When the legendary comedian Soupy Sales died in 2009, Alice Cooper issued a brief statement through his publicist:
Being from Detroit, I came home every day and watched Soupy at lunch. One of the greatest moments of my life was getting piefaced by Soupy. He was one of my all-time heroes.
Soupy Sales and a pie in the face have more to do with the Detroit of John Sinclair than you might guess. As “The Heart of Detroit by Moonlight” by the Destroy All Monsters Collective (Mike Kelley, Cary Loren, and Jim Shaw) makes clear, Soupy’s TV image inhabited the same psychic space as Alice, the MC5 and Lester Bangs. Not only was Soupy’s anarchic spirit beloved of Motor City rockers, but his actual sons, Hunt and Tony, played in Iggy Pop’s band in the seventies. The Sales brothers were Iggy’s rhythm section on part of Kill City, all of Lust for Life, and the famous 1977 tour with David Bowie.
And the way Alice Cooper took a pie (cake?) in the face at the 1970 Cincinnati Pop Festival was central to the case for the Stooges’ greatness Lester Bangs made in the pages of Creem:
So there he was: Alice Cooper, rock star, crouched frontstage in the middle of his act with a faceful of pie and cream with clots dripping from his ears and chin. So what did he do? How did he recoup the sacred time-honored dignity of the performing artist which claims the stage as his magic force field from which to bedazzle and entertain the helpless audience? Well, he pulled a handful of pie gook out of his face and slapped it right back again, smearing it into his pores and eyes and sneaking the odd little fingerlicking taste. Again and again he repeated this gesture, smearing it in good. The audience said not another word.
Here’s the full 1979 episode of The New Soupy Sales Show where Alice takes another pie in the face, cued up to Alice’s bit. Soupy finds a bug in the backyard that can sing and play piano, and he figures he can make big money if he books the insect, Buggy, as the opening act on his buddy Alice Cooper’s upcoming tour. Perhaps remembering the early-morning audition at Frank Zappa’s house that gave him his own entrée into the world of showbiz, Alice drops by Soupy’s place and listens as Buggy tears up “Autumn in New York.” It’s sensational—a star is born! But how will White Fang, the meanest dog in Detroit, react to the sudden rise of this upstart arthropod? Find out below!