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60 Years Ago in Pop Culture: A Pie in the Face

In 1951 on a local Cleveland television show, Soupy Sales took his first pie in the face.

"I'm ready." Photo by: John McNab

Swoosh!

It is generally recognized that this occurred on Soupy’s On, his late night variety series, although some news articles indicate it happened during a children’s show he hosted.  Regardless, kids and adults loved Soupy Sales.

“I’ll probably be remembered for the pies, and that’s all right,” Soupy once acknowledged.  They were certainly his trademark.  He claimed that he and his guests launched more than 20,000 pies at each other during his career.

Smoosh!

In the following decades it was a mark of distinction to be so disrespected.  Frank Sinatra was first in line.   “I want to come on your show on one condition,” the singer told him, “I get hit with a pie.”  Such popular entertainers as Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, and Shirley MacLaine followed.

Of course, Soupy did it better than anyone, whether he was throwing straight to the face, on top of the head, or a pie to each ear.  When he was on the receiving end, his eyes got round, his mouth opened, and he never ever flinched.

Smack!

His career almost ended in 1964 when he closed his show telling his young viewers to “take some of those green pieces of paper with pictures of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Lincoln and Jefferson on them” from their parents’ wallets and send them to him.  He was ad-libbing.  It was a joke.  And he returned the money.  But Mom and Dad didn’t think it was very funny, and the station suspended him for a week.

Soupy was hip.  He was cool.  He was never out of the public eye.  In the 1970s Saturday Night Live paid homage to the man by beseeching its audience to mail them their joints.

Until 1975, he was a panelist on the syndicated revival of What’s My Line?  In later years he appeared regularly on other game shows, including To Tell the Truth, Match Game, and Hollywood Squares, and the musical variety program Sha Na Na.

Splat!

In the mid 80s he hosted a radio show on WNBC (AM) filling in the hours between shock jocks Don Imus in the Morning and Howard Stern during afternoon drive time with comedy, games, and talk.  Stern, by the way, was a big fan when he was growing up, although they had an acrimonious working relationship.

This Thanksgiving as we eat dessert, whether it is apple with run and raisins, chocolate cream, or pumpkin pie, let’s remember the late, great comedian who turned pie-throwing into an art form and made us laugh.  And be thankful it isn’t made of shaving cream.

Gotcha!

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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