Queen of trailer-park TV, host of America's longest-running talk show. Guests reveal their innermost secrets, but she fiercely guards her own, sometimes tragic, private life
American talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael was born Sally Lowenthal, her mother an artist, her father a prosperous businessman.
Living in Westchester, New York, until the age of 12, Sally moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where her father owned a rum-exporting company.
Due to her father’s heart condition, medical bills slowly drained the family’s once-large fortune.
Sally developed a fascination with broadcasting and media at an early age. She managed to gain radio experience reading the junior high school news, aged 14, on WFAS-AM in White Plains, New York. This led to her undertaking a broadcasting degree at Columbia University.
She then studied acting at the Actor’s Studio under Lee Strasberg, before marrying, aged 18, and moving to San Juan.
Taking off on a broadcasting career, she was drawn back to Puerto Rico for the opportunities it allowed her. Working as a correspondent for the Associated Press, she hosted a semi-bilingual chat/cook show, and eventually gained her own show, set on the poolside of a top hotel.
It was in Puerto Rico that she adopted her Hispanic-style treble name, and established her signature red-framed glasses.
Struggling from temporary post to temporary post, she and her family were at one point forced to live in their car.
However, Sally landed her own daytime TV talk show in 1983, with a show syndicated by Phil Donahue distributor Multimedia, making a name for herself with then-innovative audience-participation formats, reuniting relatives and broaching controversial topics.
'Sally Jessy Raphael' ran for 18 years until 2002, and Sally has won a Daytime Emmy Award as Outstanding Talk Show Host in 1989, and for Best Program in 1990.
Her fame has also led to occasional cameos as herself – in films such as 'Resident Alien' in 1990 and 'The Addams Family' in 1991.