October 23, 2009

"Have no fear when Soupy's here."

And now, Soupy's not here!
Critics were unkind, calling ["The Soupy Sales Show"] "a mishmash of mediocrity" that was meant for "kids with low IQs." But viewers lapped it up, making it the No. 1 local show by 1962. A survey at the time revealed that more than a third of Sales' fans consisted of adults. Some of them were hosting pie-lobbing parties in their basements....
Were you, like me, a teenager in the 1960s? If so, did you cry a tear when you read that the charming, silly comedian has died? Here's a clip from his, which meanders seemingly pointlessly and ultimately gets to his novelty dance-hit "The Mouse":

Don't be afraid that you can't do it
There is really nothing to it
Shake with your hands wiggling from your ears
Make like a mouse push your feet down and cheer...

Hey, do the Mouse...

Don't be afraid that you can't do it
There is really nothing to it
Just follow me and I'll get you through it
Have no fear when Soupy's here
This post is about Soupy Sales, but I've got to throw in a second topic. "The Mouse" got me thinking about all those dance hits from that era. Didn't they all emphasize how easy the new dance was? Don't be afraid that you can't do it. There is really nothing to it. Didn't they all have that lyric? I challenge you to find one of those old dance songs that told you the dance is pretty complicated and you might not be able to do it.

There are so many of those old dance songs. There's Marvin Gaye, doing "Hitch Hike." See how easy that dance is? It's all in the arms. There's Smokey Robinson and the Miracles doing "Mickey's Monkey." Sorry the linked clip doesn't show you how to do the monkey. (Here, this makes it really easy — and reconnects with our kids' show theme.)

A favorite old dance song of mine is "The 81" by Candy and the Kisses. One thing about "The 81" is that no one I knew had the slightest idea what the 81 was supposed to be. Was it just a song with no dance? "There's a new dance going around they call the 81. Everybody's doing it whether they are old or young." But not only wasn't everybody doing it, nobody was doing it. Nevertheless, put on your dancing shoes, feel the beat, get with the groove, and, most importantly, form a big boss line.


AllenS said...

The Chicken Dance

Anyone who's not chicken, stand in a circle facing each other.
When the music starts, hold your hands out in front of you and open and close them like a chicken beak four times.
Put your thumbs in your armpits and flap your wings four times.
Place your arms and hands like the tail feathers of a chicken and wiggle down to the floor four times.
Clap four times.
Repeat steps 1-5 four times.
After the fourth time take the hands of the people on either side of you and everyone move in a circle.
When you get dizzy, switch directions.
Repeat until the end of the music or until you fall on the floor.

It was the beginning of the end for America.

Ron said...

Gads, I had a Bob Hope comic with Soupy Sales in it!

Ron said...

Is Meade Althouse's "Fang?"

michaele said...

My memory is that I watched Soupy Sales in the mid 1950's when I lived in MI. I would walk home from school for lunch and have it with him...it was an important little kid ritual. Soupy had a lot of power over me! Sometimes I would be very distressed if my mother didn't prepare the same thing that Soupy was having for lunch. His show was just silliness and simplicity. He had these two dog buddies that he talked with but I think you only saw their big goofy paws and they would just grunt and Soupy would interpret.

AJ Lynch said...

The song "Down on Funky Street" just popped into my head and I can't stop dancing.

Damn you Althouse!

Pogo said...

I thought everyone was doing the lo-co-motion.

Rialby said...

Love this story (from wikipedia)...

On New Year's Day 1965, miffed at having to work on the holiday, Sales ended his live broadcast by encouraging his young viewers to tiptoe into their still-sleeping parents' bedrooms and remove those "funny green pieces of paper with pictures of U.S. Presidents" from their pants and pocketbooks. "Put them in an envelope and mail them to me," Soupy instructed the children. "And I'll send you a postcard from Puerto Rico!" He was then hit with a pie. Several days later, a chagrined Soupy announced that money was unexpectedly being received in the mail. He explained that he had been joking and announced that the contributions would be donated to charity. As parents' complaints increased, WNEW's management felt compelled to suspend Sales for two weeks. Young viewers picketed Channel 5. The uproar surrounding Sales' suspension increased his popularity.

John Burgess said...

I'd come home from my half-day at kindergarten in the early 50s in Detroit to have lunch with Soupy on WXYZ TV. White Fang, Black Tooth, and Pookie were his constant companions.

Getting my mother to follow Soupy's lunch menu for the next day, though, was not a trivial exercise for a six-year-old!

EDH said...

