Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Lunch With Soupy Sales in Detroit

Soupy Sales was born Milton Supman on January 8, 1926, in Franklinton, North Carolina. His father Irving Supman immigrated to America from Hungary in 1894. He was a Jewish dry goods merchant. Later in life, Soupy would quip that the local Ku Klux Klan bought their sheets from his father's store. Milton's nickname came from his family. His older brothers were dubbed "Ham Bone" and "Chicken Bone." The youngest son was "Soup Bone." Milton (Soupy) Supman enlisted in the United States Navy and served in the South Pacific. After the war, he earned a Master's degree in journalism. His oldest brother had become a doctor, and his other brother became a lawyer. Soupy had little choice but to go into show business.

After graduation, Soupy worked as a morning DJ and performed a comedy act in nightclubs. In 1949, Soupy Sales began his television career on WKRC-TV in Cincinnati with "Soupy's Soda Shop," television's first teen dance program. The show was cancelled after a year. Soupy moved to Cleveland and did a late night comedy/variety program called "Soupy's On!" where he took his first pie in the face which became his trademark. After a couple of seasons, Soupy left Cleveland for health reasons. "The station manager was sick of me," he quipped.

In 1953, Soupy Sales relocated to Detroit and worked for WXYZ-TV Channel 7, the local ABC station. Soupy not only had the Lunch With Soupy program, he also hosted a Friday evening variety show called Soup's On, which featured musicians and jazz performers who were working one of the twenty-four jazz clubs operating in the Paradise Valley entertainment district in old Detroit. Top performers like Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Della Reese, Dinah Washington, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis, to name a few, made guest appearances on Soupy's show. After an appearance, jazz artists would regularly sell out their venues.

Lunch With Soupy had a fixed-set of a kitchen with a window and a table and chair to the left and a door center stage in the background that would interrupt Soupy mid-sentence with frantic knocking. Naturally Soupy would stop and answer the door. Usually, Soupy would play against only an arm and a voice appearing from the door jam.

Soupy wore a dark Orlon sweater, a white shirt with an oversized checkerboard bow tie, and a beat up top hat. Besides the pie-in-the-face running slapstick gag, Soupy was know for the Soupy Shuffle (his signature dance) and his Words of Wisdom like, "Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you."

Pookie the Lion and Hippy the Hippo
If it was noon in Detroit and you were planted in front of a television set with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and Soupy was on, you knew you were in for a good time. Regulars on the show were hand puppets Soupy interacted with. Soupy was the straight man for voice artist Clyde Adler who did the off-stage puppeteering and voice characterizations. The show's favorite puppets were:
  • White Fang, "The Biggest and Meanest Dog in the USA." He appeared from the left corner of the screen only as a giant white shaggy arm and paw with black triangular claws. Fang spoke in unrecognizable grunts and growls which Soupy repeated in English for comic effect. White Fang often threw the pies when Soup's jokes bombed.
  • Black Tooth, "The Biggest and Sweetest Dog in the USA." She had a black shaggy arm and paw with white triangular claws. She had feminine grunts and groans, and always flirted with Soupy. Her trademark move was pulling Soupy off-camera and giving him big, noisy kisses.
  • Pookie the Lion appeared on the ledge of the window behind Soupy. Pookie was a hipster with a wicked wit. He lip synced novelty records or prerecorded bits. My favorite memory of Pookie was a routine called "Life Got You Down, Bunky?" It was a pep talk he gave Soupy every time Soupy complained about feeling blue. Comically, it was inspirational.
  • Willie the Worm, a latex accordion worm that popped in and out of an apple. Willie was known as "the sickest worm in all of Dee-troit." Willie had a perennial cold and an exaggerated sneeze. He read birthday greetings to Detroit-area kids. Sadly, Willie's health failed him. He did not survive the show's move to the Big Apple in 1964.
When Soupy took his show to WNEW-TV in New York City, it went into national syndication. This was the height of Soupy's popularity. His guest stars included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, Judy Garland, and Sammy Davis. 

Soupy doing the Mouse dance

On New Years Day in 1965, to fill a few extra moments at the end of the show, Soupy made an off-the-cuff remark to the kids in his television audience. He suggested they go into their parents' rooms, find their parents' wallets, and take out the green pieces of paper with pictures of bearded guys and mail them to him. In return, Soupy said he would send them a postcard from Puerto Rico. The show was aired live and no transcripts or videotapes exist, so the exact language he used is not known.

