EXPIRED: 10/22/09 – Soupy Sales, 83, would do anything for a laugh, especially take a cream pie to the face.
In fact, over his career he took over 20,000 cream pies to the face. It became his trademark, and celebrities lined up to take one on the chin alongside Sales. During the early 1960s, stars such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis and Shirley MacLaine took a pie in the face just to be on his television show.
His greatest success came in New York with “The Soupy Sales Show” — an ostensible children’s show that had little to do with Captain Kangaroo and other kiddie fare. Sales’ manic, improvisational style also attracted an older audience that responded to his envelope-pushing antics.
On New Year’s Day 1965, miffed at having to work on the holiday, Sales ended his live broadcast by encouraging his young viewers to tiptoe into their still-sleeping parents’ bedrooms and remove those “funny green pieces of paper with pictures of U.S. Presidents” from their pants and pocketbooks. “Put them in an envelope and mail them to me,” Soupy instructed the children. “And I’ll send you a postcard from Puerto Rico!” He was then hit with a pie.
Several days later, a chagrined Soupy announced that money was unexpectedly being received in the mail. He explained that he had been joking and announced that unreturnable contributions would be donated to charity. As parents’ complaints increased, his station’s management felt compelled to suspend Sales for two weeks. Young viewers picketed. The uproar surrounding Sales’ suspension increased his popularity.
The cast of “Saturday Night Live” later paid homage by asking their audience to send in their joints. His influence was also obvious in the Pee-Wee Herman character created by Paul Reubens and in Howard Stern’s entire career.
Sales is survived by his wife, Trudy, and two sons, Hunt and Tony, a pair of musicians who backed David Bowie in the band Tin Machine, and also played with Iggy Pop.