Friday, October 23, 2009

A Farewell to White Fang and Black Tooth's Arms

Milton Supman meant a lot to me when I was a kid. He was another crazy Jewish guy, a wacky, manic machine gun of stupid jokes, bad puns, ridiculous pratfalls and old bits that should have been anything but the mesmerizing experience it was for me. Supman was funny. He knew it and he couldn't stop laughing at himself and at the ridiculousness of the world. He was an anarchist and an absurdist. He was a human cartoon aimed directly at the hearts and minds of his audience and he won me over big time.

Soupy Sales, along with White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie, and Hippy the Hippo, appeared in 1961's Lunch With Soupy Sales (syndicated, I believe, on ABC-TV, Channel 7 here in New York) and then made it to town in 1964 on WNEW-TV (Channel 5), and I was a regular viewer. The Soupy Sales Show was primitive, even for the time, held together by the grinning, rubber-faced, do-anything, say-anything Soupy in front of the camera while a crew of unseen stagehands, cameramen and other technical people roared with laughter and interacted with the star, all off-camera. In a day when state-of-the-art childrens programming was the calm, rational of Romper Room and Captain Kangeroo (and don't get me wrong...I loves me my Captain!), Soupy was off the charts. And on the charts, with recorded hits like "Do the Mouse" and "Pafalafa-ga" (they whisper it all over Turkey, you know), not to mention a book, and appearances all over TV. He was, for a while, a very big star, complete with controversary; on New Year's Day morning, he told kids to sneak into mom and dad's room and send him the "funny green pieces of paper" with the pictures of presidents on them from their wallets and he'd send them a postcard from Puerto Rico, at which point he was hit with one of the 25,000 pies he'd taken to his face in his career; a few days later, money started to arrive and Soupy was suspended for two weeks. It was a funny, if ill-advised, bit.

Soupy died today at the age of 83. His model for kids TV gave rise to everything from Chuck McCann to PeeWee Herman and he was, by all accounts, a hell of a nice man as well.

Forty-five years later, I can still sing "The Mouse."


Bye, Soupy. Love you, big kiss!

1 comment:

psoriasisguru.com said...

I absolutely loved Soupy's style -- it was fun for the whole family (most of the time); how could you not love a guy with a name like "Soupy," right?