Soupy's remark was an ad-libbed gag not meant to be taken literally, but an angry parent filed a complaint with the FCC. The way the press reported the story, it sounded like this was the biggest heist since the Brink's robbery. Some adults were livid that a TV personality would manipulate children for commercial gain.

Show business legend has it that the prank netted some $80,000. Soupy revealed publicly that he netted only a few real dollars which he donated to charity--the rest was fake money.

The station suspended Soupy. The outcry from Soupy's fans swamped the station's switchboards and packed their mail room with demands that Soupy be reinstated. Within a week, his suspension was lifted. Soupy worked for two more seasons before he gave up the top hat and bow tie and moved to Hollywood to become a panelist on many game shows including What's My Line, To Tell the Truth, Match Game, The Gong Show, and Hollywood Squares in the 70s and 80s.

Milton (Soupy Sales) Supman died of cancer October 22, 2009, at Calvary Hospice in the Bronx. He was eighty-three years old. Soupy Sales is best remembered by his many fans for his trademark pie-in-the-face gag, but in the comedy world, Soupy is remembered for his inventive, anarchic brand of riotous, television comedy. 

 Soupy and Pookie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB8e_uRzhMU

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Las Vegas Mob Museum

Al Capone--CEO of the Chicago Organization from 1925-1931.

The Mob Museum in Las Vegas is a must-see destination for anyone who wants to understand the extent of underworld influence in the United States. Every dollar spent on consumer products and/or services in America has a hidden mob tax built into it. The cost of hijacking, extortion, labor racketeering, theft, payoffs, protection, and influence peddling are all factored into the final price of doing business. The main reason the underworld exists is to make large amounts of tax-exempt money for its members who disdain holding a regular full-time job where people have to work for a living. Gangsters consider working people "suckers."

National and international crime organizations have woven their way into the fabric of our economy, our law enforcement agencies, and our hallowed halls of government. When politicians take campaign money from lobbyists--over and under the table--it is given with the understanding that the government official will vote in a certain way on their issues. The underworld considers these people "stooges."

Politicians roundly deny it, but they are addicted to the life blood of politics--dirty money. When we hear about the "deep state," organized crime should be its synonym. "We're even bigger than U.S. Steel," boasted racketeer Meyer Lanksy before government officials.

The Mob Museum at 300 Stewart Avenue in Downtown Las Vegas.

My wife and I enjoyed our visit to the Mob Museum. We saw a ten foot section of the actual St. Valentine's Day Massacre wall, replete with bullet holes and many other gangland artifacts including a Thompson machine gun. The museum also offers two interactive law enforcement workshops.

The first workshop was on use of force. We were outfitted with a police utility belt and a 9 mm firearm which shoots electronic impulses that sound and feel real. First, they checked us out on the use of the gun and police procedure, then we did a full-scale video simulation of a convenience store robbery. The goal was to make the thief drop his gun. I was slow on the trigger and the bad guy shot me.

Next, we had a simulation with a real person in a confined space. The guy had a gun and an indignant attitude. He turned and started running. My wife virtually shot him in the back. She felt terrible afterward; the pretend gunman gave her a dirty look which made her feel worse. Knowing when to shoot or not is a split second decision that could result in the death of a suspect or your death. What a sobering object lesson in use of force!

Fred "Killer" Burke on his way to Marquette Prison.
The other workshop was a crime lab where I used a stereo microscope to match crime bullets with test bullets--the science of ballistics. That was right up my alley as I was researching for my new book project on Detroit's Purple Gang.


The first scientific crime lab in America was established at the University of Chicago in response to the rampant mob warfare in Chicago and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in particular. Investigators were able to match the bullets from the St. Valentine's Massacre to test bullets fired from two Thompson machine guns belonging the Fred "Killer" Burke placing him at the scene. The same "choppers" were used in the assassination of New York mafioso Frankie Yale and the Milaflores Massacre in Detroit which cut down three men.


We also were able to do some DNA matching which doesn't help me on my current project but was fascinating nonetheless. I passed on the simulated cadaver investigation exhibit, but my wife--a former nurse--was all over it. I can recommend both workshops. The rest of the museum tells the narrative of organized crime in America and internationally.

