AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Byline: Dominick Dunne
It amazes me how many people remember the mysterious death in 1965 of Dorothy Kilgallen, the controversial gossip columnist and television personality, which was reported in headlines nationwide as an accidental overdose of sleeping pills and liquor. On January 25, when I was a guest on Larry King Live, a woman called in from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to ask if I had known Kilgallen and if I had any opinions about her death. I hadn't given a thought to the columnist for decades, but a rush of information came out of my mouth, as if I had taken something long forgotten out of a storage vault.
When I first lived in New York, in the 1950s, Kilgallen was a huge celebrity. Her Sunday-night television show, What's My Line?, was watched by millions, and her daily column, "The Voice of Broadway," in the New York Journal-American, was so popular that she gave the great Walter Winchell a run for his money. She also happened to be a first-rate crime reporter, as her father, Jim Kilgallen, had been before her in the Hearst papers. She broke stories. She covered trials, including the famous courtroom drama of Dr. Sam Sheppard, whose conviction for murdering his wife was later overturned.
Kilgallen was not a pretty woman. She had an unfortunate chin, which robbed her face of beauty, but on opening nights and at El Morocco and the Stork Club she projected an aura of glamour with her magnificent evening dresses and jewels. She had wit, power, and a mean streak. Everybody read her, and a lot of people were afraid of her. Frank Sinatra hated her. Both Johnny Carson and Jack Paar disliked her and took potshots at her. She was married for years to Richard Kollmar, the father of her three children, and they had an early-morning radio show called Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick. She went to Mass on Sundays. She was a heavy drinker, and she took Seconal to sleep. She had lovers, and at one point she fell madly, passionately in love with the effete singer Johnnie Ray, whose greatest hits were "Cry" and "The Little White Cloud That Cried." Ray's romantic inclinations, however, went in another direction.
With her fame and her contacts, Kilgallen was able to get what was perhaps the only interview Jack Ruby ever gave before he died in prison. Ruby was the mystery man who shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President Kennedy, in the Dallas Police Station two days after Kennedy died, in one of the …