Highlights from Soupy Sales' Archive of American Television Interview

How did you get the name Soupy Sales?
My name was Milton Supman and they pronounced it "soup man", and Soupy. The Sales part came when I went to Cincinnati they changed my name to Soupy Heinz, until then it was Soupy Supman.  I was doing radio in Huntington, West Virginia and in Cincinnati they changed it to Soupy Heinz.  They said, "you can’t have the name of Heinz because it would conflict with food products."  So for three months I didn’t have a last name.  They said, "stay tuned for Soupy, tomorrow."  One day they called and they said, "we gotta get you a last name." I went down to the executive offices in Detroit, and we all passed around phonebooks. Chick Sales was a real comic, how about that? So I said okay. I became Soupy Sales.

Do you remember your first appearance on TV?

Yes, it was in Cincinnati on WKRC, a show called The Soupy Soda Shop, a teenage dance show. Way ahead of American Bandstand, it was a wild show with a bunch of kids from different high schools. They would dance and we were talking to the band. I came up with the idea of having kids come down and I’d have them on the set and we had different guests who would come on and I would ask them quiz type questions and winners would get prizes.  Records and things like that.

What were you making the famous pies from in the early years?
Of course, you used whipped cream. Whipped cream would hold up, then in a few minutes it would settle down and become soup.  Shaving cream was substantial.  It held up more so it was much better when it came about in 1954.

The Soupy Sales Show appeared on ABC for the summer in 1955.
The show was my kids show, my noontime show and Kukla, Fran & Ollie were very big, and all of a sudden Burr Tillstrom was on vacation and he was on for Silver Cup Bread, and so was I.  So Silver Cup said, “have Soupy replace Kukla, Fran & Ollie for eight weeks.” It was very good except John Daly and a few at ABC weren’t happy about that because a news show followed my show -- I was throwing pies and things like that.  But the station stuck up for me because I was bringing more money into the station than any other show on ABC.

How would you describe Soupy Sales as a character?

What you see is what you got.  I don’t know how to describe myself.  I was having a good time doing it. He was an average guy, just trying to get through. 

Your show was eventually put on Friday night in primetime. Tell us how you got Frank Sinatra on the show.

I was walking down the street one night and  Nancy Sinatra  came out with Tommy Sands and she said, “my dad loves you! He’s your biggest fan. I said, “well I’m his biggest fan.”  She was telling me how he always made a break in the afternoon to watch my show while making movies.  Frank would have a cocktail party,  but he said “you can’t talk while I watch this show.” when I got the chance to do a Friday night show, I called. He said, “yes I’d like to do it.”

Did he make any stipulations?
He said he’d do it on one condition, “Do it where I get hit with a pie. Is it okay if I sing?”  I said do anything you want.  So he came on and he sang “Foggy Day” and then he got hit with a pie.  It was marvelous, he was marvelous.  Because of him, everybody wanted to come on and get hit with a pie:  Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, everybody.

On your Los Angeles-based show, you had a very infamous prank pulled on you by the crew while you were on the air, it’s become known as "the naked woman incident.“
I was doing the show and I had written a bit where I was working up front with the dogs, and I’d hear a woman scream. I go back and open the door and look down there’d be a pair of women’s shoes, but you can’t see her, followed by a pair of men’s shoes. I’d look into the camera and go to commercial.  Black out. I hear this scream and I run back, I look down, I see the shoes and I look up and there’s a naked girl. God, I fell down, it was my life and my career the whole thing. I thought that she was naked. The breasts, I never saw.  All I know is to keep talking, and sure enough, the engineers were all out front taking pictures with cameras, and finally I got through and walked out and I was embarrassed and blushing,  the cameras were there, and my face is red.  It became the biggest outtake in TV. Audiences saw my reaction, they never saw the outtake.

What, in your career, is your proudest achievement?
I think playing the Paramount Theatre was a great thrill for me, I broke Frank Sinatra’s record there at the Paramount in 1964, ’65.

What’s your biggest regret?
I have no regrets.  Because if I changed anything, I probably wouldn’t be talking with you right now.

How would you like to be remembered?
I guess probably I’ll be remembered for the pies or something like that.  But I wish to be remembered as a nice person.  A funny guy.

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INTERVIEW DESCRIPTION

Soupy Sales (1926-2009) was interviewed for one hour at the Friar’s Club in New York City by Charles Salzberg.  Sales talked about breaking into television in 1950 at local station WKRC-TV in Cincinnati, with The Soupy Soda Show, a teenage dance show.  He talked about other local markets where he worked including Cleveland’s WXEL-TV where his show Soup’s On provided him the opportunity for getting the first pie in his face— which would become his trademark gag.  Sales talked about his several year run with WXYZ-TV Detroit’s Lunch with Soupy Sales, a children’s show, which also had an adult following.  Sales described the series in detail including the look of the set and the characters who appeared (including lion puppet “Pookie” and dog puppet “White Fang,” whose great white hairy arm was all that was seen).  Sales described his network break, with a replacement series at ABC in the mid-50s.  He talked about his work as host/ performer on The Soupy Sales Show that ran on ABC, first originating in Detroit, then in Los Angeles.  He also described his show’s second primetime incarnation on ABC in 1962.  Sales detailed the celebrities who appeared on his show, which famously included Frank Sinatra.  Finally, Sales described reviving his series at WNEW in New York (and talked about the incident which got him suspended— when he told children to send money to him care of the station).

©2002 Archive of American Television