Dorothy Kilgallen, the daughter of James Kilgallen, a successful journalist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, on 3rd July, 1913. Kilgallen studied at New Rochelle College before beginning work as a journalist at The New York Journal, a newspaper owned by William Randolph Hearst.
Kilgallen became a crime reporter and covered several important cases for her newspaper. This included the trials of Anna Antonio (1934), Eva Coo (1935) and Richard Bruno Hauptmann (1935).
In September 1936 Kilgallen took part in a "race around the world" against fellow newsmen Bud Ekins of the New York World-Telegram and Leo Kieran of the New York Times. The trip took Kilgallen 24 days and she came second to Ekins (21 days). Afterwards she published her book, Girl Around The World. She also appeared in the film, Sinner Take All, in 1936. The following year she wrote the film script, Fly Away Baby.
Kilgallen abandoned her film career and returned to work at The New York Journal. In November, 1937 she was given her own column, "Hollywood Scene". The following year she began writing a new column, "The Voice of Broadway", for the newspaper.
In 1940 Kilgallen married Richard Kollmar. Over the next couple of years the couple had three children (Jill, Richard and Kerry). In April 1945 the couple began a daily morning radio show, Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick. The programme went out live: Monday to Saturday (8.15 to 8.55 a.m.) and Sunday (11.30 to 12.00). Over the years the programme was gradually commercialized. Companies paid to have their products mentioned over breakfast and theatre producers arranged to have their plays and musicals discussed over breakfast. Films and books were also promoted by the hosts.
By 1941 the column was appearing in 24 other newspapers. Kilgallen was now one of the most important gossip columnist in America. In 1950 it was estimated that she had twenty million readers. Kilgallen achieved this position by developing a very good strategy for gaining secret information about famous people. Kilgallen was swamped with requests by press agents to plug the activities of their clients. Kilgallen always refused these requests. Instead she offered a deal. "Bring me three detrimental stories concerning other stars and I will include a good piece about your client." As these stars were usual rivals of their clients, they were only too willing to do so.
Kilgallen also became a television star and was for 15 years a regular panelist on the television programme, What's My Line? (1950-1965). As well as her gossip column, Kilgallen continued to report on famous criminal case. Her investigative work secured a new trial for Sam Shepard. (His case was later the basis for the popular television series, The Fugitive).
Kilgallen sometimes wrote articles about political issues. According to several of her close friends, Kilgallen received information from the Central Intelligence Agency. A study of her writings suggests she was an important CIA media asset. Kilgallen was extremely well-informed about the situation in Cuba. In 1959 and 1960 Kilgallen included a large number of anti-Castro stories in her column. Some of this information came from Cuban exiles based in Miami.
Sometimes Kilgallen included highly subversive material in her column. For example, on 15th July, 1959, Kilgallen became the first journalist to suggest that the CIA and the Mafia were working together in order to assassinate Fidel Castro. This disclosure upset high-ranking government officials and J. Edgar Hoover began to keep a dossier on Kilgallen's activities.
In September, 1959, Kilgallen reported on the visit of Nikita Khrushchev for the Journal-American. Kilgallen created a storm when she attacked the dress sense of his wife, Nina Khrushchev: "The grisliness of her attire amounts almost to a demonstration of piety... It would be difficult to find clothes comparable to hers in the waiting room of a New York employment agency for domestic help; in this decadent capitalistic republic, applicants for jobs as launderesses, chambermaids, and cooks usually are far more a la mode than Russia's first lady." So many people complained about the article that Kilgallen feared she would have to resign.
Kilgallen was also sued for libel by the journalist Elaine Shepard. In an article published on 22nd December, 1959, it was suggested that a female member of the Washington press group that joined President Dwight Eisenhower on a tour of Europe had had an affair with someone on the White House staff. Although eighty-three reporters who accompanied Eisenhower, Shepard was the only woman. She therefore sued for $750,000 claiming that Kilgallen "had maliciously implied that she was a person of lewd and unchase character". The case was to drag on for the next few years and created a great deal of stress for Kilgallen.
