The Success Of Soupy Sales
Soupy Sales signs his book at the Friars Club in
who died on Oct. 22 at age 83, was born Milton Supman in
Franklinton, N.C., where his father Irving was in the dry
"The local Ku Klux Klan," Soupy told me, "had to
come to this Jew to buy sheets."
He gave credit to everyone and the KKK loved him for
that. They even asked him to join them.
After Soupy’s father died, his mother Sadie
worked 12 hours a day in another southern shtetl, Huntington, W.Va.,
to put her three sons through school. One became a doctor, the other
a lawyer, and Soupy the class terror? After graduation from Marshall
College in Huntington he went on years later to become the rising
star of a 1960s television show where he made a career of throwing
some 19,000 custard pies in the kisser of such victims as Frank
Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Jerry Lewis and
many others who pleaded to be a target on the highly rated
nonsensical children’s show.
Soup, who saw himself as a straight man in a world
full of kooks, told his life story – better than any obit writer
could – in his book, "Soupy Sez: My Life and Zany Times." Nipsey
Russell, Kenny Kramer, Larry Storch and Vincent Pastore
(Pussy of The Sopranos) came to Soupy’s book party at the
Friars Club in 2001 where, instead of a pie in the eye, they hurled
zany jokes in his direction.
Appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show, Soupy
asked the host, "Mind if I throw you a pie?" Sure, Sullivan said,
then hesitantly asked, "What’s in it?"
He needn’t worry. The pie was topped, as always,
with shaving cream.
Mickey Freeman, who played Private Zimmerman on
The Phil Silvers Show in the late ‘50s, reported at the
Friars that Soupy’s book was already in its third printing. "The
first two were blurred."
Mickey was on a roll, so he continued: "Soupy, your
book saved my house. I had a card table with one short leg."
Bernie Ilson, Soupy’s publicist for 10 years
from 1965, told me his client was the easiest to work with. "What
you saw on the show was the same in real life," Ilson said. "Always
Soupy was hard working, getting up at 5 a.m. every
weekday to prepare for a show that went live at 10 a.m.
"It was a one-man operation," Ilson said. "He wrote,
planned and performed all by himself. It wasn’t just for children –
adults loved the slapstick humor."
Soupy once told a story about a beer commercial he
did. He had 30 seconds to open a bottle of beer before the shoot,
but there was no bottle opener. In a panic he called out if anybody
had one. A sophisticated gentleman walked up, put his wooden leg on
the table and opened the beer bottle with an opener attached to his