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Walter Winchell

Gossip columnist. He was the inventor of the gossip column and then took it to the national airways in 1932 with the distinctive greeting: 'Good Morning, Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea...let's go to press!' He was born Walter Weinschel in New York City to Russian immigrants subjected to extreme poverty by a father who barely contributed to the upkeep of the family forcing him to work at an early age at the expense of an education. With some musical ability, he left school at thirteen, forming with friends, a Vaudeville show which was a ticket to his ultimate career. After a decade in Vaudeville, at age 27, he landed a job with a newly formed tabloid newspaper ' The Evening Graphic' penning a column, 'On-Broadway' using a new contrived name Walter Winchell. He moved to the New York Daily Mirror where his column became syndicated and appeared in over 2,000 papers across the nation. In 1932, he started a Sunday radio broadcast which soon had a listening audience of over fifty million. A mention in his column could doom or make a Broadway show or a personality. Winchell would use blackmail to get information. His influence in national politics encompassed FDR who used him to promote his policies. However in later years, his support of Joseph McCarthy's blacklisting brought his downfall. At the time of his death, he was a broken man, deprived of his power which he had abused, by steady cancellations by stations carrying his broadcast. His flagship paper, the Daily Mirror, folded, resulting in the loss of his syndicated column. His personal life was in shambles with a divorce from his third wife. His son committed suicide and he had became alienated from his only daughter. After his divorce, he moved from Phoenix to Los Angeles attempting to revive his career. He narrated the popular Desi Arnaz production, 'The Untouchables.' This to the chagrin of wife Lucille Ball, who objected as Winchell had labeled her a communist. he faded into obscurity, dying at age 74 the result of cancer. His remains were transferred to Phoenix and were buried without fanfare in the family plot joining his third wife and son. He was interred with just one mourner present, his own alienated daughter. Prologue: Walter Winchell was quickly forgotten even before his death. However, he cannot be forgotten for his help in starting the Cancer Research Fund of the Damon Ruyon-Walter Winchell Foundation. Over a period of 25 years, he raised $30 million for the cause in memory of his close friend Damon Runyon. Ironically, cancer took his own life. In November, 2004, with his granddaughter in attendance, he was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago joining the honored place of famous radio personalities. The movie 'Sweet Smell of Success' starring Burt Lancaster is based on Winchell's life. In a bit of trivia for gourmets: A famous fish sandwich, 'The Walter Winchell' consisting of Sturgeon, Swiss cheese and sliced dill pickles on rye originated by the famous Reuben's Deli in New York City.