They were made of cloth, glue and wood, but in our eyes they were as real as their flesh and blood counterparts. And to the chagrin of their human partners, often received more fan mail. Let’s take a look at some of Detroit TV’s classic puppet stars.
In the mid 1950s Lytle Hoover attended Wayne
University, where he majored in radio and television. Between classes Lytel
worked part time at WXYZ-TV. When
Soupy Sales first hit Detroit’s airwaves in 1953, it was Lytle’s job to play
the music and sound effects for his TV show, 12 O’clock Comics. Lytle’s
official job title was ET man, named for the 16-inch acetate electronic
transcription discs that all music and sound effects were recorded on. When
White Fang hit Soupy with a pie, it was Lytle’s job to have the gunshot record
at the ready, and play the recording so that the shot rang out at the exact
moment that pie met puss.
Like many great moments in television history, Pookie the
Lion’s first appearance on 12 ‘O’clock Comics was a “happy accident,”
created when Lytle Hoover and a stagehand decided to play a practical joke on
Soupy. The real back story of the creation of Pookie has never been told, on
television, on the internet or in print. Even Soupy himself failed to mention
Pookie’s history in his autobiography, “Soupy Sez! “
I am very pleased to present Lytle Hoover’s story of the birth of one of the iconic puppets from the early days of television, Pookie the Lion.
Pookie the Lion was created by a stagehand and I pulling a practical joke
Actually, Pookie, as he was later named, was really a stuffed toy of Charlemane
the Lion, a puppet created by Bil Baird for CBS' The Morning Show,
that had been tossed into the stagehand’s prop box. One of the crew showed it
to Soupy, asking if he might want to use it. He had removed the King's
costume & crown and slit open the back to put his hand inside. Soupy
said that he would think about it for the future.
As Soupy walked back to the set, the stagehand told me that he was
going to sneak behind the set during the show to do something with the
stuffed toy. I suggested that he hold it up outside the window
during the live show. I found a lion’s roar sound effect from my
stack of 78rpm records and had it on standby.
During the show, while Soupy sat at the table describing his lunch, the
stagehand raised the puppet up at the window directly behind Soupy where he
couldn't see it. He then made the puppet peek around Soupy’s
shoulder where it could be seen on camera, then immediately jerked it down
out of sight. The rest of the crew saw what happened, but Soupy didn't.
After doing this several times the crew started laughing, and White Fang
started waving at the window. Soupy knew that something was up, so he
started playing along with the gag, trying to turn around fast enough to see if
he could see what was happening.
He placed his hat on the windowsill, and suddenly it
disappeared. I let out one lion roar on the record, and the hat came
flying back thru the window. Soupy then placed the hat back on the
windowsill. The stagehand repeated the hat disappearance a couple more times.
He then appeared at the window wearing the hat. Soupy reached out
the window to grab the hat. The stagehand grabbed Soupy's arm as a gag,
and wouldn't let go. The entire floor crew broke out in uncontrolled
laughter at what was happening. Soupy struggled for 10-15 seconds, and when
he realized the stage hand wasn’t going to let go of his arm he jumped
up, yelled and leaped through the window, pretending the lion was pulling him
out. I turned on the lion roars full blast while Soupy and the lion
bobbed up and down outside the window, as if the lion was beating him up.
I then gradually faded out the lion roar. The director had a cover shot of the
For about 15 seconds the room was totally quiet, except for low giggling
sounds from the camera crew, waiting to see what was going to happen. Then
the doorknob started rattling, and the door slowly opened. Suddenly
Soupy came staggering into the room. He had messed up his hair, one
pant leg was rolled up, his shirt tail was completely hanging out, his
sweater hung off one arm, his hat was caved in and his bowtie was twisted to the
back of his neck. The crew screamed with laughter and
applauded, because Soupy had out joked the crew in doing their practical joke.
Soupy staggered over to a close-up shot on the camera and said, "So
rem ember boys and girls, when you go out to play this afternoon, don't play with
lions. They are no fun." This brought an additional laugh from the
crew. The director faded to black, and went to commercial.
Needless to say, another lion bit was added to the show the next day, then Clyde
Adler took over as puppeteer, and the rest is part of Soupy's history.
ember boys and girls, when you go out to play this afternoon, don't play with lions. They are no fun." This brought an additional laugh from the crew. The director faded to black, and went to commercial. Needless to say, another lion bit was added to the show the next day, then Clyde Adler took over as puppeteer, and the rest is part of Soupy's history.
Copyright © 2011 Edward Golick Jr. and Lytle Hoover. All Rights Reserved.