If you're old, you might remember Soupy Sales. Soupy had a children's TV show back in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. It was popular and broadcast live from New York.
Soupy was usually described as "kooky." A comedian, he was innately silly, often bordering on surreal (like when he brought Alice Cooper onto his show in 1979). Soupy told stories, jokes and sang songs. At least once each show he or someone else would get hit in the face with a cream-pie. Humor like that appeals to kids.
But Soupy also had an edge. If you were an adult, you picked up on it. Like later Pee-Wee Herman, Soupy was winkingly irreverent. That audacity led him to pull the greatest prank in television history.
In 1965, Soupy was forced to work on New Year's Day. He wasn't happy about it so he did something unscripted on his live show. He told his television audience (children) that their parents were probably still in bed sleeping off New Year's Eve. He encouraged them to go into mommy's pocketbook, pull out some of "the green paper there with pictures of men with beards," stuff it in an envelope and send it to "Soupy Sales, Channel 5, New York, New York."
You can guess what happened.
A week later Soupy was summoned into the TV network's executive offices. When he arrived, he was shown into a room full of agitated vice presidents and lawyers. They asked if he did what they heard he had done. (Some parents complained.) He said yes. They asked how much money he received in the mail. He said $80,000. That's the equivalent of $1 Million today.
The network suspended him for five days and instructed him to donate the money to charity, which he did. For the rest of his career, Soupy loved re-telling this story.
Soupy, born Milton Supman, lived to age 83. He died a decade ago and is buried about an hour from me. I plan to visit his grave soon and, out of respect, will leave some "green paper" on his tombstone.
Have you heard of Soupy? If not, you can catch videos of his show on YouTube.