The Soupy Sales Show, The $80,000 Scandal, January 1, 1965

Written By: Greg Howell - Aug• 27•16

soupymagThe Soupy Sales Show was an early version of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Broadcast live, it featured silly humor for children with plenty of inside jokes for the adults. In the 1950s and 60s, Soupy’s shows appeared in numerous formats and time slots, but his Saturday afternoon show proved to be the most popular.

At the show’s peak in 1965, Soupy had already been slapped in the face with a thousand pies, which sums up the the hallmark of his humor. Produced live and in hurried, improvisational fashion, the spontaneity of Soupy kept children and adults captivated.

One infamous broadcast, in the afternoon time slot on New Year’s Day, Soupy again found he had minutes to fill and no material at hand. As the camera broadcast live to millions of homes, Soupy Sales improvised a legendary sketch. In desperation to fill the last remaining minutes, he asked the children in the TV audience to roam around their house looking for little green pieces of paper with pictures of U.S. Presidents. He moved in close to the camera and told the children,

“Hey kids, last night was New Year’s Eve, and your Mom and Dad were out having a good time, and they work hard and after last night, they are probably still sleeping, so what I want you to do is tip toe into the bedroom, but don’t wake them up. You will see your Mom’s pocketbook and your Dad’s pants on the floor, but don’t wake ’em up! Go into your Mom’s pocketbook and your Dad’s pants, and you will see little green pieces of paper with pictures of guys with beards on them. Now, don’t wake them up, but get those little green pieces of paper and put them in an envelope, and on the envelope write Soupy Sales, Channel 5”

Then, supplying The Soupy Sales Show complete address, requested kids to mail any of these green pieces of paper found to him at the studio! Adding yet another comedic but problematic layer to the situation, Soupy announced to the children in the television audience that he would, in return, mail them a post card from Puerto Rico acknowledging receipt. Envelope by envelope, the money rolled in. Envelope by envelope, decorated with childish scribblings, each opened envelope produced more and more money. In total, over $80,000 was delivered to Soupy via U.S. Post Office! For perspective, adjusted for inflation, $88,000 equals $700,000 in 2018. Metromedia, the production company behind the show, panicked! Their wildcard Soupy had crossed the line. A controversy this large could legally entangle them in courts for years to come, possibly even wiping out the company completely.

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Outraged adults bombarded the station with angry calls, and one New Jersey woman contacted the FCC. Soupy was placed on suspension.  Metromedia did bring Soupy back on the air after a week, and to the highest ratings the show had seen. Soupy donated all the huge collection of envelopes filled with little green pieces of paper with pictures of U.S. Presidents to charity.

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