Sally Starr, famed TV host, dies at 90

BERLIN, N.J. - January 27, 2013

Starr died Sunday at a nursing home in New Jersey.

For nearly 20 years, beginning in the 50s, when TV was in its infancy, Sally had daytime shows here on Channel 6.

Born Alleen Mae Beller in 1923, she had her name legally changed to Sally Starr in 1941.

Affectionately known to fans as "Our Gal Sal," she began her decades-long career as a disc jockey in 1948. She became host of "Popeye Theater" two years later on the former WFIL-TV, now WPVI.

On the two-hour weekday variety show, Starr introduced cartoons, Popeye, the Three Stooges, and celebrity guests to a generation of young people. She became recognized for her trademark spangled, fringed cowgirl costume.

The program was canceled in 1972 and Starr retired to Florida, where in 1987 a fire destroyed her home and her treasured broadcast memorabilia.

While residing in Atco, Starr earned a living from personal appearances and selling airtime on her "High Noon" radio show that aired on Sundays. She hosted the Vineland show on radio station WVLT into her 80s.

In 1998, Starr filed for bankruptcy protection, saying she was "church-mouse poor." She blamed her financial troubles on alleged comments made by a Trenton radio talk show host on the air. She sued WKXW-FM in New Jersey saying that host Jeff Diminski slandered her when he allegedly twice called her a "lesbian cowgirl."

"I've lost thousands and thousands of dollars because of the idiotic statement made," Starr told The Associated Press at the time, adding that her personal appearance bookings had dropped off from as many as six per week to about two since the alleged remark.

A state appeals court in 2001 said Starr could go forward with her defamation lawsuit. Diminski later retracted the statements.

Sally was also a member of the Philadelphia Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.

A cause of death has not been released.

Funeral services for Sally will be open to the public.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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