"Anybody who met her got the real thing, she wasn't a phony."
That's how legendary Philadelphia TV personality Sally Starr was remembered at her funeral tonight by her sister Mary Boyd.
Starr died the morning of Jan. 27, just two days after her 90th birthday. She worked right up until the end.
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“When she died she still had three personal appearances left to do,” Starr's sister said. “People still loved her.”
The local icon's viewing and funeral service held at Costantino Funeral Home in Berlin, N.J. drew hundreds of fans. Her burial will be private.
Boyd remembered her sister, known as "Our Gal Sal" to her fans but simply called “Chubb” by her family, as a good person who tried to be gracious to everyone. That friendly personality and sincerity both on and off the screen lives on in the memories of Starr's fans.
“She was just really a personable individual celebrity and she came out to a lot of the affairs in the local communities and everyone loved her,” said Medford resident Sid Benstead.
“In the late 50s, early 60s coming home from school and couldn’t wait to put on the TV to see Popeye Theater and the Three Stooges,” lifelong fan and Voorhees N.J. resident Anthony Maressa said. “She was the thing to look forward to every day.”
“I think for all of us kids who grew up in the Delaware Valley in the late 50s and early 60s here was a woman, ‘Our Gal Sal,’ who had no children of her own but all of us in the Philly area viewed her as another mother,” remembered Cherry Hill resident David Faye.
“Sally loved her fans as much as her fans loved her,” said former coworker Dennis Burke of Philadelphia.
“It was a simpler time and she was an icon that represents the era for many of us who grew up around it,” Faye said.
Born Alleen Mae Beller in Kansas City, Mo., on Jan, 25, 1923, Starr was a major figure in Philadelphia television, radio and stage for more than 50 years. Starr got her first taste of show business at the age of 12, when she and her sister Mildred debuted on the CBS radio program Blush Creek Follies, as the Little Missouri Maids.
She eventually settled in South Jersey and was a resident of Atco, N.J., at the time of her death.
Starr's career spanned about seven decades.
She sang and performed country music throughout her young adult life. By the end of the 1940s, she became the regional voice of the Pepsi-Cola Company and did all their commercial spots, leading to a full-time gig in radio.
During the 1940s Starr married Jesse Rogers and the two performed on radio programs such as Hayloft Hoe-Down, which was produced in the old Town Hall in Center City. Sally also formed the band, "The Saddle Buddies," which performed in various clubs in the area.
Having already mastered radio and the stage, Starr’s next stop was television. On Oct. 3, 1955, Starr became the hostess of Popeye Theater, on WFIL-TV (now WPVI) which eventually became Philadelphia’s highest-rated children’s program. During the show, Starr presented half-hour western TV shows, cartoons, Three Stooges comedies, live acts and special features. Sally also had a country music radio program on Philly’s WJMJ.
In 1965, Starr entered the world of film, playing the role of Belle Starr in The Outlaws Is Coming, which was the last feature film made by the Three Stooges at Columbia Pictures in Hollywood. She went on to act in several other movies and hosted several other radio shows.
In addition to her career in entertainment, Starr also contributed to several charities, which helped thousands of handicapped and disadvantaged children.
Credit: Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Starr became so popular in the area that her fans staged the largest mail protest in WPVI-TV’s history when she lost her program in 1971, according to the Broadcast Pioneers. After leaving Channel 6, Starr produced and hosted local TV shows on Channel 29 and 65. She was so loved by her fan base that they even helped her financially after her home in Florida was destroyed in a fire in 1987. Starr eventually moved back to the area and hosted a three-hour radio show in Vineland, N.J., for many years before retiring in 2006.
Starr received the ultimate honor in 1995 when she was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame.