What if a current TV show ended every week with the host saying, “You’ve made this a special day, just by your being you. There’s no person in the world like you, and I like you just the way you are.” Pretty corny, right? No way that would fly in today’s jaundiced, cynical world. And yet, that’s exactly how Fred Rogers signed off every week.
As a kid in the ’60s, I didn’t get a chance to hang with Mr. Rogers in his ’hood, who came along a bit later. I did, however, get a chance to party with the outrageous and insanely ridiculous Soupy Sales. If Soup had been shrewd enough to sell sweatshirts back then, my brother and I would have effing lived in them. We went totally apewire for Soupy and his dogs Black Tooth and White Fang and all the madness that went down in his playhouse. (I would guess that Soupy’s place had a big part to play in the mind of young Paul Reubens, who would then go on to create his own playhouse scene in the 1980s as Pee Wee Herman.)
Over the holidays, I was waxing nostalgic with friends about our fave shows as kids, and we eventually realized that, with the magical power of YouTube, we could probably revisit some of them. Made courageous by wine, we dove into the Web Swamp, curious to see if our old pals were actually as good as our somewhat suspect memories insisted. (After all, a lot of this stuff is 55-60 years old, and a lot what we remember as really terrific was, unfortunately, pretty lame.) Sure enough, there was all kinds of Soupy avail, and god bless him, his zany jive was still pretty darn funny, and, at times, even hilarious.
“Maybe you had to be there” is certainly a fair warning here, but goddammit, there was one clip of Soupy messing around with giant dog White Fang that absolutely blew my mind it was so freakin’ good. And nobody, but nobody, could blast Soupy with a pie to the face like Fang (pie facials as a splattering Art Form!).
Speaking of pies to the mug, none other than Ol’ Blue Eyes was a big fan of Soup’s, and he told Sales he would love to drop in sometime but only if he got the pie treatment. So one morning, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. and Trini Lopez showed up at Soupy’s Playhouse. The pie fight that ensued was somewhat legendary, to put it mildly. A lot of whipped cream on the set that day!