Gangsters have fascinated Americans since the early 1930s when Hollywood produced the film Little Caesar with Edward G. Robinson, followed closely by Scarface with Paul Muni and real-life former gangster George Raft. Warner Brothers Pictures specialized in the crime genre that launched the careers of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. Later actors to benefit from this public fascination with the mob are Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Robert Deniro, Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta, Al Pacino, and many others. With the advent of cable television, the popularity of crime films and true crime programming continues today and shows no signs of abating.

"I'm innocent. I didn't see nothin'."
America's first television event was the Kefauver Crime Committee Hearings in 1950. Most of America had never heard the word mafia before. Now, those lucky enough to own a television set were able to see the United States Congress question real-life gangsters. The homily, "Crime doesn't pay" was the government's mantra, but apparently many Americans never got the message. Corporate crime is alive and well.

https://fornology.blogspot.com/2018/02/kosher-nostra-detroits-purple-gang.html

Monday, November 12, 2018

Prohibition Loophole--Wine Bricks

Wine Brick

Once Prohibition became law on January 16, 1920, many wine producers in California got out of the wine business and converted their vineyards to orchards or sold their land. A constitutional amendment had never been repealed before, so the drastic move seemed like a reasonable way to cut their losses.

But other vintners began to promote and sell grape juice and other non-alcoholic products. Some enterprising vintners began producing non-alcoholic wine bricks. The compressed and concentrated brick was to be rehydrated with one gallon of water to make reconstituted grape juice.

The Volstead Act made it against the law to produce, distribute, or sell alcohol products. But the law had a loophole big enough to drive a truck through. Under Section 29 of Volstead Act, consumption of alcohol was not expressly prohibited. Up to 200 gallons could be produced privately for consumption at home.

To protect themselves from breaking federal Prohibition laws, vintners printed a disclaimer on their packaging. They warned consumers not to place their grape juice in a cool, dark spot for twenty-one days, or add yeast lest it convert to wine. That the products were labeled Claret, Port, Muscatel, Burgundy, and Riesling underscored the intended use of the product.



Wine was culturally the drink of choice for many Italian and French Americans and wine bricks became a legitimate business opportunity for Chicago and Detroit racketeers acting as distributors. They cornered the market. The underworld began buying the bricks by the ton and distributing them nationwide by rail. The pre-Prohibition price was $9.50 per ton; by 1924, the price was $375.

The wine brick trade became big business and was one of the Detroit's Purple Gang controlled rackets. It was a factor that played into the Collingwood Manor Massacre of 1931. Three leaders of the Little Jewish Navy gang were lured to an apartment with the promise that the Purple Gang would give them the wine brick concession for the customary kickbacks. Instead, Izzy Sutker, Joe Leibowitz, and Hymie Paul got paid off in lead for trying to muscle in on Purple Gang territory. 



In 1933, the Volstead Act was repealed and America went wet. The bottom fell out of the bootlegging business and the thirteen-year-long nightmare of gang warfare on America's streets ended. Those winery owners who weathered the storm and supplied organized crime with their raw material became rich, increased their landholdings, and saved America's wine industry.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Richard Streicher Jr. Murder--Literary Classics Book Award Finalist


I'm pleased to announce that The Richard Streicher Jr. Murder--Wheatmark Inc. was chosen a finalist in Literary Classics 2018 Book Awards. Among other finalists is Arlo Guthrie for his book Monsters--Rising Son International, Ltd.

Gold, Silver, and Top Honor awards will be awarded from the field of finalists in a range of fiction and nonfiction categories on November 15th. Winners will be invited to a reception held in Rapid City, South Dakota in May. I look forward to attending the writers conference, awards ceremony, formal gala, and book signing.

The Richard Streicher Jr. Murder was intended to be a legacy project for the Ypsilanti Historical Society. I'm very surprised my true crime title has been singled out for this important international award.

NEWS RELEASE

Release Date: November 1, 2018

Literary Classics

pr@clcawards.org

Literary Classics Announces Youth Media Book Award Finalists



Rapid City, SD - The 2018 Literary Classics Book Award Finalists and Top Honors Book Awards Finalists have been announced. Selected from submissions by entrants around the globe, these distinguished honorees are recognized for their contributions to the craft of writing, illustrating, and publishing exceptional literature for a youth audience. In this highly competitive industry these books represent the foremost in literature in their respective categories.


