Let me let you in on a little secret. Lunch with Soupy Sales, Detroit’s most popular TV kid’s show, wasn’t really a kid’s show at all. Oh sure, Soupy always reminded the kiddies to take their vitaminnies and eat Silvercup Bread, “the best bread in Dee-troit,” but the show always relied on more adult oriented humor. In a 1958 Detroit Times article Sales even admitted, “There’s really no message to this show. It’s actually a kid’s show for adults.”
Soupy and his straight man, puppeteer Clyde Adler, were basically a modern day vaudeville team. Their routines borrowed heavily from old school burlesque and yellowed copies of Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang, a series of bawdy post WWI joke books. The humor was ancient and corny but it was new to the kids. The fact that Soupy occasionally snuck in risqué material got the older kids and adults watching too.
The show never had a live studio audience, except for a very vocal stage crew. Soupy always tried to crack up the crew, and they were more than happy to reciprocate. For example, Soupy’s orange juice was on more than one occasion spiked with 100 proof vodka, courtesy of the stagehands. Another crew prank involved the placing of dirty notes between the buns of Soupy’s hamburger. When Soupy lifted the top of the bun to put ketchup on his burger he’d see the dirty note, which would invariably break him up.
The studio that day was filled with curious onlookers who were in on the joke. Soupy knew that something was up, but he wasn’t quite sure what. The show started precisely at noon, and ran smoothly. At about 12:27 Soupy, as rehearsed, heard a woman’s scream. He ran to the door, opened it, and instead of a pair of women’s shoes saw a nude woman wearing nothing but a smile. Soupy stole a quick glance at the master monitor, hoping that the curvaceous cutie’s image wasn’t being broadcast live over the airwaves. Sure enough, to his horror the monitor showed exactly what Soupy had feared- a smiling nude woman. The engineers were clever enough to patch a different camera angle into the monitor, making Soupy think that thousands of Detroit kiddies were at home eating their lunches in front of the TV while getting a lesson in female anatomy. In reality, what the kids saw was a speechless Soupy standing next to an open door, nothing more. Soupy saw what he thought was his career passing before his eyes.