I was a huge Soupy Sales
fan in the 60's, in fact I was one of the "gang" that used to go to his shows at WNEW in Manhattan between
I first started watching his LA show (with Clyde Adler as the other characters) and of course was caught up in the "hoopla" regarding his move to WNEW in New York.
There was an article in the Herald Tribune Sunday magazine in January of 1965, covering the Soupy phenomenon in New York and his suspension for his famous "little green pieces of paper" joke. The article also described fans getting in to the live broadcasts and press conferences for student journalists. I attended one of these as 'photographer' for my friend who actually wrote for our school paper. Here's my picture of Soupy from that conference, afterwards, while he was signing autographs. Gene Hoey, a production assistant, is on the left.
That day I
found out about getting in to the actual broadcasts and tapings (for
the weekend show). You had to show up on time and behave yourself. The
process was controlled by Soupy's assistant, Donna Duckwall, a pretty
but overworked young woman. She had to put up with all of us fans and
select who got in and who stayed outside. There were two ways to
see the show: from a booth on the floor above the studio (about 40 kids
were usually crammed in there) and, most coveted, from a few rows of
folding chairs at the back of the studio floor itself. The show
was always outrageous and it was even more fun to be there.
The best part was waiting for Soupy and Frank Nastasi after the show and getting autographs, photos and chatting for a while. Both men were gracious and friendly with the gang and both were as funny off air as on. Here's a shot of the two of them.
As time went on I got into the show more and more frequently. Usually I went with my friend Abe Silverberg, who, with his Kodak Instamatic, took most of these photos. Sometimes I'd bring another friend to the show and they always had a great time and were suitably impressed. On one occasion, after I had started college, I brought a couple of attractive classmates of mine, Adrian and Judy, and was fortunate enough to get on the studio floor that day. Soupy noticed me there before the show started and came over to say hello. I introduced him to the girls and he shook both their hands saying to one, "Cold hands, warm heart".. I think he may have done that to help me score some points with them, so to speak. It worked.
On another occasion, I brought Soupy an 8x10 of Buck Jones who was his favorite cowboy star when he was young. He liked it so much that I got to sit in the studio that day, and Soupy showed the photo on the show and mentioned my name.
Buck Jones in a photo similar to the one I gave Soupy
The first of many pictures with Soupy and Frank (l to r - Abe Silverberg, me, Soupy and Frank) 1965
Soupy and me 1966
Frank Nastasi and me, 1965
There were some real characters both in the crew on Soupy's show and among the gang that attended. One of the gang, an aspiring cartoonist named Larry Lee created a mimeographed comic book about the fans at the show, which to us was hilarious. It was filled with 'in-jokes' and great caricatures. Here's how Abe and I were portrayed -
During the summer of '66 the cast and crew had a softball team that played on Sundays in Central Park, and the fans would show up for the game. When we heard about this Abe suggested putting a team together and playing them, which is what we did. A number of teens from the Rockaways practised the weekend before and played them the following week. Soupy didn't show up for that game but Frank played third base and the rest of the crew was there. I played in the outfield and recall hitting a double. We all had great fun that day. Unfortunately, I can't recall who won.
I got to know Frank pretty well after that, visiting him at home once or twice, and he honored me by giving me a few scripts from past shows.
A publicity photo signed for me by Frank
The first page of a Soupy Sales Show script
I remember the time that Soupy was suspended for that New Years Day joke he made about the "little green pieces of paper with the pictures of the presidents". I was part of the protesters who showed up to voice their displeasure at the move, and I think the message was heard, because Soupy was reinstated after ten days.
In 1966 Soupy and Frank went off to Miami to shoot "Birds Do It", Soupy's only starring feature. They were gone for a number of weeks, as I recall and Frank sent me a postcard from the Diplomat Hotel, which I wish I still had.
A lobby card for Soupy's 1966 film, Birds Do It
Being one of the "gang" also afforded us opportunities to meet other stars, such as Chuck McCann (who also had a kid's show at WNEW, and who introduced many of us to Laurel and Hardy), and some of the celebrity guests on Soupy's show.
Soupy also did a TV special during that time which was shot at a studio in Brooklyn that used to be the site of the Vitagraph Studios during the silent days. A number of us got tickets to the taping, and discovered that Sammy Davis, Jr. was also taping a show there that night. After the taping I met Sammy and Frank Gorshin in the lobby and outside the studio.
We were all devastated to learn of the cancellation of "The Soupy Sales Show" in 1966. I recall going to the final taping at the studio, after which many of the female fans were in tears. However, we were happy to hear that Soupy would soon be starring in a Broadway comedy, "Come Live With Me" . Some of us bought tickets, and as you can see by the program below I attended in January of 1967. It was a funny show and Soupy and the other cast members were good, but it wasn't the same seeing Soupy perform so called "straight comedy.
So those are some of my memories of that great time in my life, when Soupy was the hottest thing on N.Y. television and I was "one of the gang".