I remember when Sales cracked the following joke:

When I was as kid I swallowed a zipper and my mother said, "there's a fly in my Soupy!"

And don't forget David Bowie's Tin Machine.

Tin Machine was a hard rock band formed in 1988, famous for being fronted by singer David Bowie. The group recorded two studio albums before dissolving in 1992, when Bowie returned to his solo career. The group was generally ignored, often receiving scathing critical reviews at the time. However, their legacy improved over time, with many critics acknowledging that they might have been more successful at some other time...

Bowie then recruited brothers Hunt and Tony Sales (the sons of comedian Soupy Sales) as a rhythm section. Bowie had worked with them on Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life album and ran into them at a party in Los Angeles around this time.

The Sales brothers moved the tone of the sessions in Nassau away from art-rock and more towards hard rock, and Bowie looked to one of his favorite bands at the time, The Pixies, for inspiration. The Sales brothers heckled Bowie into greater spontaneity, with most songs recorded in one take, and lyrics left unpolished, thus giving the band a ragged, punk rock edge similar to the Pixies.

The group chose the name Tin Machine after one of the songs they had written (Gabrels would later credit the Sales brothers with this choice). The group set up allowed Bowie a certain level of anonymity, much needed after his 1980s overexposure, and he was happy to let the rest of the band (notably Hunt Sales) take the lead in interviews.


Bissage said...

I barely remember Soupy Sales as I was only a wee tot at the time, but I loved him, loved the show, and I watched it whenever I could so I agree 100% with the observation that it was meant for kids with low IQs.

traditionalguy said...

That guy could entertain more with less material than anyone else before. Watching him perform was a like watching a high wire act to see if he would fall. His was a talent that Darwinism cannot account for, because it was God given. Thanks for the laughs Soupy.

former law student said...

Soupy Sales was one of two comedians I just did not *get* when I was little -- Ernie Kovacs (particularly Percy Dovetonsils) was the other.

Today's wtf moment: Soupy's obit says his family -- the only Jews in a North Carolina town -- sold sheets to the Ku Klux Klan.

Fred4Pres said...

I loved Soupy. RIP.

bearbee said...

Today's kids may be in need of some of that pure silliness.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

My memory is that I watched Soupy Sales in the mid 1950's

Me too. We lived in Ann Arbor for a while and I also would love to watch Soupy with White Fang and Black Tooth after school while my brother would play outside with his Zorro cape and sword tipped with white chalk, making big "Z"s on the walls.

rcocean said...

I'm too young for Soupy. I'd see him on game shows in the 80s and wonder who he is was. Like many he seems a lot funnier in the old clips.

Off-topic: wasn't there some Brazilian dance that swept the country but it was supposed to be complicated or dirty or something?

john said...

I would often get him mixed up with Chuck Barris.

save_the_rustbelt said...

Soupy: RIP

One of the funniest (and cheesiest) ever.

Let's not forget Soupy's back door, where just about anyone might be standing.

former law student said...

From the 60s? Or do you mean the Lambada, the Forbidden Dance?


In the 60s, All of our female cousins would rush home from school to watch Bandstand and learn the latest dances. This seemed beyond pointless to the guys. But the women were always getting together to do intensely female things like give each other Toni home permanents.

rhhardin said...

Imus's tribute to Soupy Sales real audio his morning.

rcocean said...

Yes, the Lambada - thanks.

Paul Zrimsek said...

"The 81. That's a 69 with a 12-year-old, right?" --Roman Polanski

David said...

LOL Paul!

RIP Soupy.

The 81 still plays on the radio sometimes. It's still Pap Rock. Ugh!

William said...

Your clip does not do justice to the full Soupy Sales experience. To watch Soupy I had to continually adjust the rabbit ears and even then the vertical hold would sometimes skip around. I watched him not because I was a huge fan but because he was the best available show among the six available channels. I used to watch Soupy Sales with the same underlying despair with which I used to watch Joe Franklin. This was my only life, and I was watching this dreck.

howzerdo said...

My sister loved Soupy Sales. She had a Soupy doll which she forgot in a motel in North or South Carolina on one of our drives south to visit relatives in Florida. I remember how upset she was. There was always a lot of drama with four kids in the car on that long annual trip.

ricpic said...

There was pathos in Joe Franklin and bathos in Soupy Sales. Or was it the other way around?

But seriesly, the best part of Soupy was his banter with the offscreen guy, whoever he was.

Bissage said...

The thing I liked most about the Soupy Sales show was Jambi, the genie in the box, who was always giving us permission to say “heinie-hole.”

