R.I.P. Soupy Sales.
Nostalgia is an odd thing. I think no matter how hard you try to explain something to a future generation, life goes through so many changes so fast that what was important and relevant to one generation seems odd and arcane to the next. Try explaining how you were mesmerized by the technology of “Pong” on a monochrome 12″ monitor to a kid playing “Halo 3” on a 50″ HDTV with surround sound. I’m sure that children of today who text message each other as a primary method of communication will seem like cavemen to those communicating wordlessly through sensory implants sometime in the future.
I say this only because I know some will look at these clips and just not get it. And that’s okay, not everything transcends time. But it’s pretty amazing that as a child in New York City I was able to find plenty of entertaining diversions on television even though there were only three stations, and none of them broadcast 24/7. As an adult with digital cable, I’m stunned that there sometimes isn’t a single viable program during a particular hour. Perhaps it’s the ability for children to be open-minded enough to find the value in anything. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s all been done so many times, I’m jaded.
But I fondly remember looking forward to certain programs after school and on Saturday mornings. One of these was The Soupy Sales Show, a “kiddie show” that featured corny puns, some zingers aimed way over kid’s heads, and two of the most unlikely sidekicks on television, Black Tooth and White Fang. Soupy played his own girlfriend (in drag), a detective named Philo Kvetch (my favorite of his characters) and probably took more pies in the face than anyone outside of the Three Stooges. He wasn’t afraid of doing the silliest thing to get a laugh, and his charm radiated through the television set.
So Rest in Peace, Milton Supman, a/k/a/ Soupy Sales.
So with nostalgia on the brain – and with apologies to several other programs that could easily make this list – here are ten early childhood memories, some of which still pop up on television (and rightfully so):
Soupy Sales – “Do The Mouse” and more. Most late night hosts consider interacting with the crew an integral part of the show, but you can tell from this clip just how loose and fun it must have been on set. It was always a bit crazy – including the famous incident where Soupy asked kids to tiptoe into their parents’ bedroom and send him all the pictures of the Presidents from their wallets – but he was one of a kind.
Popeye cartoons – Another show where the content was framed and introduced by an adult authority figure – in this case “Captain Jack McCarthy”, a local host posing as a sea captain in a yellow slicker. I seem to recall that the Popeye cartoons ranged from the classic Max Fleischer originals to the later King Features editions, but I was a mere Swee’pea at the time.
The Three Stooges – When dozens of previously filmed “shorts” were made available to television, someone got the brilliant idea of marketing them to children. The Three Stooges show was also staged with an adult authority figure (“Officer Joe Bolton“ was the guy in NYC) who would open the program and introduce the film and a cartoon. And parents were rightly concerned that a new generation of kids would want to poke each other in the eyes.
Abbott and Costello – Not to be confused with their movies, The Abbott and Costello Show was a half hour comedy program that was a framework for the duo to perform gags and burlesque routines under the guise of a sitcom. The show originally aired before I was born but was shown in syndication for years.
Shindig – Hard to believe there was more great rock’n’roll on television in the early ’60s than there is now. Check out the guests on this last episode and the legacy of artists who…uh…shindug. This was hip at the time.
Where The Action Is – Dick Clark’s follow-up to American Bandstand featured Paul Revere and the Raiders as the virtual house band and was loaded with great bands and songs for thirsty music lovers like me.
The Little Rascals – I’m sure they mixed in Our Gang comedies along with the Little Rascals flicks, but the premise was the same. And odd collection of precious and precocious children with little or no adult supervision, a dilemma and usually a lesson learned. Not a happy ending in real life, though.
Hullabaloo – Yet another font of great music, this show occupied the Monday time slot that eventually went to another staple of my youthful TV diet, The Monkees. The show tried to bridge the generation gap a bit by having established artists introduce newer ones.
Rocky and Bullwinkle – Hilariously subversive and one of the best written shows ever on the air. Like many children I enjoyed the campy stories, bad puns and funny characters (not to mention the additional features including Aesop and Son and Fractured Fairy Tales). As an adult, I’m getting the jokes I can’t believe the censors missed!
The Adventures of Superman – George Reeves was already dead and gone by the time I was religiously watching the program at dinnertime every weekday. I must have seen every episode of this show fifty times each.
And for your bonus round…
The Bowery Boys – Also known as the Dead End Kids, the Little Tough Guys and the East Side Kids, the Bowery Boys were a more comic descendant of the Depression-era street kids from movies like Angels With Dirty Faces and Dead End. I’ve had a lifelong argument with my father about who the leader of the gang was, but that depends upon whether you are discussing the original crime drama films or the comedy flicks. Billy Halop was the film guy but Leo Gorcey was the undisputed leader of the comic programs. Saturday mornings will never be the same without Slip Mahoney and Sach (Huntz Hall).