The fascinating life of Dorothy Kilgallen, a pioneering journalist and television personality.

The fascinating life of Dorothy Kilgallen, a pioneering journalist and television personality.

Sandra Pandora | 
Pandora Writer | 
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Dorothy Kilgallen

As we commemorate Dorothy Kilgallen's birthday, let us remember her as a trailblazer, a woman who defied conventions, and a voice that refused to be silenced. May her legacy continue to inspire generations of journalists to strive for excellence, fearlessly pursue the truth, and make a difference in the world.

Happy birthday, Dorothy Kilgallen. Your courage, determination, and commitment to the truth will always be remembered and celebrated. 

Dorothy Kilgallen rose to prominence as a newspaper columnist and became one of the most influential TV personalities of the 1950s and 1960s.

She was born on July 3, 1913, in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents were James Lawrence Kilgallen, a journalist, and Mae Ahern, a former singer. Growing up, Dorothy was exposed to the world of journalism from a young age through her father’s work as a newspaper reporter.

Dorothy Kilgallen

After leaving College of New Rochelle in New York, Dorothy began her own career in journalism as a cub reporter for the New York Evening Journal, which later became the New York Journal-American. She became one of the youngest columnists in the history of the Hearst newspapers when she began writing her syndicated "Voice of Broadway" column. She covered a wide range of topics in her column, including celebrity gossip, current events, and true crime stories. Kilgallen also had a particular interest in high-profile criminal cases and conducted her own investigations into cases like the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Dorothy Kilgallen

In 1936, Dorothy Kilgallen embarked on an extraordinary adventure—a race around the world. Alongside two fellow New York newspaper reporters, Kilgallen competed using the only means of transportation available to the general public. Her participation in this historic event not only highlighted her pioneering spirit but also established her as a trailblazer for women in journalism. Kilgallen finished second in the race. Her decision to compete in the race around the world as the only woman among the participants was a testament to her determination and fearlessness.

Kilgallen's incredible experience in the race around the world became the inspiration for her book, "Girl Around the World." The book was published in 1936. Her book served as the story idea for the 1937 film, "Fly-Away Baby." If you happen to come across a copy of this book, consider it a rare treasure, as it is highly sought after and notoriously hard to find.

Kilgallen's reputation as an investigative journalist continued to grow throughout the 1940s as she uncovered stories about organized crime and shady politics. With her dedication to uncovering the truth, she quickly rose to become the most influential woman in journalism during a time when the field was dominated by men.

Dorothy Kilgallen

In addition to her work as a journalist, Kilgallen was also passionate about theater and entertainment. She frequently attended Broadway shows and movie premieres. Her love for entertainment would later play a key role in her career on television.

Dorothy Kilgallen's career on television began in 1950 when she was invited to be a regular panelist on the popular game show "What's My Line?” The show, which aired on CBS from 1950 to 1967, featured celebrity panelists who had to guess the occupation of a mystery guest by asking yes-or-no questions. Kilgallen became a fan favorite for her wit, intelligence, and sharp questioning skills.

Kilgallen's success on television helped her to become a recognizable media personality. She was also known for her elegant and sophisticated fashion style. She rose to prominence in a time when women's fashion was influenced by the glamorous and feminine aesthetics of that era. She often appeared in public dressed in chic dresses and fashionable coats, and was known to accessorize her outfits with stylish hats, which added a touch of flair to her overall look. 

Dorothy Kilgallen
Dorothy Kilgallen

Despite her fame, Kilgallen remained dedicated to her work as an investigative journalist. She continued to break major stories, including the trial of Dr. Sam Sheppard, a case that would later inspire the TV series "The Fugitive." She played a crucial role in securing a new trial for Sam Shepard. Kilgallen's work earned her a Pulitzer Prize nomination.

Dorothy Kilgallen's death on November 8, 1965, remains one of the most mysterious and controversial deaths in American history. She was found dead in her Manhattan apartment, and the cause of her death was listed as an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol. However, many have questioned the official ruling, suggesting that Kilgallen was murdered because of her work as an investigative journalist.

Dorothy Kilgallen

Kilgallen had been working on at least one high-profile case at the time of her death, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. She had expressed doubts about the Warren Commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the shooting; she had even conducted her own investigation into the matter. Kilgallen's findings may have put her in danger and led to her untimely death.

Kilgallen's legacy is a testament to the power of journalism in exposing injustice and holding the powerful accountable. Her commitment to truth and justice serves as a guiding light for aspiring journalists who strive to leave a lasting, positive impact on the world.


 Did you know?

Dorothy Kilgallen was married to Richard Kollmar. They had three children (Jill, Richard and Kerry). She also had a relationship with singer Johnnie Ray. Speculation suggests that Kerry might be the son of Johnnie Ray, as Dorothy and Johnnie Ray were involved in an affair during that period.

Dorothy Kilgallen

Kilgallen and Richard hosted an early morning radio talk show called "Breakfast With Dorothy and Dick" from 1945 through 1963.

Kilgallen traveled to Dallas, Texas, to provide coverage of a high-profile murder trial. During her time there, she managed to secure exclusive interviews with the defendant, Jack Ruby. Ruby was on trial for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, the suspected assassin of President John F. Kennedy.

After Lee Harvey Oswald was fatally shot by Jack Ruby, Kilgallen wrote. "The case is closed, is it? Well, I'd like to know how, in a big, smart town like Dallas, a man like Jack Ruby — owner of a strip tease honky tonk — can stroll in and out of police headquarters as if it was at a health club at a time when a small army of law enforcers is keeping a "tight security guard" on Oswald. Justice is a big rug. When you pull it out from under one man, a lot of others fall, too."

Kilgallen and the renowned singer and actor Frank Sinatra enjoyed a strong friendship for several years. However, their relationship took a turn when Kilgallen wrote a feature article titled "The Real Frank Sinatra Story," which made headlines in 1956. Following the publication, Sinatra began making disparaging remarks about Kilgallen's physical appearance. This falling out between Kilgallen and Sinatra marked a significant shift in their relationship, and their public interactions became fraught with tension and animosity.

Dorothy Kilgallen

Dorothy Kilgallen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

You'll see clips of Johnnie Ray at the beginning of Dexys Midnight Runners song “Come On Eileen.”

Dorothy Kilgallen's book, "Murder One," did not see publication until 1967, two years after her passing. "Murder One" allows readers to delve into the compelling mysteries she explored.

Kilgallen's untimely death at the age of 52 to this day remains shrouded in mystery.

Dorothy KilgallenDorothy Kilgallen
Dorothy Kilgallen
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