WALTER WINCHELL Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Walter Winchell (April 7 1897 - February 20, 1972) was an American journalist.


Originally named Walter Winchel (one L), he was born in New York on April 7, 1897, and spent his formative years there. In newspaper columns and on the radio, he invented the gossip column. He broke the journalistic taboo against exposing the private lives of public figures, permanently altering the shape of journalism and celebrity.


Winchell started performing in vaudeville troupes while still in his teens. He married Rita Greene, one of his onstage partners, on August 11, 1919. They separated a few years later and he moved in with June Magee. She had already given birth to their first child, daughter Walda, by the time he actually divorced Greene in 1928. He and Miss Magee had been pretending to be married for some years by them. They never did marry because he was always afraid that the marriage license would be discovered and reveal to the world that Walda was illegitimate. Winchell and Magee successfully kept the secret of their non-marriage their whole lives.


He was extremely popular and influential in shaping public opinion, notoriously aiding and ruining the careers of many entertainers. He wrote many quips such as “Nothing recedes like success,” and “I usually get my stuff from people who promised somebody else that they would keep it a secret.”


Although his obituary appeared on the front page of The New York Times, he died forgotten and disgraced in Los Angeles.


In Philip Roth’s 2004 counterfactual alternative history novel The Plot Against America, Winchell becomes a leading opponent of the increasingly anti-Semitic and isolationist 1940s administration of U.S. President Charles Lindbergh. Winchell runs for president himself, but is assassinated.