Friday, October 23, 2009

Soupy Sales R.I.P.

Comedian and children's show host Soupy Sales passed on October 22 at the age of 83.

Soupy Sales was born Milton Supman in Franklinton, North Carolina. Growing up, neighbours pronounced his last name "soupman," so that he was given the nickname "Soup Bone," later shortened to "Soupy." Following his graduation from high school in 1944, Sales joined the United States Navy and served aboard the U.S.S. Randall in the South Pacific. Following World War II, he enrolled in Marshall College in Huntington, West Virginia, from which he graduated with a degree in Journalism. It was while he was in college that he began performing in night clubs as a comedian. Following his graduation, Sales worked as a DJ on radio stations in Huntington and later Cincinnati. He made his television debut on WKRC in Cincinnati on the show Soupy's Soda Shop, a dance programme, and Club Nothing, a late night comedy/variety show. By that time he adopted "Sales" as part of his stage name, after comedian Chic Sale.

Following the cancellation of his shows, Sales moved from WKRC to Cleveland and then in 1953 to WXYZ in Detroit. It was there that his daily children's show Lunch With Soupy debuted. Starting in 1959 it was broadcast nationally by ABC for a brief time. In 1960 Sales moved, with his show, to Los Angeles. It was in 1964 that Soupy Sales and Lunch with Soupy moved to WNEW in New York. It was syndicated nationwide during the 1965-1966 season. The series ended its run in 1967.

Soupy Sales appeared on other shows than his own. He guest starred on such prime time series as The Rebel, Ensign O'Toole, Burke's Law, The Beverly Hillbillies, and The Carol Burnett Show. Sales was a regular on What's My Line from 1968 to 1974.  Sales hosted the game show Junior Anything Goes during the 1976 to 1977 season. In 1978 The New Soupy Sales Show was syndicated nationally. Sales went onto make guest appearances on such shows as True Blue, Wings, Boy Meet World, and Black Scorpion. He also appeared in such films as The Two Little Bears, Critic's Choice, Bird's Do It, Palmer's Pick Up, Behind the Seams, This Train, and  The Innocent and the Damned.

I must confess I only remember Soupy Sales from his guest appearances and his appearances on game shows ranging from Match Game to The $10,000 Pyramid. Regardless, I always found him a likeable character, and I fully realise his stature as a children's show host. In the mid-Sixties Lunch with Soupy was among the most popular children's shows on the air. Indeed, he was perhaps the only children's show host whose programme featured guests ranging from Frank Sinatra to The Supremes. For many, many Baby Boomers, there can be little doubt that he is the children's show host they remember best.

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