Sally Jessy Raphael’s famous TV talk show ended after two decades in 2002 – and it’s still not over as it turned out.
The IS Sally The host, known for her signature red eye, made her daytime TV days with fellow talk show queen Ricki Lake on the Raised by Ricki podcast. Today, Raphael, 87, is as fierce as ever, spilling the beans on topics ranging from the sudden cancellation of her show she never recovered from to falling out after her husband and manager Karl Soderland to lose in 2020.
“When it started, I talked to the presidents of the United States [and did] interviews with famous people,” recalled Raphael about the early days of the Sally. But ownership of the program changed hands several times and when NBC Universal “got hold of it, [it became a] ‘Who’s your baby mama?’ kind of show. That’s when it all went downhill.”
Because she didn’t own the show, she had to roll with it. “I needed a lifestyle when I needed the money…” she said, explaining that she lived in Nice, France, while filming the talk show, commuting to NYC via day of the week. But to one point – and his show came downfall. “Jerry owns NBC Universal [Springer]Maury [Povich] and I — and I’m the one who wouldn’t [most exploitive topics] so they let me go.”
Even though she was a trailblazer—the first woman to host a syndicated talk show on television, before Oprah Winfrey came on the scene—she was uniformly dumped by the network. It still stings.
“Not only was I not allowed to speak, but let me tell you how bad this was,” she said. “I had 250 employees … and I told them, because of what the company told me … that we were going to renew and everything was fine. Then they called me in one day … and told me ‘No, we’re not continuing the show. You’re off.’ I had to call the 250 people together … and say, ‘I’m really sorry. I don’t know if you’ll believe me but I was really sorry.’ And that was the end of that.”
Not only was her talk show run over, it was the end of her career. Something she hadn’t planned for. Raphael said her agent sent her a vase after her shoot that was engraved with: “The best is yet to come.” However, “If you look at my resume, I haven’t worked since then. I haven’t earned a dime,” she said. Her agents “never got another job [for me] since 2002.”
Some classics Sally:
Although she did not work, she maintained friendships with many Sally display employees. “I’m still in touch with almost everyone I’ve worked with,” she revealed.
Earlier in the conversation, Raphael talked about his professional debut. It was not easy to break into the business, especially for a woman. She was hired as the “morning man” on a radio program — and, yes, that was her title. (“They didn’t have women yet!” she said.) As she searched for the radio, it was a lot of abuse. “I kept getting fired. I think I’ve been fired 27 times.” While jumping around on various radio shows, fellow talk titan Phil Donahue heard her and suggested she try out for a TV show, thinking that a woman’s voice was needed in the male-dominated space. After a stint as a TV guest, she landed her own show in 1983.
Raphael also spoke about losing the love of her life, Soderland, in 2020. She said that she has been grieving for the past two years, but now hopes to find company for the next part of her journey.
“I’m trying to get … you can’t say ‘boy’ at my age. That’s ridiculous,” she said. However, she found exactly what she’s looking for: “I can tell you very quickly: 70s or 80s. Not rich and not poor. A normal Joe.”