Monday, September 20, 2010


Walter Winchell was an absolute legend in the newspaper journalism business and on this day in 1924 he wrote his first Broadway column "Your Broadway and Mine" to report that dear old Sophie Tucker had exited Earl Carrol's "Vanities" over the issue of time on stage. Looks like dear old ego is nothing new. Winchell was great friends with J. Edgar Hoover and actually helped him to arrest some key criminals, but at the end of his life was very sad as he literally lived as a recluse in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles--the very hotel where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in June of 1968. It is reported that he actually handed out old copies of his old newspaper columns on sidewalks outside the hotel to anybody who would take them. Very very sad way to end a great life. In 1948 Winchell had the top rated radio show when he surpassed Fred Allen and Jack Benny in ratings of theirs. During the 1950s Winchell favored Senator Joseph McCarthy, but he became unpopular as the public turned against McCarthy's Red Scare tactics. He also had a weekly radio broadcast which was simulcast on ABC television until he ended that employment because of a dispute with ABC executives during 1955. A dispute with Jack Paar effectively ended Winchell's career, beginning a shift in power from print to television. During this time, NBC had given him the opportunity to host a variety show, which lasted only thirteen weeks. His readership gradually dropped, and when his home paper, the New York Daily Mirror, where he'd worked for thirty-four years, closed in 1963, he faded from the public eye.
He did, however, receive $25,000 an episode to narrate The Untouchables on the ABC television network for five seasons beginning in 1959. Many other columnists, such as Ed Sullivan in New York and Louella Parsons in Los Angeles, began to write gossip soon after Winchell's initial success. He wrote in a style filled with slang and incomplete sentences. Winchell's casual writing style famously earned him the ire of mobster Dutch Schultz, who confronted Winchell at New York's Cotton Club and publicly lambasted him for using the phrase "pushover" to describe Schultz's penchant for Blondie women. Of course Schultz later became a Roman Catholic in the last sixty days of his life in a very notable death nearing obsessed conversion. Some notable Walter Winchell quotes are: "Nothing recedes like success," and "I usually get my stuff from people who promised somebody else that they would keep it a secret."
Winchell opened his radio broadcasts by pressing randomly on a telegraph key, a sound which created a sense of urgency and importance and the catch phrase "Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press." He would then read each of his stories with a staccato delivery at an average rate of 197 words per minute, noticeably faster than the typical pace of American speech. Interesting man! Another rehearsal tonight for "Edgar Alan & Poe" and I am starting to contact people by e mail who auditioned for the musical to come and see it. Sure hope that works. I've already received some words of encouragement from the initial response. We are adding a character to the show at the very beginning. He will be the persona of Edgar, Alan and Poe, himself who will sing an upbeat intro song to prevent the show opening with a ballad--which can be deadly nowadays.

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