Second article of a five week series on the Paparazzi/Gossip Industry.
With so many gossip magazines and websites we were interested in seeing where it all started. In this article we will be looking at the first three major gossip columnist and some notable writers that followed. Do you know who they are?
The Notorious Three
- Louella Parsons:(born in 1881) was the first person to write celebrity gossip. In 1914 she began writing her first gossip column for the Chicago Record Herald. When the paper was taken over by William Hearst in 1918, she moved to New York where she worked for the New York Morning Telegraph. In 1922 William Hearst asked her to move to his New York American newspaper after discovering people were interested in reading about movie stars. There she worked until 1925, when she was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and given six months to live. Louella decided to move to Los Angeles for the dryer climate. This proved to be a wise move as the disease went into remission. Hearst then gave her a position as a Hollywood columnist for his Los Angeles Examiner newspaper. Over the years Louella became one of the most powerful columnists. She had the power to make or break a career and was feared by many in the industry. Until 1937 she remained unchallenged. Hedda Hopper, a former friend and informant for Louella, was given a job at a rival newspaper. A bitter feud began but despite this Louella remained powerful until the end of her career in 1965. She died in 1972.
- Hedda Hopper: (born in 1885) started off as a silent movie star appearing in over 100 films. Her first movie, Battle of Hearts, was in 1916. She was noticed by Louella Parsons who offered her positive mentions in her column in exchange for information. As her career began to wane in the mid 1930’s, Hedda accepted a position as a gossip columnist in the Los Angeles Times, the rival paper to Louella Parsons Los Angeles Examiner. This started a bitter feud between the two, with both of them taking shots at each other in their columns. Hedda became as popular as Louella and also had the power to make or break a career. She often got scoops well before anyone else. Hedda remained writing columns until her death in 1966.
- Sheilah Graham Westbrook: (born 1904 in England) was “the last of the unholy trio,” a nick name given to Louella, Hedda and Sheilah. She left England for America in 1933 where she landed a job as a staff reporter for The Mirror and The Journal. In 1935 she was recruited to write a gossip column for North American Newspaper Alliance’s syndicates. Soon Sheilah had reached the same level of power of Louella and Hedda. She too could make or break a career. In 1937 she became the lover of F. Scott Fitzgerald. She stayed with him until his death in 1940. After a break, where she worked as a war correspondent in Europe, she returned to America and began writing her columns once again with it also being featured in Variety. Sheilah retired in 1971 but continued to work freelance until her death in 1988.
These three ladies were the first and most famous pioneers of gossip reporting but there are a few others who have helped shaped the format and deserve some attention as well, they include:
- Mike Connolly: (born in 1914) wrote a gossip column for The Hollywood Reporter from 1951 to 1966. He was described as “probably the most influential columnist inside the movie colony” by Newsweek. 
- Army Archerd: (born in 1922) worked for Variety for over 50 years. He was hired to replace Sheilah Graham in 1953. One of his major scoops was in 1985 where he reported Rock Hudson had AIDS. He died in 2009.
- Liz Smith: (born in 1923) began writing for the New York Daily News in 1976. She moved to Newsday in 1991 after scooping an interview with Ivana Trump during her divorce form Donald Trump. Liz also worked for the New York Post but was cut in 2009 because of cost cutting measures. She was nicknamed “The Grand Dame of Dish.”
- Claudia Cohen: (born in 1950) joined in 1977 the New York Post as a reporter for it Page Six column. She was also editor for the column from 1978 to 1980. Claudia was credited for Page Six’s success. She left the paper in 1980 to write her own column “I, Claudia” for The Daily News of New York. She died in 2007.
All these writers helped shaped the gossip world to what we know today. Current gossip columnists would not be here today without them. With the fast paced world of the internet, gossip websites and blogs are becoming more popular. With this as the future and newspaper sales declining, it will be interesting to see how the gossip world will grow and evolve.
Also see: Inside the Tabloid Engine in Hollywood
Please join us for a discussion on Thursday: 8/4/11@7pE/12UTC