"Wish? Did somebody say wish?"

Ha! That was great!

Drew W said...

Soupy Sales walked past me in midtown Manhattan around 20 years ago. Naturally, he looked a lot older, but was definitely still the same Soupy Sales I watched on TV. I felt embarrassed at how thrilled I was to see him in person.

At least he managed to outlive my Soupy Sales lunchbox by a good 43 years or so.

former law student said...

For dbq and others who remember Detroit kid TV (Poopdeck Paul, Milky's Party Time) there is


which has a couple of Soupy Sales features.

sonicfrog said...

Don't forget, Dr. No is no more, and the girl who falsely fingered Tom Robinson in "To Kill A Mockingbird" has also died.... Oh, that sound just wrong.

the wolf said...

I was surprised to learn that Soupy Sales was still alive.

Robt C said...

In '63 I had a summer job cleaning carpets in LA. I was a HUGE fan of Soupy Sales. One day we went to a house in Beverly Hills (I still remember the address), and he answered the door. This was when he was at his peak, and he was the nicest, most unpretentious guy you could ever meet.
(I have an LP he made around then called (duh) "The Soupy Sales Show." Wonder if it'll be worth more now?)


John Stodder said...

I loved Soupy Sales, too. I can't add much. But when I was growing up in a NY suburb, his show on Channel 5 was something I watched every chance I could.

Youtube is full of great Soupy clips.

One of the major features of his show that I recall now only subliminally was its use of high-quality jazz, blues and pop standards. The music was never presented pedantically, it was just worked into the fabric of the show (usually Pookie the lion would lip-sync and dance.) If it was today, you'd have someone like Michele Obama or Branford Marsalis get on Sesame Street and announce "Jazz is an important part of America's cultural heritage, and you're not too young to begin appreciating it. So let's listen to ..." But Soupy just liked the music, played it, mugged to it, and we kids got to like it without knowing anything about it. Brilliant, that.

Another reason I'll never forget Soupy Sales is I was watching his show in my parents' bedroom one day when a wildfire started in the woods adjacent to our backyard, and we had to evacuate. I was the first one to spot it, since the TV was near the window that overlooked the forest, but I was the last to leave because, dammit, I wanted to watch Soupy Sales!

miller said...

I will miss Soupy Sales - he was simply a national treasure who was vastly underrated.

We all just watched him, glued to the set -- what would he do next?

In my early years I actually believed that White Fang and Black Tooth were *real*.

Greg G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg G said...

> I challenge you to find one of those old dance songs that told you the dance is pretty complicated and you might not be able to do it.

Well, the lyrics didn't come right out and admit it, but The Madison was a pretty damn complicated deal.

From Wikipedia: The Madison basic, danced in the film Hairspray, is as follows:

1. Step left forward
2. Place right beside left (no weight) and clap
3. Step back on right
4. Move left foot back and across the right
5. Move left foot to the left
6. Move left foot back and across the right

Called steps included the Double Cross, the Cleveland Box, The Basketball (with Wilt Chamberlain), the Big "M", the "T" Time, the Jackie Gleason, the Birdland, and The Rifleman. "The Jackie Gleason" is based on a tap dance movement known as "Shuffle Off to Buffalo".[6] Additional called sequences are: Two Up and Two Back, Big Boss Cross in Front, Make a "T" , the Box, Cuddle Me, and Flying High. "Away We Go" may be the same as "The Jackie Gleason".[7]

Yikes! Or just watch it as it was performed in John Waters' Hairspray (1988).


Kansas City said...

I loved Soupy Sales in the early 1960's in New Jersey. I thought he was a local New York City show. I had no idea is was national.

My Mom used to watch it and enjoy it with my brother, sister and me. I thought he was smart. Ann's clip reminds me of how he used to break up the crew. He was sort of a Conan from a simpler time.

But I can't believe Ann did not post a clip of the Soupy Shuffle if she wanted to go musical, or of him talking to White Fang at the door and getting hit with a pie.

Here is a nice O'Reilly interview of Soupy from about 10 years ago.


Cedarford said...

Dance fads? I know of a couple from the 60s still being done when I was a teen in the 80s and on.
"The Twist"
"Tighten up now"
I guess some old Soul Train numbers.."The Horse?" "Love Train".

And of course "The Monster Mash" was at Halloween Parties.

William said...

The Madison Time by Ray Bryant seemed to mock its own intricacy. "Two up, two back, erase it, and come out of it with the rifleman." Yeah, right. You and Ginger go first....I'm told that the kids in Bristol still do the Bristol Stomp at high school dances. It is sad that here on this Madison centered site this great song goes unmentioned.

