CLOSE
Original image

RIP Soupy Sales (1926-2009)

Original image

My addiction to television started very early and my parents were enablers, even though that term hadn't been coined at the time. Mom tells me that I regularly refused my strained carrots unless she placed my high chair in front of the TV and tuned it to Channel 7 for Lunch with Soupy. The antics of White Fang, Black Tooth, and Pookie, not to mention the constant pies in the face, so mesmerized me that I ate anything Mom shoveled my way. Sadly, Sales (who'd been ill for several years) has left us, but here are a few Soupy facts that will hopefully invoke some warm memories for all you good little birdbaths:

From Milt to Soup

He was born Milton Supman to parents who had a habit of bestowing nicknames on their offspring.

Milt's older brothers had been dubbed "Hambone" and "Chicken Bone," so when he came along he was unofficially christened "Soup Bone." Soup Bone was eventually shortened to "Soupy," and when he got his first professional job as a disc jockey he adopted "Hines" as his surname. As he gained popularity, management was worried that "Hines" sounded too much like Heinz, a company that sold soup. Soupy forestalled any potential conflict of interest entanglements by changing his last name to "Sales."

White Fang

Soupy originally created the character of White Fang (later known as the meanest dog in all of Dee-troit) when he was in the Navy. Stationed aboard the USS Randall, he'd put together an onboard entertainment show broadcast via the ship's PA system. Someone had an LP of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Soupy used a sound effect on that record of a dog's growl as the "voice" of White Fang. Soupy continued to use that growl after he left the Navy and landed a spot on WXYZ-TV in Detroit with the show that eventually evolved into Lunch with Soupy. Sound effects at that time were all provided by vinyl records, and it was the responsibility of the Electronic Transcription person to have all the records cued up and ready to play. One afternoon, the ET frantically mouthed down from his booth to stagehand Clyde Adler "I can't find the record!" Adler, whose right arm encased in an elbow-length glove fashioned from an old winter coat served as White Fang on-camera, spontaneously uttered gutteral "Ruh-O-Row-O-Ruh" noises while manipulating the puppet. This new version of White Fang was an immediate hit, and added a new dimension to Soupy's interaction with the character, since Adler (who was promoted from stagehand to puppeteer) could alter his grunts and growls to "reply" appropriately to Soupy's dialogue.

X-Rated Soup

The atmosphere on Soupy's set was relaxed, to say the least. The crew did their best to throw the boss off-guard, especially in the days when the show was broadcast live. One classic example occurred in 1959, when the crew arranged a very special surprise "present" for Soupy's birthday. A woman's scream prompted Soupy to open a stage door to see what was wrong. The TV audience could only guess at what was going on from his reaction and the musical cue (David Rose's "The Stripper"). However, thanks to the uncut "blooper" reel that was eventually leaked, part two of this YouTube clip lets all of us in on the secret. (Warning: If black-and-white nude breasts are verboten at your place of employment, this clip is not safe for work.)

Fans in High Places

Soupy's show moved from Detroit to Los Angeles in the early 1960s, and one of his biggest fans turned out to be Frank Sinatra, by way of his daughter Tina. Frank was a huge fan of slapstick comedy, and when Tina told him about this guy on TV who was as funny as the Three Stooges, he began tuning in daily. Frank appeared on Soupy's show more than once (Sammy Davis Jr. even joined him once) and gamely accepted a pie in the puss each time.

Here Comes the Science

The pie-in-the-face schtick that became Soupy's trademark originally featured real pies. Eventually budget restrictions dictated the switch to shaving cream-filled pie crusts. But the crusts had to be real. That was Soupy's secret—real crusts exploded upon impact, and fell away from the victim's face. The recipient's dignity crumbled away, piece by piece, as the crust did. A pie that fully stuck to the face simply wasn't funny. It became something of a status symbol to get pied by Soupy—even the most unlikely celebrities stopped by for a faceful of pastry.

