Walter Winchell, the founder of personality-oriented media, was born April 7, 1897
in New York City.
As a teenager, he performed in vaudeville
, and found it interesting to post gossip
about other performers on the theater bulletin boards. This made him somewhat well-known, and he was offered a job as the western correspondent for Vaudeville News
by its publisher. By 1927
he was working for the paper full-time, as well as doing a column
for the New York Evening Graphic
, he became a gossip
columnist in the New York Daily Mirror
and host of a weekly radio
show (where he opened with the phrase, "Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America
, and all the ships at sea"). He was always opinionated, but whether you agreed or not, you had to know what he said in his slang
y, rapid-fire way. At his peak, his words were seen/heard by 55 million people a day, and a positive mention from him could make someone's career
. He sometimes used blackmail
to get information, and may have been used by Franklin D. Roosevelt
to raise popular support for Roosevelt's policies (including a strong stance against Adolf Hitler
-- Winchell was Jewish
The FBI now admits that Winchell "maintained a steady exchange of correspondence with J. Edgar Hoover for over thirty years. The famous newspaper
columnist discussed FBI cases with former Director Hoover and publicized FBI accomplishments." By the 1950s Winchell was also publicly supporting Senator Joseph McCarthy's efforts to root out Communists in the U.S.. This lost him a lot of popularity. Also, with the rise of television, his style no longer worked, though he was the voice of the narrator on TV series "The
Untouchables" from 1959 to 1963. In 1963 his Daily Mirror column also stopped when the paper went bankrupt. He did sometimes write for other papers in the next decade.
He founded the Damon Runyan/Walter Winchell Foundation for Cancer Research (named after his writer friend who had died of cancer; his own name was not added until after he died) in 1946 and guided it until his death, also of cancer, on February 20, 1972.