The competition this year was tremendous, and we congratulate all of the finalists for their outstanding and inspiring work. Final award levels and categories will be announced November 15, 2018. All Silver, Gold and Top Honors award recipients will be invited to attend a writers’ conference, awards ceremony, formal gala, and authors’ book signing to be held in conjunction with the Great American Book Festival, May 10, 11 and 12, 2019 in downtown Rapid City, South Dakota.


The Literary Classics selection committee is proud to recognize this year’s titles in literature which exemplify the criteria set forth by the Literary Classics award selection committee. The Eighth Annual Literary Classics Book Awards will be presented in May, 2019 in conjunction with the Great American Book Festival in the City of Presidents.

Richard Streicher Jr. school friend remembers him: https://fornology.blogspot.com/2018/07/richard-streicher-jr-school-friend.html

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Detroit's Movie Maven--Bill Kennedy


Bill Kennedy at the Movies with Sir Graves Ghastly. Sir Graves would riff on his monster movies and Bill would dish on Hollywood and the movie business.

Every Baby-Boomer from Detroit and Windsor remembers who gave us our extensive Hollywood movie education--Bill Kennedy. Bill started announcing on the radio professionally in the 1930s at WWJ - The Detroit News station. His deep voice resonated over the air waves.

In 1940, he embarked on a movie career and signed a contract with Warner Brothers Studios where he worked from 1941 until 1955. Bill had the voice but not the face. He didn't emote well on screen, so he was relegated to a series of flat supporting roles. He played mainly cops, bad guys, radio announcers (no stretch for Bill), newspaper men, and swindlers. In all, Bill Kennedy has 103 film credits.

In the post World War Two era, Kennedy appeared on numerous B-Western television shows including The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, and The Gene Autry Show. Kennedy always spoke kindly of Gene Autry. Bill was over six feet tall and many of Hollywood's leading men were short and didn't like doing fight scenes with him. Gene Autry was short, but always had a job for Bill when he needed it. Autry told him once, "I like beating up bad guys on screen who are bigger than me."

Bill Kennedy playing a newscaster in a Superman episode.

What many of us in Detroit know that most people don't is Bill's was the voice behind the opening credits of  The Adventures of Superman--one of the most iconic introductions in television history. Bill received a one-time check for $350. He regretted not asking for screen credit which might have benefited his career. The show has been continuously running in syndication since 1952. A link to the Superman program opening is below.

In 1956, Bill Kennedy returned to the Detroit area to host an afternoon movie program called Bill Kennedy's Showtime, for CKLW-TV across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario. The show became a big hit. Bill talked about his jaded experiences in Hollywood's heyday and how he worked with many of the top stars. His deadpan delivery and sarcastic wit won the loyalty of viewers. He had an avuncular, self-deprecating manner--especially if talking about a film he was in. If the movie was bad, he would tell his audience.

The show opened with a tight shot on a picture of a woman smoking a cigarette with Bill's theme song Just in Time playing in the background. The photograph was from a magazine. I can see the model in my mind's eye with her elbows on a table and a smoldering cigarette in her right hand. Bill chose Just In Time for his theme song because his professional life was at a low point when he got the job with CKLW.


Bill wearing a hat to cover up his hair transplant surgery.
In 1969, Bill took his show to WKBD which broadcast out of Southfield, Michigan. The show remained essentially the same with a title change to Bill Kennedy at the Movies. Bill would interview celebrities when they were in Detroit and he took on-air phone calls which were sometimes more interesting than the movies. I enjoyed the live TV commercial pitches of Abe Schroe for his furniture upholstery business.

Abe and Bill always had lively repartee like they knew each other well outside of work. These two got along so well on air that it strikes me Bill was probably part-owner or an investor in Artistic Upholstery. Bill would take a break and Abe would go into his pitch. Nobody else made live commercials on Bill's show--not Ollie Fretter--not even Mr. Belvedere (Detroit inside joke).

In 1983, Bill retired to Palm Beach, Florida. He died of emphysema on January 27, 1997, at the age of eighty-eight. Rest in peace "young, old-timer."

