It is not an unusual occurance for me to suffer prolonged stints of insomnia. Whenever my life takes a surprising course, my sleep cycle suffers. Therefore, if you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you’d be able to deduce that I rarely ever sleep.
Sadly, TV viewing (cable and satellite offers little reprieve) isn’t conducive to the insomniac’s needs in the middle of the long, long night. I mean, if the “Giant Ladder System” and “Lose Two Inches To Your Waist Instantly” are what you deem to be great TV, fine. But I don’t.
On those long nights when I can’t sleep, I often watch old TV game shows from the early 60’s. The Game Show Network is good about running the oldies into the wee hours of the morning.
The grainy, black and white brain childfrom veteran TV game show producers, Goodson and Todman, known as “What’s My Line”, is one of my favorites. The game show ran for an unprecedented 18 seasons, from 1950 to 1967 on CBS. It focused on a group of elegantly dressed panel members (women in long dresses; men in tuxes) who tried to guess the strange or unusual occupations of ordinary members of the American public.
FOR EXAMPLE: “Ten down and no more to go. Therefore, panelists, I’d like for you to meet, Mrs. Iva Lee Finkelstien, Brooklyn’s ONLY female, one-armed haberdasher who’s also a blind albino with one polydactyl left hand!”
Everytime I watch an episode, I marvel at how formal and civilized everyone seemed back then. ‘Twas a polite society indeed…or so it would seem.
It was rather pretentious too, and on that, there’s little doubt.
After the show’s intro, a panelist would enter from offstage, assume his or her place at the desk, then introduce his or her fellow panelists who was seated to his or her right.
I remember once hearing that obnoxious, gravel-voiced Bennett Cerf, the publisher and co-founder of Random House, introduce Arlene Francis and that HUGE trademark, diamond heart pendant she’d always wear, by saying that he was “always charmed by her elan and perspicacity”, as if those were two words were frequently bandied about over the dinner table in most blue collar American homes in a post Eisenhower existence.
The panelists for “What’s My Line”, have always consisted of funny, pithy and well educated people. Noted thinker and funny man, Steve Allen was a guest panelist for years, but when he left to start “The Tonight Show”, he was replaced by 50’s comedian, Fred Allen (no relation) and little known Hollywood director, Martin Gabel who was also known as Mr. Arlene Francis would often make guest appearances as a panelist. I should mention that his wife, the doting woman of Armenian extraction named Arlene, was known for being a lesser known actress, but a rather prominent radio and TV talk show personality at the time.
The show was hosted by a man who I can only describe as a seemingly kind and friendly elitist. TV and radio newsman, John Charles Daly held the honor of show host for most of the show’s18 year run. He was an eloquent man. He’d been married several times, but seemed to have found the love of his life in a one Virginia Warren, daughter of Supreme Court Chief Justice, Earl Warren. This important tidbit becomes a little more relevant later in this post.
But one of my favorite panelist of all time, was that crazy ass Dorothy Kilgallen, the newspaper reporter and columnist. I’d watch her talk in amazement. This photo indicates a wide, brimming smile, but in everyday pose, her mouth was small. I wondered how she ever formulated words and sentences out of that centimeter wide opening, which I swear was the tiniest pie hole, I’d ever seen?
Not only that, but she didn’t have the personality the other panelists. The others could laugh and make jokes, she never did. She seemed more focus on getting the answers right. And not only that, I thought she maintained such a straight laced countenance because she had no choice–her expressionless face might break otherwise.
But Kilgallen’s “What’s My Line” stoicism, wasn’t what fascinated me; what actually enthralled me was her life and especially the way she died.
A little bit about her if I may: reporting was in her blood. Her father was a higher up within the Hearst newspaper monopoly. She had something of a Patrician background and travelled a great bit as a young woman. She dropped out of college to accept a gig as a reporter for the New York Journal, a Hearst publication, I might add.
Kilgallen covered her share of fluff….Broadway, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and bits of Hollywood gossip, but she was also known as a hard-hitting reporter. She delved into crime and made some waves; especially as a female reporter in a world of male dominated news. She was heralded for her coverage of the Dr. Sam Shepperd murder trial. The physician was charged and convicted for the 1954 murder of his pregnant wife. There are those who feel certain that the television series and David Jansen vehicle, “The Fugitive” were loosely based on Sheppard’s story, though this has always been denied by the show’s creators.
But being the Kennedy assassination buff I am, I was always intrigued by Kilgallen’s role in the investigation. (The bulk, but not all of the following was taken from DemocraticUnderground.com).
For starters, Kilgallen was was the only reporter to interview Lee Harvey Oswald’s killer, Jack Ruby. Not only that, but she found fault with what the Warren Commission gave as the official story regarding who killed Kennedy…how and why. Sadly, that became the last story she ever pursued.
