Ask Dr. Ruth is in theaters on May 3 and on Hulu on June 1

By Liz McNeil
April 27, 2019 10:00 AM
Credit: Hulu

When Dr. Ruth Westheimer launched her call-in radio show, Sexually Speaking, in the early ’80s, no question about sex was too risqué — with one exception.

“Whenever there is an intimate question, I say ‘Next question,'” she says, drawing out the word “qvvvvestion” in her thick German accent. “I don’t answer questions about my own sex life. Period. Or I tell a joke because it’s nobody’s business.”

On that, the 90-year-old sex therapist — now the subject of a new documentary, Ask Dr. Ruth — has never wavered.

“I keep that carefully separated,” she explains to PEOPLE. “And that had to do with already being 50 when I became famous. And I knew what to keep private and what not.”

For more about Dr. Ruth, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPL, on newsstands this now.

By the time her candor and humor when answering the most intimate of questions made her a phenomenon in the ’80s, Westheimer was already a mom of two grown children: Miriam, now 62, was then living in Israel, and Joel, now 55, was then in college.

Dr. Ruth
| Credit: Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

In the film, however, she speaks of her first sexual experience at age 17.

After losing her entire family in the Holocaust, Westheimer emigrated to Palestine, where she had her first experience, “on a haystack, in a barn” she says. “His name was Kalman. He was the brother of my boyfriend, whom I had a wonderful relationship with but not actual sex. When I fell in love with Kalman, his older brother said, ‘Take good care of her.’ I visited him every year until he died last year.”

Looking for love, she married three times. Her first marriage to an Israeli man, “didn’t last because I was too young and I wanted to focus on my studies,” she says. By then, she had moved to Paris to study psychology.

There, she met her second husband, who was French, and together they moved to New York City. “I got pregnant with my daughter [Miriam] and I married him in that order,” she says. “He was wonderful but I was very bored and the relationship needed more than good sex.”

It was love at first sight when she met Fred Westheimer in 1961 on a ski trip. “He was the head of the Jewish ski club,” she recalls. “I found out he was 35, German Jewish and had never been married.”

He did however have a girlfriend. “The woman, Vera, who was dating him, said ‘Fred is mine, keep your hands off,’ and I said ‘Let’s see.’ And then I married him.'”

Their 36 year union until his death in 1997 was a happy one. “He liked to be home and smoke his pipe,” she says. “He was supportive of my career.”

As she enters her tenth decade, there’s another question Westheimer won’t answer. But it has nothing to do with sex. Asked if she’ll ever retire, she says: “Never. Next qvvvvestion.”

Ask Dr. Ruth is in theaters on May 3 and on Hulu on June 1.