The Adventures of Superman introduction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2l4bz1FT8U

Bill Kennedy's theme song Just In Time by Frank Sinatra. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIcQ26arWAs

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Fornology.com Marching Toward a Million Hits

When I started my Fornology.com blog in May 2011, my goal was to promote and build readership for my debut book, Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel. After a year, if I got 100 hits a day or 1,000 hits for the month, I was pleased. Once I developed a core audience, I started experiencing the instant gratification of posting. In seven years, I've written over 400 blog posts and amassed over three-quarters of a million hits globally. 

I've blogged about topics related to my books Zug Island, Terror In Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked and The Richard Streicher Jr. Murder: Ypsilanti's Depot Town Mystery. My current project is about the battle for the Detroit River during Prohibition. Not wanting to blog my book while writing it, I do blog about topics related to the general research I'm doing--for instance, my post on the Thompson Machine Gun. It plays a part in my treatment of the era but only as a tool for murder and mayhem.

My latest project is about the Purple Gang, the Mafia, and the federal government's attempts to control the flood of bootleg liquor crossing the Detroit River. The United States Treasury Department estimates that 75-80% of the booze smuggled into the country crossed the river between 1920 and 1933--the Prohibition years.

As an independent author starting late in the game at sixty-one-years old, my original goal was to write a memoir and see it through to publication. The positive response and initial success of Zug Island prompted me to write a second book, and then a third. Those books have won six writing awards and two of them are Amazon best-sellers.

My current goal is to finish my fourth book within the next two years. Once that book is published, I plan to promote it for a year and then wind down my writing career. When that happens, I hope to have reached over one-million Fornology.com hits--less than 240,000 to go.


A special thank you to all of my readers, especially those who wrote reviews and posted them on Amazon. Reviews provide valuable word-of-mouth exposure and promote sales. If you like any of my books and have yet to write a review, it's not too late. That said, I'm pleased with the level of success I've achieved as an independent author and hope readers will embrace my next project.

To write a review, click on my Amazon author site, then click on the book icon, and scroll down: https://www.amazon.com/Gregory-A.-Fournier/e/B00BDNEG1C  You can also click on the book icons in the right sidebar of this page.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Motown Memories

The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, The Temptations, and The Miracles in 1965 beginning their twenty-one city tour of the United Kingdom tuning the British ear to the Motown sound.

One of the must-see attractions in Detroit is Hitsville USA--the Motown Museum on West Grand Boulevard--also named Berry Gordy, Jr. Boulevard. The museum was opened in 1985 by Berry's sister Esther Edwards and has been going strong ever since.

Everyone knows the Motown music and the legendary performers, but the thing that fascinated me most about the guided tour was Berry Gordy's story and his original business model.

When I went to Hitsville USA, I heard the story of how Berry got started in the music business. From a modest $800 Gordy family business loan and a two-story frame house, he built a music empire that shaped the history and direction of pop music and helped integrate American culture.

Musical magic was born in a converted garage called Studio A, while the Gordy family lived in the second floor flat. I went upstairs and saw the small apartment where Motown records was born. The kitchen table where the family ate, often found Berry Gordy with his friend Smokey Robinson stuffing newly pressed warm vinyl into record jackets and rushing them off to local Detroit DJs and record stores. Gordy's first big hit was "Money." Motown's business was literally built from the ground up. Not bad for what started as a
cottage industry that developed into a corporate colossus.

One of Gordy's early jobs was on the assembly-line at Ford's Lincoln-Mercury plant, wrestling with automobile upholstery. He would get ahead on his production quota to create small pockets of time to compose songs and develop melodies in his head. If Berry liked what popped into his mind, he wrote it down in a spiral notebook he kept in his back pocket. Once the mind-numbing repetition of the assembly-line became second-nature, his mind was free to create and dream about creating a music factory that brings in raw talent at one end and produces a seasoned performer at the other end. Motown was not so much an assembly-line as a hit factory of skilled craftsmen and women turning out a consistently high-quality product known the world over as the Motown Sound.


Berry Gordy outside Hitsville USA--2648 W. Grand Boulevard.


For anyone who is a Motown fan, the documentary "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" tells the behind the scenes story of the Funk Brothers from their first-hand accounts like nothing else can. This small band of studio musicians played on all of the Motown hits. The documentary won four film awards and two Emmys in 2002.


Here is a recent link to Motown song writer Lamont Dozier reminiscing about writing some of the greatest Motown hits ever recorded: https://youtu.be/AUx86C-xOuI