november 2009

Soupy Sales

20,000 Pies In the Face Later…

Soupy Sales

January 8, 1926-October 22, 2009

Soupy Sales, the hip host of one of the most popular children’s shows of the 1960s, succumbed to cancer in a Bronx hospice on October 22. Born in Franklinton, North Carolina, Sales earned a Master’s Degree in Journalism at Marshall College, while he was also breaking in as a nightclub comedian-singer-dancer. After graduation he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was a morning DJ and nightclub performer and began his TV career on WKRC-TV with Soupy’s Soda Shop, one of the first, if not the first, teen dance shows on TV; he also hosted a late-night comedy/variety TV show, Club Nothing! After both shows were cancelled he moved to Cleveland and again hosted afternoon and late-night TV shows much like those he had in Cincinnati; it was on his late-night Cleveland show, Soupy’s On, that he received the first of what he claimed were 20,000 pies thrown in his face. After leaving Cleveland (“For health reasons,” he quipped. “They got sick of me.”), he landed in Detroit in 1953 and developed the show that would make him famous, Lunch With Soupy Sales, later changed to The Soupy Sales Show. The Detroit show found him perfecting the format of improvised sketches, rapid-fire repartee with other characters, zany puns and gags, most typically ending with Sales having a pie thrown in his face. An avid, knowledgeable jazz fan, he not only used the hippest music of the day on his shows, he booked jazz artists as special guests: Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker all showed up, and Clifford Brown’s appearance on his show produced the only extant footage of Brown performing.

‘Do you serve women in this restaurant?’ ‘We certainly do.’ ‘Then bring me a long, tall, cool blonde.’Soupy Sales Meets the Rat Pack. A sketch featuring Sammy Davis, Jr. Trini Lopez and Frank Sinatra, with Soupy Sales playing their waiter. By and by, pies fly. Seen at the start of the sketch are the late, great WNEW-AM New York disc jockey William B. Williams, host of the “Make-Believe Ballroom” and a Sinatra confidante, and, in the Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit, Sales show regular Frank Nastasi (the voice and arms of Black Tooth, White Fang and Pookie the Lion)

In 1960 Sales moved to ABC-TV in Los Angeles, but the show was dropped from the network, became a local show, then went back on the network schedule as a late-night fill-in for Steve Allen’s show, then was dropped again, prompting Sales to relocate to WNEW-TV in New York City. His local show went into syndication in 1965-66, and with that Sales became one of the Baby Boomers’ cultural icons. Hip and cool in style and sound, Soupy was off the wall and seemingly unpredictable, his character sidekicks—White Fang, Black Tooth, girlfriend Peaches, “Onions” Oregano—as colorful and outrageous as their host. Influenced to some extent by the sophisticated humor of Ernie Kovacs, Sales’s slapstick moments were balanced by often subtle visual gags. Well before Seinfeld, Sales’s show was about nothing, really, but must-see-TV all the same for simply being out there. He got into some trouble when he joked about kids mailing him “the funny green pieces of paper with pictures of U.S. Presidents” they could find in their parents’ purses and wallets. A pie promptly smacked him in the face, but when some bills started showing up the next week's mail (reportedly most of it was Monopoly money), he announced it would all be given to charity. Nevertheless, he was suspended from the air for two weeks. In another legendary incident, he is reported to have written the letter F on a chalkboard, told his viewers it was really a K and then said, “So when you see F you see K.” His continued to promote jazz artists on the show, using Oscar Peterson’s “Mumbles” as Pookie’s theme, Herbie Mann’s “Comin’ Home Baby” as the theme for his “Gunninger the Mentalist” character, and booking guest stars from across the musical spectrum of the day, including Sinatra, Judy Garland, the Supremes, Shangri-Las and other young rock ‘n’ roll artists. At the height of his popularity then, he had a hit single with “The Mouse,” which led to a booking on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1965 and a subsequent appearance on the show with The Beatles. Earlier, in 1961 and 1962, he had released two albums on Sinatra’s Reprise label, The Soupy Sales Show (1961) and Up In the Air (1962).

A new Soupy Sales TV show made its debut in 1978, for 65 syndicated episodes. From the late ‘60s into the ‘80s he appeared on numerous game shows; returned to radio in New York for two years, 1985-87, but was taken off the air following spats with Howard Stern, who had an afternoon show on the same station, and for complaining on air about his contract not being renewed.

Following the announcement of Sales’s death, Mark Evanier reported in that a devoted fan had place a crème pie on Soupy’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. — David McGee




Words of Wisdom from Soupy Sales


Vic Mizzy

‘I Majored In Finger Snapping’

Vic Mizzy

January 9, 1916-October 17, 2009

Composed theme songs for The Addams Family, Green Acres, The Ghost & Mr. Chicken, Spider-Man 2

Vic Mizzy, master of the catchy TV theme song and composer of movie scores, died of heart failure at his home in Los Angeles on October 17. He was 93. He is survived by a daughter, Lynn Mizzy Jonas; another daughter died in 1995. Although Mizzy’s musical career spanned some eight decades, and he recorded albums on his own, his legend is rooted in the wildly popular theme songs he wrote for The Addams Family and Green Acres, two of the most surreal TV shows of the 1960s. The Addams Family theme combined a spooky ambiance with a hip, four-note, finger-snapping rhythmic signature and was sung by Mizzy himself. The Green Acres theme, apropos for a show about sophisticated Manhattanites escaping the grind of urban life by relocating to a primitive farm near the mythical town of Hooterville, blended pop and country elements and was sung with winning humor by the male lead, Eddie Albert, and his heavily accented (Hungarian) co-star, Eva Gabor, Among his film soundtracks were five Don Knotts comedies, including The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and The Reluctant Astronaut, and William Castle’s The Night Walker and The Busy Body.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Mizzy played accordion and piano as a child and claimed to be largely self-taught as a composer. After attending New York University, he began writing popular songs professionally. In 1945 Doris Day had a hit with his “My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time”; in 1953 the Mills Brothers scored a hit single with Mizzy’s whimsical “The Jones Boy.” The Andrews Sisters cut two songs Mizzy co-wrote with lyricist Irving Taylor, “Three Little Sisters” and “There’s a Faraway Look In Your Eyes.” Among his last film projects were the outtake music for Spider-Man 2 (which was used on the DVD release) and Spider-Man 3. In 2003 he released a compilation of his work, Songs For the Jogging Crowd, on his own label, Vicster Records.


Vic Mizzy reveals the genesis of The Addams Family theme song (a snippet of a two-hour interview with  the Archive of American Television,

Green Acres theme song, 1966

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