The Untold Truth Of Delilah

She's one of the most popular voices in radio, trotting out love advice and dedicating sappy love songs to her late-night listeners for decades. But how well do you really know Delilah? Let's take a closer look at the radio icon's many ups and downs, from her tense early days with her parents to her now-iconic gig behind the mic. Listen up.

She got hooked on radio as a kid

Given her incredible success in radio, not to mention her penchant for picking the perfect love song, it makes sense that Delilah's relationship with music dates back to an early age.

"I have always loved music," Delilah Rene Luke told WNYC in February 2016. "My father was a musician; he had a country-western band. I was raised around people that danced–my parents would go out the Eagles or the Elks [club] every weekend so they could dance. Music has always been a part of my life."

According to BuzzFeed, she fell in love with the airwaves in 1971, the year she got her first radio and visited the only local AM station in her hometown of Reedsport, Ore. "You know how most kids have posters of sports heroes on their walls?" she recalled. "They gave me reams of the old news copy and I had those taped in my bedroom. And I would practice reading the news."

She was very talkative as a kid

As one might expect from a person who found success on the radio, Delilah has been a very talkative person since she was just a little kid. In fact, according to the Washington Post, elementary school teachers often sent reports home claiming she had "a problem with excessive talking." According to Delilah, "I actually had a teacher tape my mouth shut with duct tape."

Delilah channeled her gift for gab into an oratorical contest in eighth grade, and during the competition, she caught the eye of two judges who worked for a local radio station. Those judges, Steve and Jerome Kenagy, gave Delilah her first gig in radio at the age of 14, reported the Washington Post

Success didn't come easy

Despite her auspicious beginning, Delilah had a difficult time establishing her radio career. Even when she found some success, as she did on Seattle's KLSY in the '80s, she couldn't avoid the pink slip. "The consultant did a report where he said that Delilah 'is the tail wagging the dog,'" she told BuzzFeed. "'If you're ever going to have success on this station, you need to get rid of her.' I said, 'You gotta be f*****g kidding me! I'm number one, the rest of your day parts suck, so the way to make them successful is to have something crappy on at night?'"

As radio relied less and less on easy listening, Delilah struggled to find a place to dig in, losing jobs at stations in Boston and Philadelphia. It was only when she moved to Rochester, N.Y. in the mid-'90s that success in syndication began to seem like a possibility. According to the Washington Post, within a few years, she was back in Seattle and being broadcast on more than 200 stations nationwide.

She moved out the day she finished high school

Speaking to NPR in August 2016, Delilah opened up about the tense relationship she had with her father, a man she claimed was "hell-bent on controlling" her.

"In his mind, he was doing it out of love, to protect me," she said. "In my mind, [I was like], get the heck out of my way. And so I left home the day I graduated high school. We had an argument, and he told me to be home at midnight, and I said no. And so when I did come home, the door was locked. And I had gotten a set of luggage for graduation that day, and it was on the front porch, packed." 

She continued, "He thought that he was going to prove a point and I was going to say, oh, I'm sorry, Daddy, I'm sorry. I should've listened to you. And instead, I was like, see you, wouldn't want to be you. And that was that."

Her dad allegedly pulled a gun on her

Delilah told NPR that her relationship with her father fell apart when she fell in love with a black man.

"My father was a racist." she said. "So when I came home with my first husband, who was black, he ran to the gun closet and unlocked his gun, and I was greeted with a gun to my forehead. And he said, you've got to the count of three before I pull the trigger."

She continued, "And so I, of course, start, you know, arguing with him [laughter]. And my future husband grabbed me by the arm and yanked me out of there and across the street lickety-split."

According to a CNN profile, Delilah's mother also abandoned her because of her first marriage; however, she was able to "make some semblance of peace" with her before she died. Delilah and her dad never reconciled.

She's been divorced three times

Although she's known for giving out love advice on her syndicated radio talk show, Delilah's personal experience with affairs of the heart has been a rocky one. Case in point: she's been married four times and divorced three.

