Sally Jessy Rides Again: The Queen of Daytime TV Returns
Named one of the 25 Greatest Radio and 25 Greatest Television Talk Show Hosts of all time Sally Jessy is still most recognized for her renowned and leading talk show program The Sally Jessy Raphael Show aka Sally, which she hosted for two decades.
Sally decided to cancel the show in 2002 after years of her producers succumbing to ratings of trashier talk shows like The Jerry Springer Show and Maury, forcing her to host episodes where she sent kids to boot camp and revealed the results of paternity tests on air. Sally has been very vocal about her disdain of these episodes, although her gay fans love them to this day. Returning to her roots, Sally hosted a daily radio show, Sally Jessy Raphael on Talknet from 2005 – 2008 on the internet and in syndication to local radio stations, including XM Radio.
In 2010, Sally capitalized on the world’s fascination with pop culture, viral videos and her own timeless notoriety, launching her very own YouTube channel. On it, she spoofs reality TV and answers questions from fans. From radio to Daytime TV to the internet, it was just a matter of time before Sally took over Gay-time. This year marked Sally’s return to – not only – a series but to a new medium. In January, she launched a new web series Sally Jessy Rides on LogoTV.com, the LGBT network. The series was created by Spinboi Films, which is owned by Sally’s manager Patrick Hartz and his partner Jason Fine.
The unconventional series takes Sally out of the studio and onto the streets – literally. Each episode features Sally along with a celebrity guest in a different mode of transportation or public setting as she interviews them with her unique brand of journalism. Guests have included Perez Hilton, Rachel Dratch and RuPaul’s Drag Race season 5 winner, Jinkx Monsoon, whom she bluntly quips, “Speaking of machinery, where do you put your junk?”
I chatted with the 79 year old, Emmy-award winning, red-spectacled talk show siren about the new series, a potential Sally reunion show, her gay iconic status and her love of RuPaul’s Drag Race!
Erik Caban: Tell me about the new series. How did you come to team up with LOGO?
Sally Jessy Raphael: Between radio and TV, I’ve done thousands of interviews over the years, and they were always in a chair or in front of a studio audience. My producers and I thought it would be fun to have the outside world, in an uncontrolled environment, be our studio audience this time around. And wow, did that turn out to be a trip!
As far as Logo, I’m a huge fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race and I was doing a lot of live Tweeting during the show. Then, the network started doing a lot of on-air shout-outs to me, and the next thing I know, we’re talking about doing a web series.
I see that the last episode aired in February. Will there be more episodes? If so, who are some of the celebrity guests will you be riding with?
[I’m] not sure if we’ll do any more yet, but I’ve got a long list of people I’d like to interview…including RuPaul, among others!
You said you’re a huge fan of RuPaul and Drag Race. Have you been invited to be a judge yet?
Yes, I’m a huge fan! I was asked to be a judge on season 6 but unfortunately, the timing didn’t work out. There’s always season 7. (WINK, WINK)
I love I’m Still Sally and your YouTube videos! Did this show kind of stem from that?
Thanks! We had a lot of fun doing those spoofs. I’m Still Sally wasn’t an interview show like Sally Jessy Rides. It was more of me spoofing the popular reality shows of that moment because we were thinking of doing a mock show, like Curb Your Enthusiasm, about me trying to make a comeback in reality TV.
Sally Jessy Rides is more of what I’m known for, which is interviews – but in this case – with a twist.
I want to thank you for being a pioneering talk show hosts who featured drag queens and dealt with serious LGBT issues. And thank you for being so outspoken about LGBT rights.
Thank you for saying that. I’m a strong believer in human rights, whether it is gay rights, the civil rights movement, women’s lib, etc – equality in general. In particular, I have a huge number of very important people surrounding in my life who happen to be gay. It crushed me that their long-term relationships had less validity in the eyes of the law as a 36-hour Las Vegas marriage like Britney Spears had! So, naturally, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut! I don’t have much of a filter these days. [Laughs]
I still remember an episode where a young man came out to his mom and she disowned him. Do you ever hear from former guests?
That was sad. I hope she came to her senses. I do hear from former guests on Facebook all the time, and they’re usually very sweet messages updating me on their lives or thanking our show for helping them reunite with someone. Most of the time, they’re people asking for copies of the episodes they were on. And no, I don’t have them!! [Laughs]
Which wayward teen that got sent to boot camp was the biggest mess, in your opinion?
Wow, we did so many of those “boot camp” shows that it’s hard to think of just one that was “the worst” but the ones that still stand out to me are the brats who threatened me or my staff personally. I would get right back in their faces because hey, it’s not nice to fool with Sally Jessy! [Laughs]
I’m curious if you ever thought about doing a “review”/”where are they now?” show for some of those memorable guests?
That’s actually something we talk about a lot – and may still do one day. We have some interesting format ideas for it, too!
What is your take on the state of Daytime TV today?
Honestly, I don’t watch much Daytime TV these days. Hell, I didn’t even watch my own show when it was on! Although, I do like The View and I’m a big fan of Wendy Williams.
The Hispanic market is big in Florida, as I’m sure you’re aware of. As a broadcaster, what do you think of Fusion (Univision and ABC), which is reaching out to young Hispanic audiences in English and not in Spanish? Do you think it’s advantageous for Fusion to “mix it up” by reaching out to the Hispanic demographic in English when that’s never been done on a wide scale nationally before?
Yes, I know there’s a big Hispanic market in Florida. After I lived in Puerto Rico for 28 years, I lived in Miami for many years and had a morning talk show. I’m familiar with the Latino market, and I think the more programming for that demographic – whether it’s English or Spanish – the better. A lot of young people today may not be fluent in the Spanish language but are still very culturally Latino/Hispanic, so they should have options that embrace their culture, too.
You’ve been with your husband for – what’s it been – more than 50 years! Any tips you can offer to help couples maintain that longevity?
The secret to a long marriage is mind control devices. [Laughs] Actually, my best advice is to respect each other, love each other and most importantly, make each other laugh every day.
What is the best advice you’ve received and who was it from?
I’ve received a lot of advice over the years – good and bad – believe me! But since I’ve been let go from nearly 20 jobs in media during my career, I can say the best advice I’ve ever received was from my mother. She told me, ”Sally, never give up, no matter what. You’d make a lousy secretary.” I guess those jobs were the majority of options for most ladies in those days. And she’s right. I would have made a lousy one!
With that, you’re an iconic journalist. What advice can you offer this new generation?
Get another job!!! [Laughs] Kidding. Listen, there’s a lot more competition these days with blogs and online publications and all that. So, find yourself a niche and blow it up – and blow it up big!
Who: Sally Jessy Raphael
What: Sally Jessy Rides
Photos courtesy of Andrew Werner and Matthew Leifheit