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Q&A with Sally Jessy Raphael

Exclusive Interview by Karen Beishuizen

We all know Sally Jessy Raphael as the host of The Sally Jessy Raphael Show. She also worked at a radio station in Miami and was a foreign correspondent for Reuters covering Central America. Her last project was called Sally Jessy Rides! a fun interview show on different modes of transportation.

KB: Did you always want to be in the entertainment business growing up?

I started on the radio when I was only 3 years old on a show called Quiz Kids with a young Dick Van Patten. Show business also ran in my family, so it seemed like the natural path for me down the line.

KB: Tell me about your first job in media. I read it was a radio station?

I worked in Puerto Rico at several radio stations and kept getting fired. When I got to Miami in the 70s, I worked at WIOD, which stood for Wonderful Isle of Dreams and was owned by Cox Broadcasting. They had phenomenal signal. I was working with Larry King at the time, who was working out of a houseboat. They hired me because I could work in both Spanish & English. That was the main reason I went to Miami because there was a demand for that. I did the all-night show under the name Dolly Holiday where I played music and made suggestive comments about love. During that time, I would get calls from Jackie Gleason who lived there and was an insomniac who would listen all night. I shot pool with him and then he played Minnesota Fats in the film The Hustler.

KB: You studied acting?

Yes, I studied with Lee Strasberg and with Elia Kazan. I also did some time at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre.

KB: You became a news correspondent covering Central America.

I started in news as a foreign correspondent. I worked for Reuters & UPI. I worked out of Puerto Rico, but mostly Central & South America & the Caribbean.

KB: How did the Sally Jessy Raphael Show got its start?

Phil Donahue heard me on the radio and liked the way I talked to people. He suggested me to the bosses at Multimedia, and the show was born. When we started, the show was only 30 minutes and was called In Touch with Sally Jessy Raphael. Then, we realized that In Touch was the name of a gay magazine, so that was dropped, and the show took my name.

KB: The oversized red-framed glasses became your trademark. How did it start?

For one of the early test shows, I couldn’t see the teleprompter. So, I ran across the street to a store that was offering a pair of reading glasses with a free pap smear. The glasses were red and made me stand out. From that point on, I stuck with red, and it became a trademark.

KB: How did you feel when the show got cancelled after so many years?

The show ran in national syndication for 19 seasons, and its cancellation came out of left field. I was actually fired by “friends” of mine in the industry. I then had to break the news to my staff, who had mortgages, kids in college, babies on the way, had just bought houses, etc. To this day, I still feel like our show was not given the chance to succeed because the company just wanted the same old topics that rated for other shows instead of trying to do something fresh and meaningful.

KB: Tell me about how you offered to induct Russ Limbaugh only to roast him at the ceremony.

I was asked by the Radio Hall of Fame in 1993 to introduce Rush. He took my comments too seriously and then tried to launch a feud between us. I didn’t pay him any mind.

KB: Are there currently any people you would love to collaborate with?

In the past, I’ve talked to Phil Donahue about doing a news commentary show together or even a podcast. But I’d also like to do a show in the style of The View with older women like myself and maybe Dr. Ruth!

KB: What are you up to now?

Enjoying my family & friends, but still doing the occasional interview here and there. The last project that I did, called Sally Jessy Rides! was a fun interview show on different modes of transportation. It’s streaming now for free on the Revry app and website.

Find Sally on Twitter: HERE
Find Sally on Facebook: HERE

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