Friday, October 30, 2009

The View From the Phlipside

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

Time to note the passing of another media icon. To me he was always one of the more perplexing stars but a star he was. Last week we lost Soupy Sales.

It's easy to roll our eyes at the mention of Soupy. His comedy was a very old fashioned style, even back in the 1950's when he first began his rise to fame. Sales was classic vaudevillian with the crazy characters, funny voices and the multiple levels of meaning. He really made his fame as the host of a childrens TV show known variously as the 12 O'clock Comics, Lunch with Soupy Sales and the Soupy Sales Show. Along with longtime characters Pookie, Black Tooth and White Fang (a character he developed while in the Navy during World War II) he later parlayed his ad libbed humor, versatile voice and malleable face into a long career as guest star and game show panelist. He also served for a short time as the buffer program between Imus in the Morning (who disliked Sales) and Howard Stern's afternoon program (Sales disliked Stern despite Howard claiming him as a childhood hero) on WNBC in New York.

For me Soupy was always associated with New York so I was very surprised to discover that he was born Milton Supman in North Carolina. The Supmans, the only Jewish family in town, ran the local dry goods store where they sold sheets to the local Ku Klux Klan. Their last name was commonly mispronounces SOUP-man so they nicknamed their three sons Hambone, Chickenbone and Soupbone. Soupbone, later shortened to Soupy, stuck.

But what about the pie in the face you're saying? Of course no mention of Sales can omit his signature gag. Again this is a classic old bit that goes back years before Soupy. But when you take over twenty thousand it really does become your bit. Sales took them in the face, on top of his head, two at once on either side of his head, and walked into them. It became such a big deal (at one point Sales was one of the most popular comedians in America) that stars like Sammy Davis Jr, Mickey Rooney and even Frank Sinatra lined up to be on the show and get hit with a pie.

There are plenty of other stories about Soupy. The bit where he told kids to sneak into their parents rooms and send him some of those funny green papers in the wallets, his abrupt replacement on WNBC in mid-show, and the long standing and utterly false claim that Sales did dirty jokes on his childrens program. He loved Jazz and showcased it on TV shows. In the end we need to remember the comedian who was so much more than just a pie in the face.

Soupy Sales died last week in the Bronx at the age of 83.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

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