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Soupy Sales (Milton Supman) was born on this date in 1926 in Franklinton, North Carolina. His parents were dry goods merchants (the local Ku Klux Klan, Soupy joked, bought their sheets from his folks) who nicknamed their sons ‘Hambone,’ ‘Chicken Bone’ and ‘Soup Bone.’ Milton shortened his nickname to Soupy and turned his family’s bent for kibitzing into an innovative entertainment career. Lunch with Soupy Sales and The Soupy Sales Show combined puppeteering, slapstick, philosophy, rubber-faced gags, jazz and some 20,000 creampies-in-the-face to create hip, raucous television entertainment. Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Stan Getz, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Clifford Brown all made appearances on Soupy Sales 11 p.m. variety show, Soupy’s On; Miles Davis showed up six times. Soupy’s daytime cohort of characters included Pookie the Lion (who lip-synched jazz standards), White Fang and Black Tooth (enormous dog paws), detective Philo Kvetch, and Peaches, Soupy’s girlfriend (whom he played in drag). Soupy died on October 22, 2009, at age 83. To see him in action, look below.
“I love you and give you a big kiss.” —Soupy Sales
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.