Cedarford said...

I guess it will be upsetting to Boomers as more and more of the entertainers or sports figures or other celebrities they knew and bonded with as teens but were 10-25 years older begin to die off.
In their minds, as kids or teens, those people were young, vigorous. Just as boomers still think they are in their late 50s, 60s still..

My parents had a hard time when their 1950s, early 60s idols and people in the news began to die off. And all the adults that surrounded them who knew of the Depression, traded dentist work for car work with no cash involved..who mostly served in WWII in some capacity..The few here and there at 1st were unexpected and shocking!

Then more, and more died. "Peacefully with kids and grandkids with them", many obit articles said..and my parents reconciled to it just being the natural order of things. And knowing their likely place in the parade of life was headed closer to the "end of the march" and no "amazing medical miracles" would buy them another decade.

So with boomers, Farrah Fawcett deaths and Soupy Sales deaths trigger the uneasiness and angst it well should.

blake said...

Put your hand on your head
Put your foot in the air
Then you hop around the room
In your underwear

Ain't never been nothin'
Quite like this
Come on, baby
It's the Wilbury Twist

See, that exposure guy would've been okay if he'd stuck with the WT.

Lift your other foot up
Fall on your ass...

save_the_rustbelt said...

As the New York Times reminds us, Sales was a jazz maven who had many greats on his show, and at that time neither jazz musicians or black anybody got much air time.

As I remember, Sinatra was one of the guys who showed up at the back door.

RIP Soupy.

Big Mike said...

Was it Soupy Sales or was it somebody else who went into convulsions on camera and the cameraman didn't cut away because he thought it was all part of the show?

If it was you, Soupy, you made it about 50 years after the event so good for you!

John Burgess said...

FLS: Thanks for the link to Detroit Kids TV!

Among the many links on that site is this to an NSFW Soupy routine that's pretty good, particularly after you read the story behind it.

But what about Rootie Kazootie?

Cedarford: I don't know if you're a Boomer, or what cohort you fall into if a Boomer, but mine is not getting all undone by deaths of legends. My group belongs to the one that was still aware of death as a fact of life. Antibiotics were just coming onto the consumer marketplace and kids were still dying.

By the time I was in second grade, I'd lost at least three classmates to diseases like polio and one to an accident. I can add several relatives to that list, too.

Death is sad and it's certainly the end of people's lives (duh!), but that doesn't mean it was the end to everyone else's life.

WV: vacinie Weren't yet available for a lot of diseases.

Photog714 said...

Ann remembers: "The Mouse" got me thinking about all those dance hits from that era. Didn't they all emphasize how easy the new dance was?

I remember one exception. "The Complication" had the same melody as "The Locomotion," by Little Eva. I remember the first verse as if it were yesterday:

Eve'ybody doin' da Complication,
Guys and gals are doin’ it all over da nation;
You can do it too if you go to college,
But you’re gonna need an awful lotta knowledge,
Come on, Come,
Do da Complication wif me.

John Stodder said...

It just hit me who Soupy Sales' TV heir is: Craig Ferguson.

Don't say Pee-Wee Herman. He's funny, but on that show, every second was carefully staged.

But Ferguson's show has the same loose feeling, that sense that they're making it up as they go along (although they aren't), plus it has puppets.

I can't watch it very often, but it's almost always funny.

Christopher said...

Never particularly cared for Soupy, but it does remind me of yet another urban legend about his show (I think I read this in Cecil Adams' "The Straight Dope," but I can't be sure).

Anyway, the legend is that Soupy was trying to teach White Fang the alphabet. Fang was fine with A, B, C, D and E, but whenever he got to F, he barked "K!" Finally, Soupy got tired of this and sputtered, "what's wrong with you, Fang? Every time I say "F," you see "K!"

Too good to be true, of course.

And since we're remembering dances - how about the Soul Twist, as done by Chubby Checker and Dee Dee Sharp?

"Oh, there's no, no twistin'/
Like a slow, slow twistin'/
With you!"

Tyrone Slothrop said...

We lived between L.A. and San Diego right on the beach below a cliff, so we didn't get L.A. stations. Thus no Soupy. My friends would come to school and repeat the shows word for word, and I could see him when I was at one of their houses. He was a rare treat until 1963 when we moved up on top of the cliff. Later that year on a Sunday in November I was watching TV while the rest of the family was getting ready for church. Men in white cowboy hats were leading a small man in handcuffs through a crowd with flashbulbs popping all around when there were some louder pops. The man in handcuffs crumpled. I ran out yelling "They just shot Lee Harvey Oswald!" My mom explained softly, no they had shot John Kennedy. It took me a while to convince her of what I had seen. That was a small part of TV in the sixties.

