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Sallys trash talk kicked to the curb

I never thought this day would come. Talk divas Oprah, Rosie and Sally are lame ducks É and Ted Koppel might be.

Oprah Winfrey says she'll take her show off the air at the end of the 2005-2006 season. So we've got a while before she plans her farewell tour, and you know that's going to be massive. As for Rosie O'Donnell, she says she wants to spend more time with her kids. Her show will continue, with Rosie's chair being filled by Caroline Rhea.

But the juicier story is the demise of Sally Jesse Raphael Ñ the woman who made the world safe for red eyeglasses and dysfunctional family members screaming at one another.

After almost 20 years of dishing out daytime talk trash, Sally's being shown the door. Her last show airs later this spring. Unlike Ro and O, her departure isn't voluntary. As happens to everyone in the end, the ratings got her. Jerry Springer and Maury Povich already must be in mourning, because they're probably next on the talk-show junk heap.

On television these days, talk is cheaper than ever. It's just as easy to hear people embarrassing themselves on 'The O'Reilly Factor' as appearing on 'Jenny Jones.' After we've seen it all for 20 years, the sordid stuff isn't as sordid as it used to be.

But give credit where credit is due: Sally was the first to figure out that Americans will tune in to watch people make fools of themselves. The more ridiculous, the better. 'My Mother Stole My Boyfriend,' 'Big Breasted Women' and 'I'm a Prostitute and Proud of It' usually attracted hefty audiences.

But like Phil Donahue before her, or the 60 other nationally syndicated talk shows that came and went during Sally's tenure, people finally got tired of her act. A while back when KATU (2) was airing her show, Sally came to Portland to appear on the station's 'Town Hall Program.' Fending off criticism about her tacky topics, Sally said the show also delved into serious matters such as child abuse, teen-age pregnancy and learning disabilities.

When I pointed out that her most successful shows in terms of viewership were the women with the big breasts, she replied proudly, 'We put that on because it sells.' Unfortunately for her, Springer caught on and elevated talk-show trash to an art form.

These days, she's telling anybody who'll listen that she was forced to get down into the talk-show gutter. Yeah, right: Just like they forced her to wear those strawberry-colored specs.

But don't weep for Sally. She became a star and made millions. And now she's eligible to take on Tonya in celebrity boxing.

Pete Schulberg is the host of 'Portland's Morning News' on KPAM (860 AM). Contact him at pschulberg@kpam.com.