Soupy Sales Remembered For More Than Pies

Entertainer Soupy Sales died this week at age 83. He became a star of early children's television, when the goal was to entertain, not teach anything — unless it was how to throw a pie in your face. Burt Dubrow, television producer and friend of Sales, joins host Scott Simon to share a few memories.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Soupy Sales died this week at the age of 83. He wasn't born with that name, of course, but Milton Supman, the comedian who took on the name Soupy Sales, became a star of early children's television when the goal was to entertain, not teach much of anything, or maybe how to throw a pie in your face.

Burt Dubrow was a friend of Soupy Sales for many years. He's a TV producer who's been executive producer of "The Jerry Springer Show," the "Sally Jesse Raphael Show," other programs. He joins us from Los Angeles. Thanks for being with us.

Mr. BURT DUBROW (Producer): It's my pleasure under these not-so-terrific circumstances but it's always a joy to talk about Soupy.

SIMON: Did you ever estimate how many pies he'd taken in the face?

Mr. DUBROW: You know, I think he did but I want to be honest with you, I don't remember, but I think he did. And whatever the estimate was probably was wrong anyway.

SIMON: Yeah. Is it true that he would slip in things for adults?

Mr. DUBROW: I don't think he did it intentionally. I don't think he ever considered himself really a children's performer. And it just happened that way. But Soupy was hip. And, you know, I would compare it today to the people that knew the "Pee Wee Herman Show" when it came on. It had a little bit for kids, but it had a lot for adults. Soupy really invented that whole thing. I don't know that he knew that he invented it, but he invented it.

SIMON: Yeah. How happy was Soupy Sales with being Soupy Sales?

Mr. DUBROW: I think he was really happy being Soupy Sales. I don't think he was necessarily overly thrilled, as I said earlier, about being that kid's performer, but he got out of that. I mean, a lot of people didn't realize it. He became a very, very hot nightclub performer, and then he did "What's My Line?" in syndication for years.

And I think one of the reasons he did do it was to be able to put on a sport jacket and a tie - a regular tie, not a big bow tie - and show people that he was an adult performer, and his audience followed him right up there to that.

SIMON: Yeah. Did he ever actually tell children to go get money of their parents' drawers?

Mr. DUBROW: He did, but here's the story…

SIMON: Okay. Please.

Mr. DUBROW: …and nobody ever tells the story right.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. DUBROW: It was New Year's Day and what he said was, listen, your parents are sleeping, they had a rough night, so just tip-toe into their bedrooms, go inside their purses or their pockets or their wallets, and get Soupy all those green pieces of paper.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUBROW: Now, that's where everybody ended the story, you see.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. DUBROW: But the real payoff to the story was Soupy said, you send me all those green pieces of paper and I'll send you a postcard from Puerto Rico.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DUBROW: That was the joke, you see. But nobody remembers it that way. But that's what happened. And then he was brought into the manager's office of Channel 5 in New York, fired, I guess, or temporarily fired, if that's the right way to put it, and then there was picketing for weeks in front of 67th Street, Channel 5 in New York, and they had to put him on the air. He became bigger than ever.

SIMON: Well, I'm glad you're here to clear that up for us. Thank so much, Burt.

Mr. DUBROW: No problem.

SIMON: Burt Dubrow talking about his friend, Soupy Sales, who died this week at the age of 83. This is NPR News.

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