Walter Winchell was a syndicated American newspaper gossip columnist and radio news commentator. He rose to national celebrity in the 1930s with Hearst newspaper chain syndication and a popular radio program. He was a staunch supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt throughout the Depression era. He died of a heart attack at the age of 80 in Los Angeles, California, on December 25, 1998.
About Walter Winchell in brief
Walter Winchell was a syndicated American newspaper gossip columnist and radio news commentator. Originally a vaudeville performer, Winchell began his newspaper career as a Broadway reporter, critic and columnist for New York tabloids. He rose to national celebrity in the 1930s with Hearst newspaper chain syndication and a popular radio program. His newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, and he was read by 50 million people per day from the 1920s until the early 1960s. He was a staunch supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt throughout the Depression era, and frequently served as the Roosevelt Administration’s mouthpiece in favor of isolationism. In the 1950s he aligned with Joseph McCarthy in his campaign against communists. His outspoken style made him both feared and admired, and his novels and movies were based on his wisecracking gossip columnist persona, as early as the play and film Blessed Event in 1932. In 1948, he had the top-rated radio show when he surpassed Fred Allen and Jack Benny and read every line of the song “The Lady Is a Tramp” He was one of the first commentators in America to attack pro-Nazi and pro-American organizations such as the German-American Bund, especially its leader Fritz Kuhn. He died of a heart attack at the age of 80 in Los Angeles, California, on December 25, 1998. He is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son. He had a son, Michael, who is a successful businessman and investor.
He also had a daughter, Susan, who was a successful businesswoman and investor, and a daughter-in-law who is also a well-known businesswoman. His grandson, Michael Winchell, is the author of the book “Gangsters of New York: The Rise and Fall of Walter Winchell” (Simon & Schuster, 2008). He is also the creator of the television series The Untouchables, which airs on PBS stations in the U.S. and Canada. He has also appeared in more than two dozen films and television productions as an actor, sometimes playing himself. His great-grandson is actor and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who served as mayor of Manhattan from 1989 to 1993. He served in the Navy during World War I, reaching the rank of lieutenant commander. He started his career in journalism by posting notes about his acting troupe on backstage bulletin boards. His column was named Mainly About Mainstreeters in 1924, where he was hired on June 10, 1929, by the New York Daily Mirror. He made his radio debut over WABC in New York, a CBS affiliate, on May 12, 1930. The show, titled Saks on Broadway, was a 15-minute feature that provided business news about Broadway. He switched to WJZ and the NBC Blue in 1932 for the Jergens Journal. In 1932 Winchell’s intimacy with criminals caused him to fear he would be murdered. He fled to California and returned weeks later with a new enthusiasm for law, G-men, Uncle Sam, Old Glory.