She was the greatest and most famous gossip columnist of all time. Her name is synonymous with the word.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers here today to chat about the one and only, Louella.
Louella Parsons may not have invented the gossip column, but she certainly perfected it.
The story goes that Parsons, who had been working on various newspapers for years covering the movies and other items, began giving favorable coverage to film star Marion Davies.
Whether this was genuine praise, or whether Parsons knew Davies was the mistress of powerful newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst and was trying to ingratiate herself with Hearst is open to question.
The upshot was that Hearst kept reading Parsons’ stories, and eventually hired her to write for one of his papers. By this time Louella and Marion were friends and socialized. Louella was one of the guests on the infamous California cruise in 1924 aboard Hearst’s 280-foot yacht — when another guest, movie producer Tom Ince, expired in unusual circumstances.
Uncharacteristically, Louella kept her mouth shut about the incident.
Many people speculate that it was after Ince’s death that Hearst gave Parsons a long term contract, began to serialize her columns and propelled her into national importance. Was there a connection between Louella’s discretion and her professional emergence?
It is almost inconceivable now to comprehend the power Louella Parsons had for decades. She had the field to herself for many years before The Los Angeles Times hired sometime actress and natural gossip, Hedda Hopper, to compete with Parsons. (Hopper loved weird hats, and she sports one below.)
The two women then fueded for decades through the 40s and 50s. Both had radio programs as well.
Today, gossip about Hollywood and celebrities is mostly limited to TV, the internet, and specialty magazines. Those outlets appeal to people searching for that kind of material. But in their heydays, Parsons and Hopper reached into every home in America.
Louella remained faithful to Marion and Hearst and never mentioned Ince’s death.
Still, many people ask: “what did she know about Murder on the Hearst Yacht?”
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