Dorothy Kilgallen, Rock Hudson, and Tallulah Bankhead.-AP
On July 3, we here at the Celebrity Cafe raise a toast and wish a posthumous Happy Birthday to Dorothy Kilgallen, one of the most interesting and famous celebrity gossip columnists of all time.
Dorothy was pronounced dead on the 8th of November, 1963, (55 years ago) under circumstances which have intrigued, infuriated and mystified researchers and biographers ever since.
Ms. Kilgallen was often described as the most powerful woman writer of her time in the world.
The famous celebrity gossip was a fiery, sharply intelligent celebrity in her own right and established the uniquely American stereotype of the meddling, sharp as a tack female journalist.
She came by her career honestly: She followed in her fathers footsteps.
She was born in Chicago, where her father worked as a newspaper reporter, In 1920, he was hired as a roving correspondent based in New York City. The family settled in Brooklyn, where Dorothy blossomed.
Kilgallen dropped out or the College of New Rochelle after only two semesters to take a job as a reporter for the New York Evening Journal, a Hearst Paper, and it would be the launch of a long and powerful career
In 1936 Kilgallen competed with two other New York newspaper reporters in a race around the world using only means of transportation available to the general public.
She was the only woman to compete in the contest and came in second.
In November 1938, Kilgallen began writing the "Voice of Broadway," for Hearst's New York Journal-American,
The daily column, which she wrote until her death, was a compelling mix of New York show business news and gossip,mixed quixotically with politics and organized crime.
She was eventually in syndication for 146 newspapers nationwide
She also helmed a radio version of her column, the Voice of Broadway, which was broadcast on CBS nationally during World War II,
In the process Kilgallen became a celebrity in her own right, famous for her lavish parties with some of the most famous and compelling figures of the era. He fame was great enough that she was on the guest list amd attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Shortly afterward she became notable for her coverage and then direct participation in one of the most famous trials of the century: The murder trial of Dr. Sam Sheppard--and the inspiration for Television hit (and movie reboot) The Fugitive. It was Dorothy's testimony that freed the wrongly imprisoned doctor and helped force the United States legal system to address pre existing bias in jury selection.
She was also a defense witness on behalf of famed comedian, Lenny Bruce during his New York obscenity Trial.
All the while Kilgallen was embroiling herself in the affairs of politicians, courts, mobsters and celebrities, she was also the most famous panelist on the mid century hit show 'Whats my Line?"
The show was a kind of 21 questions format game show in which the panelists had to guess the occupation of a mystery person in as few questions as possible. It was perfectly constructed to put her brilliant mind, deductive logic and charming wit on display in front of the entire country.
But it was her involvement in the Kennedy Assassination that has left her most lasting imprint on American society.
Dorothy flatly and publicly disbelieved the findings of the Warren Commission Report on the assassination of JFK and set out to prove it.
In the process she used her vast network of sources both in high society and in the criminal underbelly to compile a huge dossier of clues and investigative statemtents.
She planned a trip to New Orleans, and confided in friends that she was ready to blow the lid off of the Kennedy murder.
Days later she was found dead in what appears likely to have been a staged suicide. Her dossier disappeared, and she has become a source of speculation, conspiracy and mystery ever since.
She was, from a tender age until her untimely death a creature of gossip and personal networks. A brilliant writer, a courageous human being, a trailblazing woman and perhaps the greatest celebrity columnist in the history of the United States.
Happy Birthday Dorothy, we look forward to getting all the dish on The Afterlife (just not any time soon)