Opinion: Pie in the eye

Commentary by Dick Wolfsie

Hal Fryar passed away last week at age 90. If you don’t know who he is, maybe the name Harlow Hickenlooper will ring a bell. Harlow Hickenlooper is tough to say. Hal Fryar will be tough to forget. They are one and the same.

Hal was the host of several children’s television shows in Indianapolis throughout his 43-year career, including a longtime gig on WFBM-TV (now WRTV-6), where he introduced Three Stooges movie shorts.  In 1965, Fryar was cast in the original Three Stooges” movie, “The Outlaws Is Coming,” playing the part of Johnny Ringo. In 2008, he was inducted into the Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.

Hal loved performing on live TV, a passion he and I shared. But there was a strain in our relationship — a mock competition between us. It began when Hal boasted that the Three Stooges hit him in the face with a pie, citing it as proof of his friendship with the trio.

Not to be outdone, I proudly proclaimed that I had once been similarly victimized by the one and only Soupy Sales when he came to Indy to perform at Crackers Comedy Club. Soupy agreed to do a live WISH-TV shoot from his hotel. That morning, as we planned, I waited at the elevator until he exited to the lobby. I mentioned to Soupy how much older he looked. When a waiter walked by carrying a pie, Soupy nabbed it and smooshed it squarely in my face.

The last time Hal Fryar and I spoke, we compared proper pie-throwing techniques. The pie, which is usually shaving cream on a paper plate (whipped cream melts too quickly), should be placed — not shoved — on the face using an upward motion. No grinding permitted.  One eye of the recipient should be kept free of pie so he can navigate safely to a bathroom to clean up.

Useless information, you say? Not to a comedy artist like Hal.

Months ago, when Hal discovered that his cancer had returned, he lamented to his son, Gary, “Gosh darn it, I was really looking forward to my 90s.” Direct and right on target. Just like a pie in the face.