Children's TV icon Sally Starr dies

Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia

At the peak of Sally Star's popularity, as many as 1.5 million children in the Philadelphia area tuned in daily to her 'Popeye Theater' show.

Sally Star, the longtime Philadelphia-area TV and radio host who created a vivacious cowgirl persona and introduced a generation of young people to "Popeye" and The Three Stooges, has died.

Starr died Sunday at a nursing home in New Jersey, just two days after celebrating her 90th birthday, according to WPVI-TV in Philadelphia.

Starr, who was born Alleen Mae Beller but legally changed her name in 1941, had been in failing health in recent years.

Affectionately known to her legions of adoring fans as "Our Gal Sal," Starr was the cowgirl queen of the TV screen for much of the 1950s and '60s as host of "Popeye Theater," a two-hour weekday variety show on the former WFIL-TV, now WPVI. Dressed in her trademark spangled Western outfit studded with shiny silver stars, gun and holster, Starr enthralled a captive audience of children in the Philadelphia area each afternoon, introducing them to Three Stooges shorts, Popeye, Clutch Cargo and other cartoons. Her classic opening line was: "Hope you feel as good as you look, 'cause you sure look good to your gal Sal."

At the peak of her popularity, as many as 1.5 million children tuned in daily, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The program was canceled in 1972.

In addition to her TV career, Starr played the role of sharpshooter Belle Starr in a 1965 Three Stooges film, "The Outlaws Is Coming," and performed with Bill Haley and the Comets. She also had parts in several other movies.

Starr retired to Florida but returned to the Philadelphia area in the early 1980s, according to The Associated Press.

While living in Atco, N.J., Starr hosted a country music radio show on WVLT in the 1980s.

Starr was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame in 1995.

Even in her advanced age and as devotees of her show also aged, she was still regularly asked for her autograph, said Gerry Wilkinson, board chairman of the Broadcast Pioneers.

She was "an icon to people like me growing up. She was on TV when my mother was making dinner, so she was kind of like a second mother," Wilkinson, 66, told the Inquirer.

Starr is survived by a sister. Services will be private, according to philly.com.


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