Soupy Sales was a comic with a gift for slapstick who attained cult-like popularity in the 1960s with a pie-throwing routine that became his signature.
As the star of "The Soupy Sales Show," he performed live on television for 13 years in Detroit, Los Angeles and New York before the program went into syndication in the United States and abroad. Ostensibly for children, the show had broad appeal among adults who found Sales' puns, gags and pratfalls deliciously corny and camp. His cast consisted of goofy puppets with names like White Fang, Black Tooth and Pookie, and a host of off-camera characters, including the infamous naked girl.
The high point of every show came when a sidekick launched a pie into Sales' face. Sales once estimated that he was hit by more than 25,000 pies in his lifetime. The gag became more than hilarious; it evolved into a hip badge of honor. Frank Sinatra was first in a long line of celebrities who clamored for the privilege to be cream-faced, including Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney, Sammy Davis Jr., Dick Martin and Burt Lancaster.
Humor dogged Sales from the start. He was born Milton Supman. His parents nicknamed him "Soupbone," along with brothers "Hambone" and "Chickenbone." Eventually, Milton became just "Soupy."
Farce peaked when Sales served as an expert witness in pie-tossing in the court-martial of a sailor accused of pitching a pie into an officer's face. Noted defense attorney William Smith enlisted Sales to tell how, after launching more than 19,000 creamy missiles, he had never been prosecuted for assault with a pie. Pie-hurling, Sales told the court, was "a harmless joke" designed to "relieve tensions and frustrations." The sailor was found guilty.