Sally Starr Fights Back Files Bankruptcy To Save Home, Car

Posted: December 30, 1999

Typical of any red-blooded two-fisted cowgirl, Sally Starr is shootin' it out with the "bad guys."

To hear the New Jersey-based cowgal tell it, the bad guys are creditors who tried high-pressure tactics to take away her van and threaten her house in Atco.

So, earlier this month she filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 in federal court. The move temporarily holds off the creditors and should give her time to restructure her debts.

At 76, the veteran TV personality has galloped down some rocky roads.

She has experienced divorce, the death of her second husband, a car crash, losing a highly rated TV show, a fire that destroyed her Florida house, a massive heart attack and now money woes.

"I've had some tough breaks," she said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I came through them all, and I'll come through this one. I'm an optimist."

Starr says she can trace her financial problems to nasty comments made by a Trenton radio talk show host in July 1998. She has filed a $5 million defamation of character suit against WKXW-FM, its parent company and talk show host Jeff Deminski for allegedly calling her a "lesbian cowgirl" on the air.

"Since then my personal appearances have dropped from 160 to 180 a year to two a month," said Starr."

She says her savings were eaten up by medical expenses and a long recuperation following a heart attack on New Year's Eve 1993.

She said she never had financial problems in the past. She is going public with her problems now to educate the public about the protection afforded under bankruptcy law.

According to Starr, she was only one payment behind on her van when she got a threatening phone call. She said she talked back and the van was repossessed earlier this month.

"When they took her vehicle, it scared her to death," said her lawyer, Seymour Wasserstrum of Vineland. "We filed as an emergency and she got the vehicle back the next day. There is an automatic stay now. . .Her plan is to pay off every penny and to keep her house and her vehicle."

Wasserstrum said he hosts a radio show "And Justice for All" on WDVL-FM 92.1 FM in Vineland and Starr will be his guest tonight to discuss bankruptcy.

Starr said she owes $80,000 on her house and $14,000 on her vehicle. She said the van payments are $571 a month and the mortgage is $817 monthly.

"That's all I have, the mortgage, the van and one small loan and no credit cards," she said. "I want to restructure my debts, make the payments smaller and take care of it."

Starr is a Missouri native who was born Ellen Beller. She was a professional country singer by age 13 and at 16 married cowboy singer Jesse Rogers.

The couple came to Philadelphia in 1950 where Rogers became a TV kiddie show host, known as "Ranger Joe," on the station that is now KYW.

Starr soon started working at rival station WFIL-TV (now WPVI, Channel 6) where she presided over the long-running children's show "Popeye Theater."

The high-rated show was canceled in 1971 soon after the station changed hands.

After divorcing Rogers, she married Channel 6 cameraman Mark Gray who died in 1968.

During her heyday, Starr hosted several radio shows and made constant personal performances at places including Cowtown Rodeo, Willow Grove Park and the Gimbel's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

She has written a biography entitled "Me, Thee and TV" which details several romantic encounters with celebrities, including Jimmy Dean and Vaughn Monroe.

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