Sally Starr

Sally Starr appears at Ocean City's 100th anniversary in 2009. Starr, a native of Kansas City, Mo., became a legendary television and radio host and died in New Jersey on Sunday at the age of 90.  (Dale Gerhard/Press of Atlantic City)

Dale Gerhard

BERLIN — Legendary Philadelphia-area TV and radio host Sally Starr died Sunday at a nursing home in New Jersey.

WPVI-TV, where Starr had worked in Philadelphia, said Starr died just days after celebrating her 90th birthday.

Starr had been in failing health.

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She was born Aline-Mae Beller in Kansas City, Mo. With aspirations to be a country western singer, Starr moved east to Philadelphia, where she became a country disc jockey.

The television station called, asking her to host children’s programming.

Known to fans as “Our Gal Sal,” she began as a disc jockey in 1948. She became host of “Popeye Theatre” in 1950 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 wearing her trademark spangled, fringed cowgirl costume.

With her TV salary and the income from up to four personal appearances a day, Starr could afford a 42-foot boat, limousines, sable coats and a South Jersey ranch.

The program was canceled in 1972, even as it was still drawing 1.5 million viewers daily. WPVI said only that it was cutting all its children’s shows.

Starr retired to Florida, where she worked at jobs including pizza-shop manager, airport security guard and assembly line worker. The house she rented in Florida burned down and all her belongings were lost, including her 500-page autobiography manuscript. She had no insurance on anything.

Broke, Starr returned to South Jersey in the 1980s. She landed a gig hosting rerun westerns on Channel 65 in Vineland, but the station switched to home shopping and Starr was out of work again.

While living in Atco, Starr earned a living from personal appearances and selling airtime on her “High Noon” radio show on Sundays. She hosted the Vineland show on radio station WVLT into her 80s retiring in 2006.

Staff Writer David I. Turner contributed to this report.

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