Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: Sally Jessy Raphael kept wearing glasses even after getting corrective eye surgery.
Sally Jessy Raphael was a popular daytime talk show host for two decades beginning in the 1980s.
She became especially well known for her distinctive bright red eyeglasses…
As the story goes, Raphael became SO identified with her eyeglasses that even after getting corrective eye surgery, her producers would not allow her to stop wearing her trademark pair of glasses.
Is that true?
While that really is not that hard to believe if it WAS true, the real truth is a bit different than that. You see, Raphael never had particularly BAD vision, just not good enough to be able to read a teleprompter without having a problem. Around 2000, Raphael’s vision began to improve a bit – enough so that she likely did not have to wear her glasses if she did not want to. When told about this, Raphael quickly scoffed at the idea, ”The guy said, ‘You don’t really need these.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean, I built a career on them!’ ”
So no, she never got corrective eye surgery.
And no, she was never FORCED to keep wearing her glasses even when she did not need to wear them (although, of course, she knew very well that if she HAD chosen not to wear them, it might have been an issue).
This is not to say that Raphael was happy about the importance that the glasses began to take on when it came to her image.
She told the New York Times in 2000:
You go to school, you get a master’s degree, you study Shakespeare and wind up being famous for plastic glasses. It’s the only thing anyone wants to talk to me about. I can walk through an airport and think someone’s going to ask me an intelligent question and they’ll go, ‘You’re not wearing your red glasses.’ At parties with relatively sophisticated people? ‘You’re Sally Jessy? I thought she wore red glasses.’ Not always, babe, not always.’
The legend is…
Thanks to James Barroh and Elisabeth Bumiller for the quotes!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.