Walter Winchell

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The way to become famous fast is to throw a brick at someone who is famous.

- Walter Winchell

Walter Winchell was born in April of 1897 in New York, New York, and during the course of his life he permanently changed what it meant to be famous. As a columnist for The New York Mirror Winchell wrote about Broadway actors and other celebrities. He breached journalistic taboo by exposing their personal lives, essentially inventing the gossip column.

Hollywood is where they shoot too many pictures and not enough actors.

- Walter Winchell

It wasn't long before Winchell turned his attentions to Hollywood. A single mention in his column could make or ruin a career. His popularity and influence grew exponentially, for more than thirty years he maintained correspondence with then director of the FBI J Edgar Hoover. At the height of his popularity his syndicated column appeared in more than 2000 daily newspapers and millions of listeners across the nation tuned in to his weekly radio program.

Nothing recedes like success.

- Walter Winchell

Little did he know that by the time of his death the same quote would aptly describe his own fate. Winchell alienated many of his fans by publicly supporting Senator Joe McCarthy's 'Red Scare'. Also the advent of television led to the closing of hundreds of newspapers resulting in the loss of many of his readers. But Jack Paar is widely credited with the killing blow using the rising popularity of television over the diminished influence of radio and print media. As host of The Tonight Show Paar, bitter over Winchell's refusal to retract a false statement about Paar's marriage made years earlier, publicly attacked Winchell and pointedly publicised negative reports about the journalist. If Winchell had a sliver of popularity left it was quickly dashed when his hometown newspaper The New York Mirror folded a few years later. He was reduced to handing out copies of his daily column at a New York club.

Walter Winchell died disgraced and forgotten in February of 1972 in Los Angeles, California. His mentally ill daughter was the only mourner at his funeral.

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