In 1961 Kilgallen covered the murder trial of Bernard Finch and Carole Tregoff. Bennett Cerf of Random House was very impressed with these reports and as a result commissioned her to write a book called Murder One. The book was to contain a series of chapters on famous murder cases she had reported on since the early 1930s.
At the end of the Stephen Ward trial, Newspapers began reporting on the sex parties attended by Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies. The Washington Star quoted Rice-Davies as saying "there was a dinner party where a naked man wearing a mask waited on table like a slave." Kilgallen wrote an article for Journal-American where she stated: "The authorities searching the apartment of one of the principals in the case came upon a photograph showing a key figure disporting with a bevy of ladies. All were nude except for the gentleman in the picture who was wearing an apron. And this is a man who has been on extremely friendly terms with the very proper Queen and members of her immediate family!"
The News of the World immediately identified the hostess at the dinner party as being Mariella Novotny. Various rumours began to circulate about the name of the man who wore the mask and apron. This included John Profumo and another member of the government, Ernest Marples. Whereas another minister, Lord Hailsham, the leader of the House of Lords at the time, issued a statement saying it was not him. Novotny refused to comment on her activities and the man in the mask remained unidentified. However, Time Magazine speculated that it was film director, Anthony Asquith, the son of former prime minister, Herbert Asquith.
In March, 1963, Kilgallen was taken to hospital suffering from anemia. Her husband, Richard Kollmar, attempted to carry on with the daily morning radio show, Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick. However, without Dorothy it lost its appeal and in April the show was brought to an end.
Over the years Kilgallen received a great deal of information about the affairs of John F. Kennedy. However, she was a close friend of Kennedy (they had met via his mistress, Florence Pritchett). One day she was gossiping about Kennedy with her friend Allen Stokes. He asked her why she did not write about it in her column. She replied "I couldn't possibly". It would have been a great scoop. But she decided to protect him.
However, Kilgallen broke this rule when on the 3rd August, 1962, she became the first journalist to refer to Kennedy's relationship with Marilyn Monroe. She did not actually name him but left enough clues for the readers to identify Kennedy as the secret man in Monroe's life (later Kilgallen told friends she was actually referring to Robert Kennedy). One can only assume that she came under severe pressure from someone to write this story.
The following day, Monroe was found dead. Kilgallen must have realized that she had been set her up to smear the Kennedy brothers. Rumours soon began circulating that Robert Kennedy had arranged Monroe's death to protect his brother's reputation.
John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on 22nd November, 1963. Kilgallen took a keen interest in the case and soon became convinced that Kennedy had not been killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. Kilgallen had a good contact within the Dallas Police Department. He 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 reflected in the radio communications. This enabled 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 pointed out that he lied when he told reporters the next day that he initially thought the shots were fired from the Texas Book Depository.
Kilgallen also had a source within the Warren Commission. This person gave her an 102 page segment dealing with Jack Ruby before it was published. She published details of this leak and so therefore ensuring that this section appeared in the final version of the report. The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the leak and on 30th September, 1964, Kilgallen reported in the New York Journal American that the FBI "might have been more profitably employed in probing the facts of the case rather than how I got them".
In another of her stories, Kilgallen claimed that Marina Oswald knew a great deal about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. If she told the "whole story of her life with President Kennedy's alleged assassin, it would split open the front pages of newspapers all over the world."
Kilgallen's reporting brought her into contact with Mark Lane who had himself received an amazing story from the journalist Thayer Waldo. He had discovered that Jack Ruby, J. D. Tippet and Bernard Weismann had a meeting at the Carousel Club eight days before the assassination. Waldo, who worked for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, was too scared to publish the story. He had other information about the assassination. However, he believed that if he told Lane or Kilgallen he would be killed. Kilgallen's article on the Tippit, Ruby and Weissman meeting appeared on the front page of the Journal American. Later she was to reveal that the Warren Commission were also tipped off about this gathering. However, their informant added that there was a fourth man at the meeting, an important figure in the Texas oil industry.