Nanny State Rules

On January 1, 1965, Soupy was a bit put out at having to work on a holiday. During the closing moments of his show, he encouraged the kids who were watching to sneak into Mommy and Daddy's bedroom and take those little green pieces of paper from their purses and wallets with pictures of presidents (like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln) on them and mail them to their ol' pal Soup. He concluded by giving out the TV station's address and promising to send the kids a postcard from Puerto Rico in exchange. Sales considered his remarks just another tossed-off ad-lib, meant to make his crew laugh. What he didn't count on was the outrage of the many parents who'd been watching. The station received so many angry phone calls that Soupy was put on a two week suspension. In reality, very few children had the wherewithal to copy down the station's address, get a postage stamp and actually mail a dollar bill to Soupy. His "punishment" was more or less a gesture on the part of management to appease the parents who'd been appalled at the possible anarchy Soupy Sales had inspired among their children.

twitterbanner.jpg

Original image
Family Communications Inc./Getty Images
arrow
Pop Culture
The Sweet Surprise Reunion Mr. Rogers Never Saw Coming
Original image
Family Communications Inc./Getty Images

For more than 30 years, legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers used his PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to educate his young viewers on concepts like empathy, sharing, and grief. As a result, he won just about every television award he was eligible for, some of them many times over.

Rogers was gracious in accepting each, but according to those who were close to the host, one honor in particular stood out. It was March 11, 1999, and Rogers was being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, an offshoot of the Emmy Awards. Just before being called to the stage, out came a surprise.

The man responsible for the elation on Rogers’s face was Jeff Erlanger, a 29-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin who became a quadriplegic at a young age after undergoing spinal surgery to remove a tumor. Rogers was surprised because Erlanger had appeared on his show nearly 20 years prior in 1980 to help kids understand how people with physical challenges adapt to life’s challenges. Here's his first encounter with the host:

Reunited on stage after two decades, Erlanger referred to the song, “It’s You I Like,” which the two sang during their initial meeting. “On behalf of millions of children and grown-ups,” Erlanger said, “it’s you I like.” The audience, including a visibly moved Candice Bergen, rose to their feet to give both men a standing ovation.

Following Erlanger’s death in 2007, Hedda Sharapan, an employee with Rogers’s production company, called their poignant scene “authentic” and “unscripted,” and that Rogers often pointed to it as his favorite moment from the series.

Near the end of the original segment in 1980, as Erlanger drives his wheelchair off-camera, Rogers waves goodbye and offers a departing message: “I hope you’ll come back to visit again.”

Original image
© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox
arrow
entertainment
20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Firefly
Original image
© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox

As any diehard fan will be quick to tell you, Firefly's run was far, far too short. Despite its truncated run, the show still offers a wealth of fun facts and hidden Easter eggs. On the 15th anniversary of the series' premiere, we're looking back at the sci-fi series that kickstarted a Browncoat revolution.

1. A CIVIL WAR NOVEL INSPIRED THE FIREFLY UNIVERSE.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels from author Michael Shaara was Joss Whedon’s inspiration for creating Firefly. It follows Union and Confederate soldiers during four days at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Whedon modeled the series and world on the Reconstruction Era, but set in the future.

2. ORIGINALLY, THE SERENITY CREW INCLUDED JUST FIVE MEMBERS.

When Whedon first developed Firefly, he wanted Serenity to only have five crew members. However, throughout development and casting, Whedon increased the cast from five to nine.

3. REBECCA GAYHEART WAS ORIGINALLY CAST TO PLAY INARA.

Getty Images

Before Morena Baccarin was cast as Inara Serra, Rebecca Gayheart landed the role—but she was fired after one day of shooting because she lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. Baccarin was cast two days later and started shooting that day.

4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS WAS ALMOST DR. SIMON TAM.

Getty Images

Before it went to Sean Maher, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role of Dr. Simon Tam.

5. JOSS WHEDON WROTE THE THEME SONG.

Whedon wrote the lyrics and music for Firefly’s opening theme song, “The Ballad of Serenity.”

6. STAR WARS SPACECRAFT APPEAR IN FIREFLY.

Star Wars was a big influence on Whedon. Captain Malcolm Reynolds somewhat resembles Han Solo, while Whedon used the Millennium Falcon as inspiration to create Serenity. In fact, you can spot a few spacecraft from George Lucas's magnum opus on the show.

