One of the first rituals I ever remember doing with total religious fervor was eating my lunch every day with Soupy Sales. “Lunch with Soupy Sales”, his landmark kids show that launched in my hometown, Detroit, in 1953 and ran there exclusively until 1957 when it went nationwide on ABC, was mandatory noon viewing accompanied by my staple of one half peanut butter and jelly and one half tuna sandwich with a large glass of Sealtest milk spiked with several hits of Bosco.
Like the other zillions of kids watching I was into Pookie, Black Tooth and especially White Fang. But what I really dug, which I can’t believe I sensed at such an early age, was how free-form and irreverent Soupy was as a host, seemingly performing for his friends in the studio, lots of adlibs, in-jokes and laughing at himself. I remember thinking this guy knows how to throw a great party. All the other kids shows, all of which I also watched and loved, seemed very stiff compared to Soupy so he became one of my first genuine role models.
In 1965, Soupy put out a record called “Do The Mouse”. I went crazy for the little dance he did because rather than just putting his hands up to his head for ears he was always wiggling his fingers and I never saw a mouses’ ears move like that before.
Although the song was a classic sing-along type pop song, the track and vocal had elements of R&B and Soupy’s phrasing, especially in the chorus, was classic Soul. As I was living in Detroit, from whence Motown was born, this kind of music was all around me. Though Do The Mouse’s lyrics may have been exempt, the musicianship was totally influenced by the city the song was cut in which, of course, made me love it even more.
In honor of Soupy’s passing last week, I dug out my “Do The Mouse” hat, one of the more obscure pieces of Soupy memorabilia.
I have a Soupy puppet, which I’ve seen a bunch of online over the past few days, and the much rarer Soupy marionette.
But I haven’t seen the hat, which I put on as I combed YouTube for Soupy doing The Mouse. There’s a couple minutes of stuff before the singing and fantastic Mouse choreography starts but it’s all worth seeing because this guy was a classic casual yet frenetic showman who was way before his time. Sales was instrumental to what TV became as more and more personalities understood it wasn’t about a camera being pointed at you as you were performing so much as being in the middle of someone’s living room, connecting with the guests and keeping the party going.