Kilgallen published several articles about how important witnesses had been threatened by the Dallas Police or the FBI. On 25th September, 1964, Kilgallen published an interview with Acquilla Clemons, one of the witnesses to the shooting of J. D. Tippet. In the interview Clemons told Kilgallen that she saw two men running from the scene, neither of whom fitted Oswald's description. Clemons added: "I'm not supposed to be talking to anybody, might get killed on the way to work."
Kilgallen was keen to interview Jack Ruby. She went to see Ruby's lawyer Joe Tonahill and claimed she had a message for his client from a mutual friend. It was only after this message was delivered that Ruby agreed to be interviewed by Kilgallen. Tonahill remembers that the mutual friend was from San Francisco and that he was involved in the music industry. Kennedy researcher, Greg Parker, has suggested that the man was Mike Shore, co-founder of Reprise Records.
The interview with Ruby lasted eight minutes. No one else was there. Even the guards agreed to wait outside. Officially, Kilgallen never told anyone about what Ruby said to her during this interview. Nor did she publish any information she obtained from the interview. There is a reason for this. Kilgallen was in financial difficulties in 1964. This was partly due to some poor business decisions made by her husband, Richard Kollmar. The couple had also lost the lucrative contract for their radio show Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick. Kilgallen also was facing an expensive libel case concerning an article she wrote about Elaine Shepard. Her financial situation was so bad she fully expected to lose her beloved house in New York City.
Kilgallen was a staff member of Journal American. Any article about the Jack Ruby interview in her newspaper would not have helped her serious financial situation. Therefore she decided to include what she knew about the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Murder One. She fully expected that this book would earn her a fortune. This is why she refused to tell anyone, including Mark Lane, about what Ruby told her in the interview arranged by Tonahill. In October, 1965, told Lane that she had a new important informant in New Orleans.
Kilgallen began to tell friends that she was close to discovering who assassinated Kennedy. According to David Welsh of Ramparts Magazine Kilgallen "vowed she would 'crack this case.' And another New York show biz friend said Dorothy told him in the last days of her life: "In five more days I'm going to bust this case wide open." Aware of what had happened to two other journalists working on the case: Bill Hunter (murdered on 23rd April 1964) and Jim Koethe, (murdered 21st September, 1964), Kilgallen handed a draft copy of her chapter on the assassination to her friend, Florence Smith.
On 8th November, 1965, Kilgallen, was found dead in her New York apartment. She was fully dressed and sitting upright in her bed. The police reported that she had died from taking a cocktail of alcohol and barbiturates. The notes for the chapter she was writing on the case had disappeared. Her friend, Florence Smith, died two days later. The copy of Kilgallen's article were never found.
Some of her friends believed Kilgallen had been murdered. Marc Sinclaire was Kilgallen's personal hairdresser. He often woke Kilgallen in the morning. Kilgallen was usually out to the early hours of the morning and like her husband always slept late. When he found her body he immediately concluded she had been murdered.
(1) Kilgallen was not sleeping in her normal bedroom. Instead she was in the master bedroom, a room she had not occupied for several years.
(2) Kilgallen was wearing false eyelashes. According to Sinclaire she always took her eyelashes off before she went to bed.
(3) She was found sitting up with the book, The Honey Badger, by Robert Ruark, on her lap. Sinclaire claims that she had finished reading the book several weeks earlier (she had discussed the book with Sinclaire at the time).
(4) Kilgallen had poor eyesight and could only read with the aid of glasses. Her glasses were not found in the bedroom where she died.
(5) Kilgallen was found wearing a bolero-type blouse over a nightgown. Sinclaire claimed that this was the kind of thing "she would never wear to go to bed".