She died mysteriously in November 1965, after being threatened, but the cops never probed further.
She had a good contact within the Dallas Police Department, who gave her a copy of the original police log that chronicled the minute-by-minute activities of the department on the day of the assassination, as shown in the radio communications. This allowed her to report that the first reaction of Chief Jesse Curry to the shots in Dealey Plaza was: “Get a man on top of the overpass and see what happened up there.” Kilgallen noted that he lied when he told reporters the next day that he initially thought the shots were fired from the Texas School Book Depository.
Dorothy challenged the credibility of Howard Brennan (who supposedly gave police a description of the shooter). She wrote articles about how important witnesses had been intimidated by the Dallas police or FBI.
On Sept. 25, 1964, Kilgallen ran an interview with one of the witnesses to the shooting of Officer Tippit whom the Warren Commission never questioned. Clemons told Kilgallen that she saw two men running from the scene, neither of whom fit Oswald’s description.
Dorothy also approached one of Jack Ruby’s lawyers, Joe Tonahill. Surprisingly, Ruby (who fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald, who was suspected of assassinating John Kennedy) agreed to talk with her. Some have speculated that Ruby would not have told her anything important, but Tonahill strongly disagrees. “This interview with her was a very significant point in his classless life,” Tonahill asserts. He affirmed that Ruby “cooperated with her in every way that he could, andtold her the truth as he understood it. It was just a very agreeable conversation between them. I just can’t understand people doubting the sincerity of that interview.”
The attorney, who observed the two talking, said that “I don’t think there was any doubt about it… Jack was highly impressed with Dorothy Kilgallen… Of all the writers that were down there during the Ruby trial — about 400 from all over the world — she probably was the one that, to him, was the most significant.”
Kilgallen never published any information she obtained from her private talk with Jack Ruby, but Ron Patakysays that’s because she was “saving it for a book.” She was under contract to Random House, Bennett Cerf’s company, to produce a tome that was supposedly going to be a collection of stories about the famous murder trials she had covered.
One of the biggest scoops of Kilgallen’s career came when she obtained the 102-page transcript of Ruby’s testimony to the Warren Commission. Readers were shocked at the hopelessly inept questioning of Ruby by Chief Justice Warren, and by Warren’s failure to follow up on the leads Ruby was feeding him. Attorney Melvin Belli called Dorothy’s scoop “the ruin of the Warren Commission.” We should remind you that all of this took place at the same time she was a panelist on “What’s My Line?”. It caused an uncomfortable riff between Dorothy and host, John Daly. Don’t forget , I told you to whom he was married, earlier in this post.
Kilgallen claimed to have extremely relevant information gleaned from her private interview with Jack Ruby that could stop the presses. She told no one, save for her husband, and kept notes with her at all times. As stated earlier, everyone believed she was saving the news for an upcoming book, bound to be a blockbuster.
But that never happened.
On November 8, 1965, Kilgallen was found dead on the third floor of her five-story townhouse, just 12 hours after she appeared, live, on “What’s My Line”. Her hairdresser, Marc Sinclaire, found her body when he arrived the next morning. Her death was attributed to a fatal drug overdose. What’s interesting here is that no one knows for sure whether her death was considered a suicide or an accidental death.
By the way, the notes on the Jack Ruby interivew, the ones she never allowed out of her sight, were nowhere to be found after her death.
In closing, because of her open criticism of the Warren Commission and other US government entities, and her association with Jack Ruby and that “explosive” 1964 private interview with him, some speculate that she was murdered by members of the same alleged conspiracy that murdered JFK. Her claims that she was under surveillance by the FBI led to a theory that some people had a motive for killing her. This is partially based on the fact that throughout her career she consistently refused to identify any of her sources
Her death certificate cites the cause of death as “undetermined”.
Incredibly, information from the Freedom of Information Act, accessed by reporters in the years following her death indicate that the CIA had 53 field offices around the world watching her on her foreign travels. Given this context, it is hard to see her untimely death as a mere accident.
There is no statute of limitations on murder, and there are enough people still alive who know full-well what really happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963, but will that ever happen? Will we ever know the complete truth regarding the Kennedy assassination and what’s considered to be it’s vast “cover up”?
There are those who have said that full disclosure will happen in the year 2043 (I’ve also heard the year to be 2028, too). Those years were chosen for revelation, perhaps to ensure the deaths of every person involved. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it would be lovely to think that my great nieces and nephews might someday know what I never will. Something tells me that if this revelation should ever come to fruition, the list of names and the entities involved would be astonishing and much larger than we ever thought possible.
Dorothy Kilgallen once wrote, “Justice is a big rug. When you pull it out from under one person, a lot of others fall, too.”
In the case of the JFK assassination, wouldn’t it be lovely to think so.