Soupy’s On! WNEW-TV, March 1965

One of the first posts on this blog consisted of some pictures I had taken on a visit to the set of The Soupy Sales Show in New York. Guess what? I found a few more.

It’s appropriate that Soupy’s crew appears in these photos, because the crew was a big part of The Soupy Sales Show. We didn’t see them at home, but we sure heard them. Soupy played to his crew. I somehow doubt that there was a meeting when crew laughter was considered, then adopted as official policy. The crew’s near-constant laughter was not premeditated. These guys just couldn’t help themselves.

When Soupy himself laughed on-camera, it was nearly always commentary on the show. Soupy laughed, most often, at things we couldn’t see… things he never explained.

  • He craned to looked over the edge of the window when Pooky momentarily disappeared – and laughed at Frank Nastasi’s difficulties in grabbing a prop, or trying to pull on the Hippy puppet with the hand that was already inside the Pookie Puppet.
  • In close-up, standing near the camera, Soupy would look to one side or the other and start laughing, presumably at one of his crew members.
  • When at the radio, Soupy would crack up when Frank Nastasi flubbed a line, which became even funnier when Nastasi broke the illusion that Soupy was tuning around the dial… by addressing him directly.

That’s the stage manager, Eli, above, turning away from Soupy. Soupy talked about Eli so often that Eli became a recurring character on the show. Unlike the people who came to the door to annoy Soupy (all of them Frank Nastasi) we didn’t even get to see Eli’s hand, but he was more real than any of Soupy’s visitors. Soupy did fat jokes and thin jokes and dumb jokes about his crew.

And here’s the brilliance of it all: this made it funnier, and hipper, to the kids that were watching. Many children’s shows had live, on-stage audiences… of children. And so, naturally, the host worked to the kid audience. Because Soupy worked to other adults while doing a children’s show, Soupy’s viewers felt that they were given access to the adult world. We weren’t laughing at things other children were laughing at; we were laughing at things grown-ups were laughing at, and that made us feel pretty good.

We took it all for granted. Now we can see that it was a very specific, very special period of time. It was local. The people on our screen were live and they were from our town; they knew what the weather was like outside, at that moment.

We’ve lost local in the past 42 years. Local stores have been replaced by big box chain stores. Local restaurants yielded to franchises. Local hosts for kid’s shows moved from ‘endangered’ to ‘extinct’ many years ago.

Thank goodness that talented people like Soupy… and Chuck McCann, Sandy Becker, Sonny Fox, Bob McAllister, and Fred Scott had careers that coincided with the narrow window of local TV supremacy. Those of us who were around for it… will never forget how good it was… and how good they were.

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Why did Soupy look DOWN when the naked lady came to the door?

I’ve had a few remarkable experiences in my life. One was somehow getting onto the set of The Soupy Sales Show at WNEW-TV in New York in 1965. Another was finding the pictures I took on that occasion nearly forty years later (that’s one of them above). I’ve posted Soupy videos here and here on YouTube, and to the available Soupy on the ‘net, I now add Soupy Sales on The Tom Snyder Radio Show (36m) – an old hour-long interview (minus commercials) in which Soupy reveals why, in that famous NSFW outtake, he was looking down when he opened the door.

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