I was 12 when I first saw Soupy Sales. His show was on a local LA station; this was several years before he moved his operation to New York and achieved a certain national notoriety. Twelve was the perfect age for such an encounter, really: too mature for the simple kids' entertainment that the show purported to be, but just about old enough to begin to grasp, with delighted amazement, what it was actually aiming for.
There was Soupy, with his wonderful rubbery face, full of warmth and manic glee, and his outlandish garb--a dumb floppy hat and baggy black sweater and outsize bow tie--and his low-rent set and his menagerie of puppets. All the conventional apparatus of an ordinary children's afternoon show. But initial appearances were deceptive. Within minutes of my switching the show on, it became obvious to me that something almost insurrectionary was occurring. Even at age twelve, I could see that the joke wasn't Soupy Sales being hit in the face with a pie; the joke was that being hit in the face with a pie was, in some circles, for some insane reason, considered a joke.
Even his puppets were off-kilter. Two were simply arms thrust through
Soupy's front door, intended to represent his two temperamentally
dogs, White Fang ("the biggest and sweetest dog in the world") and
Black Tooth ("the biggest and meanest dog in the world"). They spoke
in growls, one a syrupy falsetto growl, the other a menacing bass
growl. Another puppet, an actual hand puppet this time, appearing at
Soupy's window rather than his door, was
the small lion, Pookie, possessor of boundless cockiness and
narcissistic self-regard. For some reason, he always addressed Soupy
Sales as "Boobie." And when he blew a kiss to his fans --- we were
all his fans, of course --- he would declare in his anomalously plummy
tenor voice, "There you go. Now divvy it up amongst you."
That front door through which the dogs thrust their paws was an integral part of the show. People were always showing up at Soupy's door--they were never visible, except for their arms--demanding things of him, upbraiding him, and usually, sooner or later, hitting him in the face with a pie. Who they were and where they came from was a question never answered, or even posed. On that old LA show, they were all voiced by a versatile actor named Clyde Adler, whose capacity for portraying unjustified, unmotivated impatience, indignation, and high dudgeon in a wide variety of voices was pretty much peerless.