatra (pictured above with a little pie), Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Curtis, Judy Garland, and Jerry Lewis. The show was little more than a rapid-fire stream of comedy sketches, gags, and puns, sort of the Tonight Show for kids.
I always loved his show because of Soupy himself. He was genuine, the real thing. He spoke to the audience with respect, and a great deal of humor. He was leagues above the other shows for children at the time, like Capt. Kangaroo, and Romper Room, which treated their audience... well like kids. Soupy never did that. I never felt like just a kid when watching Soupy.
Soupy had been at times accused of telling dirty jokes on the show, which was not true. He was also accused of one New Years Day evening, asking the children in his audience to creep into their parents bedroom while they were sleeping, take out all of the green pieces of paper with pictures of men with beards from their wallets or purses, put them in an envelope and send them to him. Then he would call them back from Puerto Rico.
It was just a joke, but it did happen. $80,000 came to the studios, and Soupy was suspended from his program for two weeks. His many fans picketed the studio demanding his return ("Many not from my own family," he quipped).
Then there was the instance when his crew as a gag put a stripper on the set, and had Soupy unwittingly open his back door while on the air live to discover this naked dancing lady. Soupy flipped out a little bit, but seemed to handle it well.
Mr. Sales died last Thursday, October 22, at the age of 83, for undisclosed reasons, in a hospice in the Bronx, New York.
The world is a sadder place because of his leaving.
According to writer/columnist Mark Evanier, comedian Tim Powers reported that a fan left a cream pie on Sale's Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
May he rest in piece.

1 comment:

  1. Hopefully new comedians like Conan O'Brien will be able to take up the mantle after Soupy Sales... may he he rest in pie, i mean, peace!