Mark Lane also believed that Kilgallen had been murdered. He said that "I would bet you a thousand-to-one that the CIA surrounded her (Kilgallen) as soon as she started writing those stories." The only new person who became close to Kilgallen during the last few months was her new secret lover. In her book, Lee Israel, in her book, Kilgallen (1979) calls him the "Out-of-Towner".
According to Israel she met him in Carrara in June, 1964, during a press junket for journalists working in the film industry. The trip was paid for by Twentieth Century-Fox who used it to publicize three of its films: The Sound of Music, The Agony and the Ecstasy and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. Israel claims that the "Out-of-Towner" went up to Kilgallen and asked her if she was Clare Booth Luce. This is in itself an interesting introduction. Kilgallen and Luce did not look like each other. Luce and her husband (Henry Luce) however were to play an important role in the events surrounding the assassination. Luce owned Life Magazine and arranged to buy up the Zapruder Film . Clare Booth Luce had also funded covert operations against Fidel Castro (1961-63).
It has been suggested by John Simkin that Kilgallen suspected that "Out-of-Towner" was a CIA spy. She therefore told her friends this is what he said so that if anything happened to her, a future investigator would realize that he was a CIA agent with links to Clare Booth Luce.
Lee Israel has always refused to identify the "Out-of-Towner". In 1993 the investigative reporter, David Herschel, discovered that his real name was Ron Pataky. In 1965 he had been a journalist working for the Columbus Citizen-Journal. He admitted that he was the "Out-of-Towner" and that he worked on articles about the assassination of John F. Kennedy with Kilgallen. Pataky also confessed to meeting Kilgallen several times in the Regency Hotel. However, he denied Lee Israel's claim that he was with her on the night of her death.
In December, 2005, Lee Israel admitted that the "Out-of-Towner" was Ron Pataky and that "he had something to do with it (the murder of Dorothy Kilgallen)".
(1) Dorothy Kilgallen, New York Journal American (26th February, 1956)
Success has not changed Frank Sinatra. When he was unappreciated and obscure, he was hot-tempered, egotistical, extravagant, and moody. Now that he is rich and famous, with the world on a string and sapphires in his cufflinks, he is still hot-tempered, egotistical, extravagant, and moody.
(2) Dorothy Kilgallen, New York Journal American (15th July, 1959)
If our state department heads in Washington deny they're gravely worried over the explosive situation in Cuba and nearby Latin American countries, they're either giving out false information for reasons of their own or playing ostrich, which might prove to be a dangerous game. US intelligence is virtually nonexistent if the government isn't aware that Russia already has bases in Cuba, and Russian pilots in uniform are strutting openly in Havana... Fidel Castro is the target for so many assassins they're apt to fall over each other in their efforts to get him. The Mafia want to knock him off. So do the Batista sympathizers, of course, and then there are his own disillusioned rebels, just for starters. He has machine guns and other ammunition mounted on every key rooftop near his base of operations, but the smart money doubts if any amount of precaution can change his status as a clay pigeon.
(3) Dorothy Kilgallen, New York Journal American (15th September, 1959)
The grisliness of her attire amounts almost to a demonstration of piety... It would be difficult to find clothes comparable to hers in the waiting room of a New York employment agency for domestic help; in this decadent capitalistic republic, applicants for jobs as launderesses, chambermaids, and cooks usually are far more a la mode than Russia's first lady... Mrs. Khrushchev's blue-and-gray suit was wrinkled... at least four inches shorter at the hem than is currently correct... It had no point of view, right or wrong. It was just there like a home-made slip cover on a sofa.
(4) Lee Israel, Kilgallen (1979)
There had been some snide little items about her (Dorothy Kilgallen) in the columns, an occasional short profile in the magazines, and frequent strafing from television performers. Jack Paar led the pack in 1960, taking up Sinatra's slack. That tempestuous round began when Dorothy swiped at him in the column over his impassioned support of Fidel Castro. She was violently opposed to the new Cuban leader and peppered her column with anti-Castro items, many of which appear to have been fed to her by Miami-based exiles or CIA fronts on an almost daily basis. Paar retaliated on his prime-time, high-rated television show.