When Inara’s shuttle docks with Serenity in the pilot episode, an Imperial Shuttle can be found flying in the background. In the episode “Shindig,” you can see a Starlight Intruder as the crew lands on the planet Persephone.

7. HAN SOLO FROZEN IN CARBONITE POPS UP THROUGHOUT FIREFLY.

YouTube

Nathan Fillion is a big Han Solo fan, so the Firefly prop department made a 12-inch replica of Han Solo encased in Carbonite for the Canadian-born actor. You can see the prop in the background in a number of scenes.

8. ALIEN'S WEYLAND-YUTANI CORPORATION MADE AN APPEARANCE.

In Firefly’s pilot episode, the opening scene features the legendary Battle of Serenity Valley between the Browncoats and The Union of Allied Planets. Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes control of a cannon with a Weyland-Yutani logo inside of its display. Weyland-Yutani is the large conglomerate corporation in the Alien film franchise. (Whedon wrote Alien: Resurrection in 1997.)

9. ZAC EFRON'S ACTING DEBUT WAS ON FIREFLY.

A 13-year-old Zac Efron made his acting debut in the episode “Safe” in 2002. He played Young Simon in a flashback.

10. CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS'S HORSE IS A WESTERN TROPE.

At its core, Firefly is a sci-fi western—and Malcolm Reynolds rides the same horse on every planet (it's named Fred).

11. FOX AIRED FIREFLY'S EPISODES OUT OF ORDER.

Fox didn’t feel Firefly’s two-hour pilot episode was strong enough to air as its first episode. Instead, “The Train Job” was broadcast first because it featured more action and excitement. The network continued to cherry-pick episodes based on broad appeal rather than story consistency, and eventually aired the pilot as the show’s final episode.

12. THE ALLIANCE'S ORIGINS ARE AMERICAN AND CHINESE.

The full name of The Alliance is The Anglo-Sino Alliance. Whedon envisioned The Alliance as a merger of American and Chinese government and corporate superpowers. The Union of Allied Planets’ flag is a blending of the American and Chinese national flags.

13. THE SERENITY LOUNGE SERVED AS AN ACTUAL LOUNGE.

Between set-ups and shots, the cast would hang out in the lounge on the Serenity set rather than trailers or green rooms.

14. INARA SERRA'S NAME IS MESOPOTAMIAN.

Getty Images

Inara Serra is named after the Mesopotamian Hittite goddess, the protector of all wild animals.

15. THE CHARACTERS SWORE (JUST NOT IN ENGLISH).

The Firefly universe is a mixture of American and Chinese culture, which made it easy for writers to get around censors by having characters swear in Chinese.

16. THE UNIFORMS ARE RECYCLED FROM STARSHIP TROOPERS.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The uniforms for Alliance officers and soldiers were the costumes from the 1997 science fiction film Starship Troopers. The same costumes were repurposed again for the Starship Troopers sequel.

17. "SUMMER!" MEANS SOMEONE MESSED UP.

Every time a cast member flubbed one of his or her lines, they would yell Summer Glau’s name. This was a running gag among the cast after Glau forgot her lines in the episode “Objects In Space.”

18. THE SERENITY SPACESHIP WAS BUILT TO SCALE.

The interior of Serenity was built entirely to scale; rooms and sections were completely contiguous. The ship’s interior was split into two stages, one for the upper deck and one for the lower. Whedon showed off the Firefly set in one long take to open the Serenity movie.

19. "THE MESSAGE" SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE SHOW'S FAREWELL.

Although “The Message” was the twelfth episode, it was the last episode filmed during Firefly’s short run. Composer Greg Edmonson wrote a piece of music for a funeral scene in the episode, which served as a final farewell to the show. Sadly, it was one of three episodes (the other two were “Trash” and “Heart of Gold”) that didn’t air during Firefly’s original broadcast run on Fox.

20. FIREFLY AND SERENITY WERE SENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

American Astronaut Steven Ray Swanson is a big fan of Firefly, so when he was sent to the International Space Station for his first mission (STS-117) in 2007, he brought DVD copies of Firefly and its feature film Serenity aboard with him. The DVDs are now a permanent part of the space station’s library.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios