Who is the world's leading authority on pie-throwing? It has to be Soupy Sales: 19,000 at last count. Not only did he elevate pie-tossing to an art form, but at the height of his show's popularity, dozens of stars - Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Curtis were just a few - begged to be on the receiving end of one of his pies.
Soupy was born in Franklinton, North Carolina, and grew up in Huntington, West Virginia. After receiving his B.A. in Journalism at Marshall University, he landed a job as a radio script writer at WHTN, a small station in Huntington. In the evenings, he honed his comedic skills at distant nightclubs. "I remember driving 80 miles to play at these clubs for $15 a night," recalls Soupy. "The money wasn't much, but the experience was invaluable." Meanwhile, back at WHTN, his high energy gift for gab led to a spot on the air, and soon he was the top-rated DJ in the area.
When he moved to Cincinnati in 1950, Soupy chose television as his new medium. "Soupy's Soda Shop" became America's first teenage dance television program. This was later followed by "Club Nothing," a 45 minute talk show spiced with Soupy's zany comedy routines, guests and music.
It was in 1953, when Soupy moved to Detroit, that he began his fast climb that soon made him Motor City's top-rated TV personality for 7 years. The comedian helmed an unbelievable 11 hours of TV time each week, including his noontime "Lunch With Soupy Sales," which marked the first non-cartoon Saturday morning program on the ABC-TV network. His format became an inspiration to the many children's shows to come.
Soupy moved to the West Coast in 1960, and by the following year, his "Soupy Sales Show" was L.A.'s number one show, pulling in more fan mail than all of ABC-TV's network shows combined. His initial Friday night show will long be rememberd for the quality of the stars it attracted, and the episode with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. getting pie-faced (featured on "The Best of the Soupy Sales Show," available on Rhino Home Video) was the first show in history to beat the long-running, top-rated "Rawhide."
In September of 1964, Soupy took his show to New York, where it soon became the biggest show of its kind in local television. Two years later the show was seen throughout the U.S. as well as in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
When he recorded his zany dance creation "The Mouse" (also featured on "The Best of the Soupy Sales Show"), the record sold over a quarter of a million copies in two weeks in New York alone, and along with another Sales record, "Spy with a Pie," became a national chart-topper. In the mid-sixties, Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin, Bob Hope and Carol Burnett are some of the stars that had Soupy on their prime time shows.
During that time, there wasn't an arena that Soupy didn't play: Broadway, dinner theatre, comedy clubs, and television were all gifted with Soupy's talents. By 1968 he had joined the panel of "What’s My Line?" as a regular, logging in 1,500 shows in his 7 year run.
The early seventies saw Soupy breaking in his nightclub act, and guest-starring on dozens of shows. In 1975 Soupy hosted ABC's Saturday hit show "Jr. Almost Anything Goes" for a season. More game shows, as host and panelist followed, until his New York nightclub debut at the Rainbow Grill in 1976 which opened to such critical acclaim that The New York Times wrote, "Soupy's back and his hoarse, free-form delivery is as boisterous, zany and oddly fetching as ever." The New York Post added, "...unending laughs...a wildly hilarious show."
In 1978 he began his three year co-starring role on "Sha Na Na." As the '80's arrived, so did more Soupy Sales fans, after seeing him in his SRO nightclub performances, panel shows, and "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes," where he was a semi-regular.
In the 90's we've come full circle, with "The Best of the Soupy Sales Show" available for the first time on home video. Now a whole new generation can enjoy the pie-faced prankster do what he does best: Make people laugh...