For nearly 40 years, "Dr. Ruth" Westheimer, the short, sweet old lady who could easily be confused for your average grandma, has been doling out some of the frankest sex talk out there. Now, Ask Dr. Ruth, a new documentary coming out on May 3, peeks behind the curtain at the secret life of the renowned sex therapist.
Born Karola Ruth Siegel on June 4, 1928, in Germany, the only child of Orthodox Jews was almost immediately swept into the events leading up to the Holocaust. In January 1939, Westheimer was sent to an orphanage in Switzerland by her mother and grandmother as part of the Kindertransport after her father had been taken by the Nazis. She would never see them again.
After becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1965, she briefly worked for Planned Parenthood – an experience that encouraged her to continue studying human sexuality.
Find out more about the trials and tribulations of the world's most famous sex therapist in Radar's gallery.
Before offering advice to people shooting blanks in bed, a teenaged Dr. Ruth joined what would eventually become known as the Israel Defense Forces.
Because of her diminutive height — Westheimer's just 4' 7" — she was trained as a sniper, though she claims she never killed anybody during her service.
However, in 1948, Westheimer was seriously wounded in action by an exploding shell during the Palestine war, and it was several months before she was able to walk again.
In 1956, she immigrated to the United States, and less than 10 year later she became a naturalized U.S. citizen
Dr. Ruth's media career began in 1980 when her radio show, Sexually Speaking, debuted on WYNY-FM in New York City.
By 1984 she was hosting several television programs on the Lifetime TV network and one in syndication. Her first show was titled Good Sex! With Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
Westheimer was a frequent guest on network television shows, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and Late Night with David Letterman. She also made regular appearances on the syndicated revival of Hollywood Squares.
Unlucky in Love
But for all her knowledge on sex, sustaining a healthy relationship was a different story. Dr. Ruth has been married three times, most recently to Manfred Westheimer, until his death in 1997.
Now, Westheimer, 90, she believes it's finally time to tell her story. And she is hopeful that the new documentary about her life will be well received.
What a Tease!
"I do want a nomination for best documentary for an Academy Award," she recently told Parade magazine. "I do want a nomination, and I will come to Los Angeles to sit in the audience. I promise good sex for the rest of their life if people vote for me for an Academy Award."