Childhood & Early Life
Soupy Sales was born as Milton Supman on January 8, 1926, in Franklinton, North Carolina. His father Irving Supman, a first-generation Hungarian emigrant, was a dry goods merchant. His mother’s name was Sadie Berman. The couple had four sons; Marvin, Leonard, Jack and Milton. Marvin died in infancy.
When Sales was five years old, his father passed away. Following that, his family moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where he attended Huntington high School. His childhood nicknames were ‘Soup Bone’ or ‘Soupy’.
In 1944, after graduating from high school, he enlisted in the US Navy, serving in the South Pacific. During this period, he entertained the crew not only by telling jokes, but also by playing bizarre characters like ‘White Fang’ over the ship’s public address system.
After the Second World War, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Marshall College, Huntington. While studying there, he performed as a comedian, singer and dancer in local nightclubs.
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After earning his bachelor’s degree in Journalism, Soupy Sales began his career as a scriptwriter at WHTN, a local radio station in Huntington. Shortly afterward, he was put on-air as a disc jockey.
In 1949, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where he got a job as a morning radio DJ. It was here that he first revived his childhood nickname ‘Soupy’ along with ‘Hines’ as his surname before changing it to ‘Sales’ a year later.
In 1950, Sales joined WKRC-TV where he began to host America’s first teen dance show, the ‘Soupy’s Soda Shop’. When it failed to garner good ratings, he was moved to a late-night program called ‘Club Nothing!’
From March 1953, he began to host a children’s show called ‘Lunch with Soupy Sales’ on WXYZ-TV, Detroit. Although unrehearsed, the program became a big hit within weeks and made him Detroit’s highest-rated television personality.
In November 1953, Sales started hosting a new late-night variety show with comedy and musical performances called ‘Soupy’s On’. It originally ran for 10 minutes, but was later extended to 30 minutes.
Sales lived in Detroit until 1960, producing 11 hours of TV time each week in his last years there. Thereafter, he moved to Los Angeles where he presented the ‘Soupy Sales Show’ first on ABC-TV and then on KABC-TV.
In 1961, he debuted in movies, appearing as Officer McGovern in 'The Two Little Bears'. During this period, he was also seen in several television productions like ‘The Rebel’, 'Hennesey', 'The Real McCoys', etc. He also signed a contract with Frank Sinatra’s label Reprise Records.
In 1961, Sales cut his first record ‘The Soupy Sales Show’. He later cut several other records, including ‘Up In The Air’ (1962), 'Soupy Sales Sez Do the Mouse and Other Teen Hits' (1965) and ‘A Bag of Soup’ (1969).
In September 1964, he moved the ‘Soupy Sales Show’ to New York City where it began to be broadcast on WNEW-TV as a local program.
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Shortly after moving the ‘Soupy Sales Show’ to New York, he made his greatest blunder. In a live broadcast on January 1, 1965, he asked his young viewers to “take some of those green pieces of paper with pictures of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Lincoln and Jefferson” from their sleeping parents’ wallets and mail them to him. Very soon, he started receiving money.
The New Year’s incident created quite an uproar, as a result of that the management was forced to suspend the show for two weeks. However, it made the show even more popular and in 1966, it was syndicated throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In 1966, Sales debuted as a star in the comedy film ‘Birds Do It’, playing the role of Melvin Byrd. Thereafter, he worked in nine more films, and the last among them was ‘Angels with Angels’, releasing in 2005. From the mid-1960s, he also started participating in various game shows, including ‘What’s My Line’, wherein he appeared as a panelist.
In the 1980s, he returned to radio and hosted a variety talk show. During this period, he started co-writing his memoir, ‘Soupy Sez!’, which was eventually published in 2001.
Family & Personal Life
In 1950, Sales married Barbara Fox, with whom he had two sons: bassist Tony Sales and drummer Hunt Sales. The couple divorced in 1979.
In 1980, he married dancer Trudy Carson and remained married to her until his death.
On October 22, 2009, Sales died of cancer at the age of 83. He was laid to rest at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.
In 2005, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.