Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

>Sally Jessy Raphaël


AS HER 3,500TH EPISODE APPROACHES (Jan. 20; check local listings for time and channel), daytime talk show doyenne Sally Jessy Raphaël can easily recall her favorite. No, it wasn’t one of her shows on teenage girls who dress like tramps, a perennial ratings grabber. Instead, Raphaël, 55, savors her 1990 interview with Audrey Hepburn (who died of cancer three years later). “She was so natural. And oh, how noble!” says Raphaël.

Most of her guests—jilted lovers, abused kids, feuding families—tend to be a good deal more plainspoken. “People have these problems and they feel they have no place [else] to go,” says Raphaël, who offers counseling referrals and a sympathetic ear even off the set. “If I’m in a restaurant ladies’ room,” she says, “the woman next to me automatically tells me the story of her life.”

Raphaël’s own story is impressive. Starting out in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as a call-in radio show host in the ’50s, she was fired from 18 jobs before Phil Donahue caught her act on an Albuquerque, N.Mex., station in 1981 and touted her to his boss. Her TV show had its debut in 1983. Raphael, who lives in Pawling, N.Y., with Karl Soderlund, her manager and husband of 32 years, recently branched out as a TV-movie producer (CBS’s The Third Twin). Like her hero, the Energizer Bunny, she says, “I’m going to keep at it till they stop me.”

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