Alleen Mae Beller
January 25, 1923
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||January 27, 2013 (aged 90)|
Berlin, New Jersey, U.S.
Sally Starr (January 25, 1923 – January 27, 2013) was a prominent 1950s and 1960s celebrity television personality. Using a cowgirl persona, she appealed to local TV audiences of several generations of children through American radio, Broadway stage, movies and as a recording artist for over 60 years. Fans remained loyal in the Philadelphia metropolitan area (referred to locally as the Delaware Valley), and embraced her cowgirl personality as part of their own family identity, and sometimes referred to her as "Aunt Sally" or "Our Gal Sal."
Her numerous personal appearances at events were an attraction for both children and adults. She was considered not only a character personality, but also a total performer. She became the first top-rated female DJ in the country, and worked as announcer, writer and producer while also appearing on stage and in movies. Sally Starr established herself as a pioneer in the history of early broadcast TV and radio in the United States.
Starr was born Alleen Mae Beller in Kansas City, Missouri, and legally changed her name to Starr in 1941. She was the second oldest of five girls. Her parents, Charles and Bertha Beller, encouraged her to enter the world of show business, for which she exhibited both talent and ambition. At the age of 12 years, she and her sister Mildred, billed as the "Little Missouri Maids," made their debut on a CBS radio program titled "Brush Creek Follies".
Her broadcast and entertainment career began with creation of the character of a blonde cowgirl who hosted an afternoon children's program for Philadelphia station WFIL-TV (now WPVI) from the 1950s to 1971. Her program was usually known as Popeye Theater or a variation, which presented Popeye cartoons and Three Stooges shorts. She was also briefly the host of Starr Theater, which ran after Popeye Theater, and presented a cowboy movie. The program ran from the 1950s through 1971. She hosted a number of guest visitors including the Three Stooges and Colonel Sanders, plus local legends Dick Clark and Chief Halftown.
She distinguished her character with flashy cowgirl clothing, such as fringes, shiny silver stars, cowgirl hat, and boots. She often dressed in bright red full cowgirl regalia, including gun and holsters. Her opening line was, "Hope you feel as good as you look, 'cause you sure look good to your gal Sal." She closed with "May the Good Lord be blessing you and your family. Bye for now!" Public appearances were a staple part of her entertainment promotions, that included many on her horses named, "Pal", "Silver", "Cane", and "Rusty". She continued to make public appearances near her home in Waterford Township in southern New Jersey in her senior years. She also hosted a radio show on WVLT, 92.1 FM in Vineland, New Jersey until retiring in September 2006.
Aside from her television and recording career, Starr appeared in the Three Stooges feature film, The Outlaws Is Coming, as sharpshooter Belle Starr. She had small roles in such films as The In Crowd and Mannequin Two: On the Move.
A recording artist, in 1958 she recorded Our Gal Sal, backed by Bill Haley & His Comets, selling thousands of records under the Clymax label. Haley co-wrote "A.B.C. Rock" and "Rocky the Rockin' Rabbit" for Starr, which were released as singles (the former would later be covered by Haley himself; the latter was released in 1959 as a standalone single unconnected with the album). Although Our Gal Sal was out of print by the 1960s, in the 1970s and 1980s several of these recordings reappeared on a series of compilation albums put out by the UK-based Rollercoaster Records label entitled Rockaphilly. She became the first top-rated female DJ in the country, and worked as announcer, writer and producer while also appearing on stage and in movies. Starr in her later years made many personal appearances, was an on-air radio DJ, and operated a pizza/ice cream restaurant in Atco, New Jersey.
Starr died at a Berlin, New Jersey nursing home on January 27, 2013, two days after her 90th birthday, from undisclosed causes.