History of Gossip Columnists

3 Aug

Second article of a five week series on the Paparazzi/Gossip Industry.

By Ozzie

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.[1] 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.[2]
  • 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.[3] 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.[4]
  •  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.[5]

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. [6]
  • 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.[7]
  • 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.”[8]
  • 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.[9]

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

66 Responses to “History of Gossip Columnists”

  1. comic relief August 3, 2011 at 2:15 PM #

    This was really incredible research Ozzie. Can’t wait for the discussion. :)

    • Littlebells August 3, 2011 at 3:10 PM #

      Yes, Ozzie! I agree with CR, fantastic research and it was great to see names I had never heard of before. Hopper is the one that stands out most in my mind, so thank you for all the other information. ;)

      • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 6:58 PM #

        Thank you! :)

  2. comic relief August 4, 2011 at 1:35 PM #

    Ozzie,

    Speaking of Hedda Hopper, would you claim her strength as a gossip columnist stemmed from her experience in the business? And if so, how can rival gossips compete without having similar resources of information?

    Can other backgrounds prepare Gossips equally?

    • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 6:55 PM #

      I’d say yes for Hedda Hopper because she was once in the thick of it herself and also would of got to known people who knew the information while she was working in the industry. For those who didn’t have that background would of initially used bribes of some sort. Money, positive coverage were an enticement. I guess even black mail and sexual favours were also used.

      I think other backgrounds that may help would be journalist (I’m separating the film industry from other type of career for now) or investigation. Those who knew where to look. Also those who knew people in the know, with powerful contacts. For those who don’t have that I think it would be hard and would have to trun to brides and black mail more often than the others.

      • Littlebells August 4, 2011 at 6:59 PM #

        I’ve read where Hedda would actually call and talk to stars on the phone trying to get the “scoop”.

        • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 7:06 PM #

          Yes of course! Calling the stars themselves of their represention can help too. Some are willing to talk.

          Speaking of Hedda, an actress spoke of this happening. Hedda had found the actress a home right next door to her. The actress turned it down because the windows between the houses were mere metres apart, and because at the time she was having difficultly with her marrage, she didn’t want Hedda to be able to hear everything! I think Hedda then ignored her for the rest of her life!

          • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 7:21 PM #

            See the is what is so pathetic. Hedda could not make it as a actor so now she’s going to exploit her colleagues how horrible.

            Do u think in her day collumnist were as bad as today?

            • Littlebells August 4, 2011 at 7:24 PM #

              I think they were, yes, but with today’s technology and social media, I think today’s may “look” worst. Look at stations like CNN, Fox, and others who take people’s tweets and treat them like fact!!!

              However, I think our fine line of privacy has greatly diminished since Louella and Hopper.

              Ozzie, what do you think?

              • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 7:29 PM #

                Yes, I agree. Today’s technology has blown everything open and it seems like there are little boundries regarding privacy. But I do think it is as vicious then as it is now.

            • Littlebells August 4, 2011 at 7:29 PM #

              Piggy backing on OB’s great question, do you think columnists today are more nasty in how they discuss celebrities than the early years?

              (When I mean nasty, I’m thinking of the physical degradation of a person.)

              • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 7:32 PM #

                Sort of, yes! I think it was put more eloquently then, than now but the intent behind it was still as bad.

                • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 7:37 PM #

                  These gossip columnist must live like hermits given they must be on everyone’s hit list. Is there such a thing as nice gossip collumnist?

                  • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 7:44 PM #

                    I did come across one, Micah Jesse, shocking I know. From the very beginning of his blogging, he’s always focused on the good. Here’s his blog if you are interested.

                    http://micahjesse.com/

                    • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 7:50 PM #

                      Excellent!!

                      I think there is something to be admired in a person who spread good rather than hate.

                    • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 7:58 PM #

                      Apperently Perez Hilton has seen the errors of his ways and turned good. I’m not entirely conviced he has though. I wonder how many readers he’s lost since he started this change. Most people loved him for his sarcastic remarks.

                    • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 8:09 PM #

                      REALLY? Hmm! What to many law suits?

                      Well at least he’s trying.

                    • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 8:47 PM #

                      Apparently he had a run in with Jennifer Aniston and she told him off, lol! But he did have alot of lawsuits against him. I don’t know if they’re all been resolved though.

