Best Known For
Sally Jesse Raphael is an American talk show host best known for TV’s Sally Jesse Raphael and her trademark red glasses.
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Raphael reflects on this time, “I was not so blessed, but I was stubborn . . . and I didn’t know how to do anything else!”
In 1969, Raphael finally landed a secure position, anchoring a morning television show and an afternoon radio program in Miami. She held the job until 1974, and in 1976 moved to New York City, where she co-hosted a morning radio talk show with Barry Farber. Five years later, Raphael grabbed the attention of Maurice Tunick,
producer of Talknet--NBCs syndicated package of nighttime radio call-in shows. He decided to test her on a one-hour trial run on WRC in Washington, D.C. Raphael’s warm and personal take on the forum bowled him over and she secured a job that would establish her as the American public’s favorite neighbor they never had. For three hours every weeknight, Raphael broadcast live from Rockefeller center, taking cold-calls. She was a trustworthy confidant on national radio, expertly bridging private and public spheres with her caring, but professional manner.
In 1983, Raphael substituted for a television talk-show host in Cincinnati, Ohio and was spotted by Burt Dubrow of Multimedia Entertainment--producer of Donahue. Immediately impressed with Raphael’s easy rapport with the audience, Dubrow offered her a half-hour daytime show to be broadcast in St. Louis, Missouri. Sally Jessy Raphael debuted on October 17, 1983 to overwhelming public favor and, after only six months, was offered for national syndication. By 1989, over 170 U.S. stations were carrying the show, which also aired in Canada and the United Kingdom. Raphael lived in New York, but commuted to St. Louis to tape five shows in three days and she simultaneously continued to broadcast her radio talk show for Talknet. With her manic schedule and over seventeen and one-half hours of TV and radio time a week, Raphael had more airtime than any other woman in broadcasting.
Just when Raphael’s career was at its peak, and she could finally begin to enjoy her success, tragedy struck her family. In the winter of 1992, her 19-year-old adopted son, J.J., was in a serious automobile accident. J.J. remained in a coma for three weeks and just as he emerged, Raphael and Soderlund received word from their executive producer, Burt Dubrow, that Raphael’s eldest daughter, Allison, had died of respiratory arrest, induced by a combination of alcohol and legally prescribed back pain medication. Raphael was traumatized and immediately cancelled the taping of her show for an indefinite period. She had enjoyed a very close, but challenging, relationship with Allison, who always struggled to live up to what she believed were her mother’s expectations. Raphael later told People magazine, ''There's no solace, no comfort. There is going to be an ache as long as my body is alive.''
In 1997, Multimedia Entertainment moved Sally Jessy Raphael to New Haven, Connecticut, then eventually to Unitel Studios in New York City, which made Raphael’s life a lot easier.
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Taking on topics of politics, entertainment, women's issues and more, female talk show hosts have proven to be every bit as engaging, intelligent, and funny as their male counterparts. Oprah Winfrey's 25-year-reign as the queen of talk is unparalleled, but many other female talk show hosts have come into their own as well, including Tyra Banks, Ellen DeGeneres, Sally Jessy Raphael and Kelly Ripa.
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