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Ask Dr. Ruth finds the 90-year-old still active, teaching college courses and speaking out on sexuality
To many, Dr. Ruth Westheimer was a woman of the ’80s. That was the decade that her fame peaked with her weekly radio call-in, “Sexually Speaking,” and with TV guest appearances, a sitcom pilot, a board game and all the other trappings of pre-meme fame.
Well, director Ryan White (2016’s tennis doc Serena ) is here to tell you that the famed sex educator’s story spans more than a decade, all of it fascinating and some tragic, from her 1938 birth in Nazi Germany, through her flight to a Swiss orphanage, her stint as an Israeli sniper and her three marriages – two of them “legalized love affairs” in her words, the third true love.
Ask Dr. Ruth finds the 90-year-old still active, teaching college courses and speaking out on sexuality: “There is no such thing as retiring for me.”
And while she eschews politics, there’s no stopping others; an editorial cartoon published in Israel shows her with world leaders Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, looking at their nuclear missiles and explaining that “size doesn’t matter.”
White takes a mostly chronological approach to his subject, which means for the longest time, young Westheimer (born Karola Ruth Siegel) is presented in animated form, with words spoken from her childhood diaries.
In 1956, she moved to America, and in 1981, her radio call-in show – originally a pre-taped 15 minutes, it soon ballooned into two hours live every week – struck a nerve in sexually repressed America. Her producers knew she had something when they noticed everyone in the building stopping work to listen in.
Americans created many nicknames for the diminutive, four-foot-seven educator. Diane Sawyer called her “Grandma Freud.” Less respectful perhaps: “The Happy Munchkin of Sex.” But in the end, it was Dr. Ruth that stuck. She answers to the name happily.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019