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My First Crush

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Choosing the number one attractive quality in a person—male or female—is difficult. Intelligence, style, money, wit, kindness—all those are great, but there are some important attributes that are basics. If, for example, dirty or foul-smelling people don’t have a second chance with you, then obviously cleanliness is more important than wit. Fashion sense doesn’t negate unwashed clothing. It’s hard to recognize a beautiful smile on a mouth that lacks teeth or contains some pretty scary specimens; if coarse language is a turn-off, there’s not a freakin’ thing an obsessive cusser can do that will make him or her alluring.

When we list the qualities that we find attractive, there are certain qualifiers, things that must be there before a person would even be considered. The qualifiers are often subjective, but if they aren’t in place (e.g., “no drooling”) then a potential crush candidate or BFF is not in the running. It’s important to clarify this point before I disclose what I find most attractive in another person.

Once a person has measured up to all (or most) of my qualifiers, the single most attractive quality he or she can possess is a sense of humor. In friends, it’s optional; in a mate, it’s essential. When I was considering some of my dead crushes, I thought back to my very first crush, who died last October at the age of 83.

He was very handsome (I still think he and Mel Gibson—my ex-crush—had a similar look in their younger days), and he had a fantastic sense of humor. He loved animals and was usually seen in the company of a few. He was an actor, singer, comedian, and genuinely sweet guy.

Like Barney (the big, purple dinosaur) Soupy Sales had a kids’ show; unlike Barney, adults liked him, too. My infatuation started when I was very young and had Lunch with Soupy. By the time I was a teenager, Soupy had a short-lived evening program that many of my older relatives enjoyed (quite possibly because there weren’t very many places where you could see Frank Sinatra get smacked in the face with a pie).

While Soupy’s guest list, with names like Burt Lancaster, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Judy Garland on it, was impressive, Soupy was the star of the show. There was something that was so improvisational about him; he was charming and sweet, and seemed somehow innocent. Surrounding him was a cast of characters that included White Fang (the biggest and meanest dog in the USA) and Black Tooth (the biggest and sweetest dog in the USA). Both were merely huge paws; the ever-affectionate Black Tooth was a black paw with white claws, and White Fang was a white paw with black claws. It was up to the viewer to imagine the monstrous dogs attached to these big paws. Both spoke incomprehensibly to Soupy, who would translate their garble to English, usually to hilarious effect.

Pookie the Lion was a puppet with a sly attitude and a characteristic laugh; I thought he was just adorable. The strange thing is that I recall Pookie making cute little faces, which wasn’t really possible (I still refer to certain faces people make as “Pookie faces.”). There was also a neighbor who was never seen, but who would pound on the door and loudly engage Soupy in conversation.

To round out the cast, Soupy Sales would assume the role of other characters, including Philo Kvetch (whom I believe was a private investigator) and Soupy’s girlfriend “Peaches.” Much of Sales’ act was slapstick, but his sense of humor was so gentle; there was no meanness or edge to it.

It’s been said that Soupy incorporated some off-color or “blue” humor in his program to attract adults, but this is not true.  Something that may have fostered this myth is that Soupy Sales was a lot like Bugs Bunny; they both made remarks and used cultural references that adults understood and children didn’t.

One true story about a Soupy Sales prank is that he was angry at his network, and in retaliation for their making him work on New Year’s Day, he told the kids who were watching his show to go into their parents’ bedrooms and get those “funny green pieces of paper” and send them to him. It was supposed to be a joke; some kids did it. Sales ended up with a two-week suspension and the money was donated to charity. (I believe that footage of this is still extant.)

Fans, and those who are so unlucky that they don’t even know who Soupy Sales was, can catch clips of this comedic genius (accompanied by the laughter of his crew) on YouTube:

Hey, kids… I think Soupy Sales really was handsome; he had a great smile, a wacky sense of style, and an appealing persona. He was inventive and his timing was perfect. When he recorded “The Mouse,” I did it (it was a dance) with my aunt and cousins. When he gave advice, I listened. While other girls may have been getting into Elvis Presley, I remained asexually smitten with Soupy Sales.

Yes, I will always carry a fondness for Soupy Sales, my first crush.

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About Miss Bob Etier

  • Miss Bob, I wish you would do a piece on my dead crush, Hugh Beaumont. You remember him, the dad in Leave it to Beaver? It is no wonder that my husband resembles him, tall, brushed back newly receding scalp, nice ties and bad golf clothes. Mmm… I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about him/them.

  • I almost blew coffee out of my nose when I saw this! And I thought I have strange taste in dead men.

    I didn’t watch Soupy, but I did watch Captain Kangaroo. Mr. Green Jeans was hot, the Captain, not so much. I was sad to learn that Mr. Green Jeans wasn’t really Frank Zappa’s father. I loved the idea of it. It made them both seem just that much cooler. Damn those de-bunkers.

  • I was one of those kids who tried to send money, but my mother caught me. She never complained to anyone, but lots of parents did as I remember.

    Still, that’s what made Soupy so cool. Thanks for a great article.