Kansas City said...

Bummer that Soupy only got 48 comments, and some of those were for the dance issue. I thought it would take off over a 100. The O'Reilly interview has the explanation of how Sinatra was a fan and some clips.

Oh well. I'm glad Ann brought it to our attention and I thought she was right on with her comment about him. RIP and thanks for all the laughs you brought to kids and adults.

mikeb302000 said...

I watched Soupy in the 50s and 60s. I don't remember much but I knew every word to that song even though I probably haven't heard it since back then. Music is wonderful like that.

Thanks for posting this.

What I don't get is how could so many people go from being Soupy Sales fans to being Right Wingers as adults. Doesn't that seem weird to you?

Ralph L said...

Mikeb, do you think all right wingers are uptight prigs, or just most of them?

Today's wtf moment: Soupy's obit says his family -- the only Jews in a North Carolina town -- sold sheets to the Ku Klux Klan.
I saw that it was Franklinton, NC, my great-grandfather's tiny hometown, NE of Durham. Curiously, my late grandmother, his daughter, used to say that people used to say a town wasn't prosperous until it got its first Jew. That didn't work for Franklinton.

My dad's 2nd cousin, who still lives there, told me that Duke was going to base his tobacco business there after the Civil War, but the 5 families, including ours, who owned most of the land didn't want the factories and wouldn't sell, so he went to Durham and made it big, in more ways than one.

My dad's other grandfather accidently overheard a local KKK meeting in 1868, when he was 16. He was forced to join or be killed, according to family lore, but didn't actively participate. I read later that the Klan murdered a black man in the county that year, throwing a wrench in NC's reconstruction.

WV - rednexpk! yes, that side of the family sure was.

Deb said...

"Was it Soupy Sales or was it somebody else who went into convulsions on camera and the cameraman didn't cut away because he thought it was all part of the show?"

I remember that too. I thought it was a heart attack. In fact I think we were watching at the time but maybe I'm wrong.

Deb said...

"Was it Soupy Sales or was it somebody else who went into convulsions on camera and the cameraman didn't cut away because he thought it was all part of the show?"

I remember that too. I thought it was a heart attack. In fact I think we were watching at the time but maybe I'm wrong.

mikeb302000 said...

Ralph L. asked, "Mikeb, do you think all right wingers are uptight prigs, or just most of them?"

Well, I think "right winger" and "uptight prig" are practically synonymous in the general understanding of those terms. It's probably misleading though. I'd guess it's about 50 / 50, depending on exactly how you define those two terms.

Unfortunately, the really over-the-top ones color the whole group.

Here's an example. On my blog we argue about guns every day. Of the pro-gun commenters, only a very few are reasonable. The majority is so passionate as to be rude and insulting. One would tend to color the whole gun-owning public that way, but I think it would be wrong.

Lonetown said...

How about strutting down the line cheek to cheek doing the Continental?

I guess I'm a little older than most.

Data Schlepper said...

Is there anybody else in the U.S. who thinks that Glen Beck's show resembles Soupy Sales show?

Kansas City said...

I think the similarities between Soupy and Beck is their great talent to extemporaneously entertain an audience and their comedic ability. But no, Beck's politics are not anything like the level of Soupy's banal comedy.

As to humor, who has the idea that liberals have a better sense of humor? The ones on TV are typically humorless and, generally, the don't seem to exhibit much of a sense of humor - at least the committed ones. They sometimes say funny stuff - Olberman, Maddow - but they never seldom genuinely laugh at humor by others.

Beck is obviously funny, and the segments between him and O'Reilly show each has a genuine sense of humor.

In our personal lives, I'm sure we identify more with those who share our political views, but I think my conservative friends tend to be funnier than my liberal friends.

Who are the true liberal public figures with a good sense of humor?

Gary Rosen said...

C-fudd is still trying to peddle that crap that he's not a boomer. But .. the Shadow Knows!


Even without the above proof, come on. Everyone else posting on this thread is old enough to remember Soupy Sales. Those too young simply ignore it. Only C-fudd posts here just to "prove" he's "younger" bwahahaha.

psoriasisguru.com said...

i absolutely love Soupy Sales' personality, some of the best facial expressions ever