Friday, October 23, 2009

Soupy Sales, maven of Jazz music, RIP. 

Of course, Soupy is most remembered today for his famous kids' show that was watched just about as much by adults for it double-layered humor. I was one of its kid-age fans.

Two bits from it will always be remembered in the annals of kid-showdom and live television.

The first is recounted in every obituary: To kill a minute of extra time he ad libbed by telling the kids to send to him "all those funny green pieces of paper with pictures of presidents on them" that their parents had about the house, and he'd send them a postcard from Puerto Rico in return. Some reports say he received thousands of dollars (though they likely exaggerate). He also got suspended.

The second wasn't explained until years later when replayed on "look back" shows.

In an otherwise normal bit he walked over to open one of those half-doors always popular on kids shows to talk to one of his characters (White Fang, Black Tooth, whichever). But it was his birthday, and unbeknownst to him the show's crew had hired a stripper to do her dance with balloons at the door instead. He opens the door and there's a naked dancing girl with her balloons. The camera shows him seeing the girl and rebounding in shock, but doesn't show the girl. (Though they had another camera set up recording the scene for posterity that did.) The show was live, so Soupy had to finish the scene for the kids with a naked girl juggling her balloons in front of him.

Eat your heart out SNL, nobody makes live television like that any more.

Less well remembered today is that Soupy was a maven of Jazz music, using it on all his shows. Famous jazz musicians regularly visited his kids show (unappreciated by the likes of me). Early in his career, in pre-videotape days, he hosted a live jazz performance show that looking back featured many of the greats. Below is one of the few surviving kinescopes, Soupy introducing Clifford Brown. [via the NY Times]