Delilah detailed some of her failed romances in a February 2017 interview with People magazine. "My first husband was charming, funny, handsome, hard-working and a complete alcoholic and womanizer," she claimed. "We met when I was 21, married at 22, pregnant at 23, a mom at 24, separated at 25 and divorced before I turned 26. That's when he left me with our son and his two children from a previous marriage." (Her ex, George Harris, disputed Delilah's account of their marriage, claiming, among other things, that she actually threw him out.)

Her second union wasn't any easier. "I jumped out of the frying pan into the fire and at 28 I was married for less than two months to a man who turned out to be a cocaine and heroin user," she claimed.

Marriage No. 3–to the eight-years-younger Douglas Ortega–ended in divorce in 2001. According to the Washington Post, Delilah claims she "grew tired of being the family's breadwinner," but Ortega says "they made a joint decision to support her career over his and that their marriage foundered for other reasons, including their age difference."

She's faced multiple tragedies as a mother

Delilah's nest has grown exponentially over the years. She gave birth to three children during her marriages (one from her first; and two from her third) and adopted ten more children (yes, ten). While her big brood has no doubt brought love and joy, she has also experienced tragedy. 

According to People, her adopted son, Sammy, died of complications from sickle-cell anemia in March 2012. "As painful as this moment is, I am so so so so so thankful that God allowed me, my family and friends to experience the essence of his soul for the past two years," she wrote at the time. "Everyone who met him was blessed by his big heart, his silly character voices, his wonderful sense of humor and his kindness towards all. He was a precious, precious young man and I praise the Lord that I was allowed to be bathed in Sammy's love as his 'MommaBear'...we have been forever changed by having him in our lives."

In October 2017, Delilah revealed another terrible loss. Her 18-year-old biological son, Zachariah, reportedly committed suicide. "He was being treated, counseled, and embraced fiercely by family and friends while battling depression for some time now," she wrote on Instagram. "My heart is broken beyond repair and I can not fathom how to go on...but I have to believe he is at peace with the Lord and that God will get us through." Delilah announced that she would be taking a break from her radio show to grieve.

She's currently in a long-distance marriage

Delilah walked down the aisle for a fourth time in 2012 when she married Paul Warner, telling People that her new man "rarely drinks, doesn't use drugs and adores me with all of his being."

Their union isn't without its quirks. According to People, their jobs require them to live more than six hours apart, and yet, in this case, it seems absence really does make the heart grow fonder. "Some folks wonder how we manage to keep our relationship strong living so far apart, but I suspect it may be the secret to our success!" she told People. "I'm not the easiest woman to live with and I've still got five minor children at home. My youngest daughter is in second grade, so my home is always chaotic with kids, crafts, pets and horses. Not many men would sign up to marry a woman who has 13 children!"

Hey–whatever works!

She resides on a massive farm

Delilah reportedly resides on a sprawling 1,200 acre farm in Port Orchard, Wash. As of 2016, the 55-acre homestead housed "21 goats, 500 chickens, two emus, two pigs, nine horses, five sheep, a zebra named Xena, three African geese, seven dogs (only two of which are hers), and five baby goats," reported BuzzFeed. Her land also yields "more than 20,000 pounds of corn, potatoes, apples...each year" and is reportedly "maintained by friends."

She's sick of hearing one particular song

When you've fielded love-song requests for decades, you're inevitably going to get sick of hearing a tune or two. For Delilah, her Achilles heel is Bette Midler's Grammy-winning take on "Wind Beneath My Wings." 

"If I never hear that song again, it will be too soon," she told BuzzFeed, "[and] I've seen the movie The Rose 25 times."

Another ballad she's grown tired of: Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On." "During the Titanic era, if I heard 'My Heart Will Go On' one more time I might have jumped off the Titanic myself," she quipped. Considering that film is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, Delilah might need to secure a life raft.