Former talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael was recently approached by Vulture’s Josef Adalian to discuss her friendship with late talk show host Morton Downey Jr., who’s the subject of a documentary premiering on CNN this week. The juiciest bits, however, are about Raphael’s own career in the industry.
Raphael says the producers of Sally “betrayed” her by telling the studio they would force her to transition the show into a more Springer-like tabloid format. Because the folks at NBCUniversal were expecting something she was unwilling to provide, they canceled her show in 2002 after nearly 20 years on the air.
We weren’t doing what I call bad television. It’s easy to do bad television, screaming and yelling. We were doing a lot of health, and we were doing politics. We were doing unruly children. We were doing a lot of makeovers. I probably would’ve gone on trying desperately to change it back to what I thought would work, which is pretty much what Oprah was doing, but NBCUniversal didn’t want to hear it.
Though Sally occasionally drifted into a more tabloid-y arena, Raphael says those particular episodes—ones about paternity tests, specifically—always made her feel “unclean.” They haven’t, however, made her less proud of her track record as a reporter.
I got a Peabody for Kent State, in radio...I was also on the air when Kennedy was assassinated. That was at WNEW-FM in New York, I believe, and I’m proud of that reporting. I’m proud to have done Audrey Hepburn’s last big interview...What else? Probably the fact that people come up to me — they’re very kind — and they say, “You know, your breast cancer show helped save my life,” or, “You helped my child.” All of that comes together, and it makes me feel that it wasn’t wasted.
Her money wasn’t wasted, either. Despite not having a full-time job since Sally, she’s lived comfortably off her investments. Meanwhile, Springer and Maury are still raking it in finding out whose sperm fertilized whose egg.
Of those two, she said:
I haven’t talked to them since the show went off the air. You have an amazing change of friends when you’re no longer working.
Read the rest of the interview over at Vulture.
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