Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Walter Winchell (1949)
Walter Winchell was known as one of the most popular and controversial figures in radio. Walter was born on April 7, 1897 into poverty and was forced to work at a very young age. Walter and two other boys put a singing trio together at the age of 13 and a vaudeville talent scout saw them perform and asked them to participate in Gus Edwards’ School Days, which was a song and dance act on the vaudeville circuit. After he left School Days Winchell joined forces with another vaudevillian, Rite Greene. They eventually married and moved to New York City where he obtained a job as the journalist for The Vaudeville News. He became a successful journalist and eventually went on to writing for The New York Evening Graphic in 1924 and inventing the gossip column. His work was read by over 50 million Americans from the 20’s until the 60’s. Winchell also had a Sunday night radio broadcast which was heard from the 30’s until the 50’s. Winchell, who was Jewish, was one of the first commentators to attack Adolf Hitler. He was considered to have a “left of center” political view through World War 2 when he was stridently pro-Roosevelt, pro-labor, and pro–Democratic Party. During the Depression, Winchell favored Roosevelt and stood by the troops during the war. By his popularity, Winchell had the power to create and destroy the lives of actors, actresses, political parties, etc. He was the first to find out about news and report it over the radio. When he died in 1972, a front page article in the paper eulogized Winchell as the country’s best known journalist and radio sensation.