Friday, August 17, 2012

Freaky (Factual) Tale Friday: The Suspicious Death of Dorothy Kilgallen

(photo @ wikipedia)


From the late 1930's to the early 1960's, Dorothy Kilgallen was something of a journalistic enigma. She was a gossip columnist that rose to a such a degree of notoriety that she became as much (or more) of a celebrity than the people she was writing about. This was in no small part helped by her role as a panelist on the popular game show, 'What's My Line.'

But Kilgallen's writing didn't stay confined to just the entertainment business; she would also break and/or cover major stories in the world of politics and organized crime. A few of her most notable works include:

-Extensive coverage of the Sam Shepard murder trial.
-Being the first journalists to claim that the FBI was working with the Mafia to overthrow Castro.
-Being the first journalist to link Marilyn Monroe to John F. Kennedy.

As you can imagine, a few items on her work history ticked some of the wrong people, which is probably why FBI director J.Edgar Hoover kept a dossier on Kilgallen's activities.


                        recollectionbooks.com
To be fair, he might have just
been looking for some fashion ideas.


One of Kilgallen's biggest "gets," however, was when she was able to interview Jack Ruby alone. For any of you that don't follow history or watch Oliver Stone movies, Ruby was the man that killed Lee Harvey Oswald (President John F. Kennedy's alleged assassin) on live television...and then died a few years later due to a pulmonary embolism while suffering from lung cancer.

Considering the fact that Ruby told Dallas Deputy Sheriff Al Maddox that he believed he had been injected with cancer cells by the government...and that he told a psychiatrist he was framed for killing Oswald (a murder he willing committed in front of a national audience), Ruby wasn't exactly the most reliable source of information about the JFK assassination. But he had still managed to put himself at the center of it, and Kilgallen was the only reporter that got some one-on-one time with him (although her notes from that interview have yet to have ever been fully revealed).

She also managed to dig up some pretty impressive information from other areas, as well. Through her one of her numerous government contacts, Kilgallen obtained and released the (then classified) transcript of the Warren Commission's questioning of Jack Ruby...which once again, really pissed off some of the wrong people.

She also ran an interview with Acquilla Clemons, who witnessed the killing of Oswald's other victim in Dallas that day, Officer J.D. Tippit...except that according to Clemons (who was never questioned by the Warren Commission), she saw two men fleeing the scene of the shooting, neither of which fit Oswald's description.



Cliché, but surprisingly appropriate.


At this point, Kilgallen was on a mission to get to the bottom of the inconsistencies in the official JFK assassination story, but the desire to profit from it may have been her downfall. She reportedly told some friends of hers that she was "about to blow the JFK case sky high." She hadn't released her findings, however, because according to Ron Pataky (a film critic with whom she was having an affair), Kilgallen was planning to compile all of her findings into a book about the JFK assassination...which surely would have been a big hit for Random House publishing, who at the time had Kilgallen under contract.

But she also just might have been gathering more information to make sure her case (whatever it was going to end up being) was completely solid. She reportedly told her long time make-up man from 'What's My Line', Carmen Gebbia, that she was traveling to New Orleans to meet with a source...and that she would break the real JFK assassination case "if it's the last thing I do." 

She never got the chance.


Threats, Death, and Lots of Questions

According to many of people that were around Kilgallen during her final days, she seemed incredibly paranoid and spooked. She also confided in her hairdresser, Marc Sinclaire, that her life had been directly threatened due to her recent work.

On November 8, 1965, Dorothy Kilgallen was found dead in her home, just 12 hours after taping her appearance on 'What's My Line.'  The medical examiner determined that she had succumbed to a fatal combination of alcohol and barbiturates. It was eventually ruled as being accidental.

Right off the bat, however, things started smelling funny when the examiner typed "circumstances undetermined" on her death certificate. When interviewed in 1995, the medical examiner whose signature appears on the certificate had no recollection of ever signing it...or how he could have ever signed it at all since he wasn't stationed where Kilgallen had died.

Another very peculiar detail was that according to Sinclair, Kilgallen never slept in the bedroom in which she was found. She was also fully dressed and still in full hair/make-up from taping the show. People that talked with her that evening, including a Western Union rep at 2:00 AM (who she asked to pick up and deliver her latest column to the Journal-American) said she seemed perfectly fine.


Legacy of Silence

According to Lee Israel, who wrote Dorothy Kilgallen' biography, television producer Bob Bach visited with Richard Kollmar (Kilgallen's husband) hours after her funeral. When Bach asked about his late wife's interest in the JFK assassination, Kollmar responded: 

"Robert, I'm afraid that will have to go to the grave with me."

Author Mark Lane claims that when he asked Kollmar about her death and its possible ties to her work, he angrily responded that her investigation had "done enough damage already" and that "too many people have suffered as a result." Kollamar died five years later of an apparent suicide.

Killgallen's son, Dickie, claims to have been contacted in 1975 by the FBI, who were searching for his mother's notes on her investigation (which to this day have still not been found).

To date, no other family members or colleagues have come forward with any knowledge about President Kennedy's assassination that has not already been disclosed or declassified.


So...what happened?

Besides the tangled web of characters and a seemingly rational cause of death, there is quite a bit of evidence that suggests Dorothy Kilgallen was murdered. You would think, however, that she would have had some sort of fail safe in the event case she was killed for what she knew...especially since she believed that her life (and subsequently, her story) was in danger.

Enter RamblingBeachCat.com's own crackpot conspiracy theory (please humor us): Dorothy Kilgallen was found dead in the city of New York on November 8, 1965. The very next day, the Northeast Blackout cut power throughout the evening to a large portion of Canada and the northeastern United States...including New York City.


Yes, I know that was part of the plot to an episode
of Dark Skies, but I'm not blaming her death on aliens.


While a lot of conspiracy buffs blamed UFOs for the loss of power (because aliens are jerks, I guess), wouldn't it make more sense for the government (if they were, in fact, responsible for Kilgallen's death) to basically shut down any chance of a "show this to everyone if I'm killed" broadcast occurring?

Also, according to multiple eye witnesses, Kilgallen was seen in a serious/private discussion with an unidentified man until the wee hours of the morning that she died. Maybe she was giving him the scoop (in case she didn't live to see the next day) and the government got to him first...hence why the mystery man has never been identified...

...or maybe she was just cheating on her husband and her boyfriend with another guy. Kigallen had made enough enemies in her lifetime that if she was actually murdered, it may not have been related to the JFK assassination at all. But whatever the case, the death of Dorothy Kilgallen looks very suspicious to even the most ardent of conspiracy skeptics.  

And whether it really was an accidental overdose, a suicide, or a conspiracy related murder, the world lost a damn good reporter far too soon.

                                          latimes

Dorothy Kilgallen
1913-1965  

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H/T to DjangoStonereaver of Fark.com for pointing out that Jack Ruby died many months (more like a few years) after meeting with Kilgallen, not "a few months" as I had previously written. My blog sucks, but at least it sucks a little less now :b