          • Elle August 12, 2011 at 11:31 AM #

            Hedda stopped talking to Mamie because Hedda had invited her along to help campaign for Nixon and although Mamie was a supporter she told Hedda she had something important to do. Mamie accidentally drove past where Hedda and others were rallying for Nixon. Hedda stopped mid-speech into a bullhorn and watch Mamie drive by and never spoke to her again!

            • Open Book August 12, 2011 at 12:07 PM #

              Welcome Elle!

              Hope u can join our discussions in the future.

      • comic relief August 7, 2011 at 2:00 PM #

        Ozzie,

        First sorry for missing the discussion, I had to non-LIH work that night and could not make it.

        If you’re saying that people without a show business background might have to do everything from blackmail, execute bribes, to threaten bad coverage or offer sexual favors,,..THAT’S ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING. Now I understand why this evenings conversation turned amoral so quickly.

        It’s amazing how so many don’t believe gossip is a sin, but it’s amazing how something so supposedly innocent so quickly leads to jail worthy crimes.

  3. Open Book August 4, 2011 at 6:34 PM #

    Is anyone surprised that women are the pioneers of gossip?

    • Littlebells August 4, 2011 at 6:43 PM #

      Haha! Nope! :)

    • Littlebells August 4, 2011 at 6:45 PM #

      I posted this before but now this is REALLY appropriate:

      • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 6:58 PM #

        I love this video! It’s very apt too!

        • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 7:18 PM #

          LOL!!

          LB-This is so relevant.

  4. Open Book August 4, 2011 at 7:18 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

    Ozzie Great Article!!

    • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 7:20 PM #

      Hello and thank you!

  5. Open Book August 4, 2011 at 7:26 PM #

    Do u think gossip that’s generated by women is more malicious then the gossip generated by men?

    • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 7:51 PM #

      I’ve been thinking on this one for quite some time, thought of a good answer but it immediately went out of my brain! I’ll come back to this when I remember it! :)

      • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 8:22 PM #

        Let me help u out. Men call their gossiping Networking. LOL!!

        • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 9:05 PM #

          LOL! Yes men are more matter of fact about these things. Women tend to put themselves in the position of the person their talking about and judge them by what they would of done in their situtation. If they (the person they are talking about) doesn’t react they way they would or aren’t perfect, it seems that’s enough reason to critisize them. For many years women have been expected to be wonder women (hold a job, have kids and have a nice home). Women seem to gossip about those who fail in their expectation as a way of making themselves feel better. I don’t think men tend to feel that way. I hope I’m making sense here. I have a feeling I’m not! :)

          • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 9:08 PM #

            No this makes perfect sense and very well said. I have to save this response very intuitive.

  6. Littlebells August 4, 2011 at 7:41 PM #

    Ozzie,

    Do you know happen to know when gossip columns went from a column to it’s very own magazine?

    • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 7:42 PM #

      Good Q LB!

      • Littlebells August 4, 2011 at 7:44 PM #

        Despite the horrible grammar…oy vey!

        • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 7:46 PM #

          I’m not quite sure as I focused on it’s beginnings, which was newspapers, but I assume it was around 70’s or 80’s.

          • Littlebells August 4, 2011 at 7:51 PM #

            That sounds reasonable.

          • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 7:55 PM #

            I’ve had a quick look and most major gossip magazines began around the 70’s, however the was one, Broadway Brevities and Society Gossip, that started in 1916 but folded in 1933.

            The National Enquirer is the oldest magazine that is still around today. It was founded in 1926.

            • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 7:56 PM #

              Oh! Thanks for the clarification Ozzie.

            • Littlebells August 4, 2011 at 7:57 PM #

              Holy cow and still going strong!

          • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 7:55 PM #

            Actually I think it was the 50’s magazine started. Confidential was a magazine format.

            • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 8:00 PM #

              Ah, well there you go then!

  7. Open Book August 4, 2011 at 7:51 PM #

    What do u think of her message?

    • Littlebells August 4, 2011 at 7:56 PM #

      I like her message. A lot. I Now, how do we find the line between gossip and sharing our thoughts with a friend in whom we trust? Is there a difference???

      • Littlebells August 4, 2011 at 7:57 PM #

        (BTW, I’m not talking about “hating” someone else, but sharing our opinions.)

        • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 8:05 PM #

          Sharing opinions is different IMO!!

      • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 8:00 PM #

        I think a person can get alot further on words of encouragement. There is such a thing as helpful and hurtful critism. Helpful always offers a person a helping hand and the other does not.

        • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 8:16 PM #

          I’ve just finished watching the video and I agree with her 100%.

  8. Open Book August 4, 2011 at 8:02 PM #

    Ozzie-

    Did these early gossip collumnist see themselves as investigative reporters?

    • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 8:36 PM #

      I’m not sure. I get a feeling Louella may have felt a little bit like that in the beginning, maybe a need to expose that world rather than investigate it but there isn’t much to suggest that. Just a general feeling I had.

      Of course there are plenty of columnists now who view themselves like that but I think that is their way to justify what they are doing. I think the phone hacking scandal maybe related to this in some way. At the beginning the people involved claimed it was a way to uncover the truth over famous people who maybe comitting crimes but it’s now come out that the victims are wide ranging. I think they took that “investigate journalist” to far.

      • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 8:45 PM #

        ITA! I think anything goes to make a buck. I really don’t think people have any standards.

        Do u think there are any Walter Winchell type gossip collumnist today? ?

        • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 8:57 PM #

          Hmm, I’m not sure. I think there’s more of a distinct difference now between gossip columnists and journalists. The only one who I can think of in the UK is Martin Bashier. He’s interviewed Princess Diana and Michael Jackson. Both interviews are famous world wide.

  9. Open Book August 4, 2011 at 8:11 PM #

    Ozzie-

    I hear British gossip collumnist are alot more ruthless toward celebs. What did u find out in your research on this topic?

    • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 8:28 PM #

      I focused on the American founders but from what I know generally they can be quite vicious. Newspapers and their coulmns seem to be the worst. Once they’ve got the first bite they won’t let go till they feel the person has shown some kind of remorse for whatever they’ve done or the papers run out of material.

      I’d say the magazines aren’t too different from America’s. They tend to be a bit more wilder, lurid and maybe insinuate more. They do tend to keep the stories running for as long as they can but they’re not as bad as the newspapers. I could be wrong about this though because I watch the news rather than read a newspaper or magazine! :)

      • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 9:00 PM #

        Thanks Ozzie

  10. Littlebells August 4, 2011 at 8:21 PM #

    Other than Perez, who are big columnists in the blogging world or tweeting world? I honestly pay no attention….

    • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 8:42 PM #

      Well, my favourite is D Listed by Michael K. His blog is more about his saracastic opinion and I feel he doesn’t claim to be a better person by doing it (in fact he claims the opposite!). You have your papparzzi sites, like X-17 and TMZ, their quite big. Other big blogs are E!, A socialists life, pop sugar, Just Jared, Splash News (that one maybe a pap site though) and many more! Then there are also the gossip magazine websites too. It’s a very big world in online gossip!

      • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 9:20 PM #

        Lol, that should be A Socialite’s Life, not A Socialist’s Life. The two are very different things!

  11. Littlebells August 4, 2011 at 8:36 PM #

    Hey ladies,

    I need to go but wanted to say what a great article Ozzie. I had never heard of some of these columnists. Have a wonderful night! ;)

    • Open Book August 4, 2011 at 8:40 PM #

      Goodnight! LB……

      • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 8:43 PM #

        Night LB! :)

  12. Open Book August 4, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

    Well we have ten more minutes to the discussion Ozzie. I have one more Q. DO u think people are more interested in the truth rather than gossip?

    • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 9:15 PM #

      I think some people do because the truth tends to be boring, complicated or extensive. With the truth you really have to think. With gossip there’s no thinking involved! For the person reading it, it’s fun, short and easy. You’re basically being told what to think!

  13. Open Book August 4, 2011 at 9:03 PM #

    Ozzie-

    Great article and very informative. ITA with LB I had never heard of these collumnist. So this was quite the eyeopener. I hope u have a great night. And this was a great history lesson for me.

    Take Care!

    • ozzie20 August 4, 2011 at 9:09 PM #

      Lol, thank you and you are welcome. It’s an eye opener to me too. I’d never heard of these people either but it was very interesting to find out. I had always wondered how it started and now I know!

      Hope you have a great night! :)

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