(5) New York Post (28th April, 1960)
In recent months she (Dorothy Kilgallen) has often been in the company of singer Johnnie Ray, a troubled young man whose career suffered serious setbacks in the past few years. Her relationship to Ray has been described - there has never been a hint of anything else - as "maternal and protective," and sometimes her maternal instinct is positively fierce.
"I saw her at the Waldorf with Ray," a friend recalled. "She left the table for a moment and some young, pretty girl usurped her chair and proceeded to tell Ray how good she thought he was. Dorothy came back, flew at the girl telling her to 'Keep your hands off my escort and leave the table.' It was the only time I ever saw her lose her temper in public."
"It's an odd relationship - but it's certainly antiseptic," said society photographer Jerome Zerbe. "Ray is rather an insecure person and she gives him security and companionship. And he's an excellent escort for her - her husband is busy so many evenings. It's one of those relationships that is mutually satisfactory."
(6) Dorothy Kilgallen, New York Journal American (3rd August, 1962)
Marilyn Monroe's health must be improving. She's been attending select Hollywood parties and has become the talk of the town again. In California, they're circulating a photograph of her that certainly isn't as bare as he famous calendar, but is very interesting... And she's cooking in the sex-appeal department, too; she's proved vastly alluring to a handsome gentleman who is a bigger name than Joe DiMaggio in his heyday. So don't write off Marilyn as finished.
(7) Central Intelligence Agency report on Dorothy Kilgallen and Marilyn Monroe (3rd August, 1962). It is believed that this document is a forgery.
Wiretap of telephone conversation between reporter Dorothy Kilgallen and her close friend, Howard Rothberg; from wiretap of telephone conversation of Marilyn Monroe and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Appraisal of Content: (Blacked Out).
1. Rothberg discussed the apparent comeback of subject with Kilgallen and the break up with the Kennedys. Rothberg told Kilgallen that she was attending Hollywood parties hosted by the "inner circle" among Hollywood's elite and was becoming the talk of the town again. Rothberg indicated in so many words, that she had secrets to tell, no doubt arising from her trists (sic) with the President and the Attorney General. One such (illegible) mentions the visit by the President at a secret air base for the purpose of inspecting things from outer space. Kilgallen replied that she knew what might be the source of the visit. In the mid-fifties Kilgallen learned of secret effort by US and UK governments to identify the origins of crashed spacecraft and dead bodies, from a British government official. Kilgallen believed the story may have come from the (illegible) in the late forties. Kilgallen said that if the story is true, it could cause terrible embarrassment to Jack and his plans to have NASA put men on the moon.
2. Subject repeatedly called the Attorney General and complained about the way she was being ignored by the President and his brother.
3. Subject threatened to hold a press conference and would tell all.
4. Subject made references to "bases" in Cuba and knew of the President's plan to kill Castro.
5. Subject made reference to her "diary of secrets" and what the newspapers would do with such disclosures.
(8) Dorothy Kilgallen, New York Journal American (29th November, 1963)
President Lyndon Johnson has been elevated so swiftly to his new high post that in one sense, he has been snatched up into an ivory tower.
As Chief Executive, he is no longer in a position to hear the voices of ordinary people talking candidly.
If he could walk invisible along the streets of the nation and listen to ordinary people talking he would realize that he must make sure that the mystery of Lee Harvey Oswald is solved and laid before the nation down to the smallest shred of evidence.
If Oswald was President Kennedy's assassin, he was the most important prisoner the police of this country had in custody in 100 years, and no blithe announcement in Dallas is going to satisfy the American public that the case is closed."
President Johnson has directed the FBI to look into every aspect of the case, but he must go a giant step further.
He must satisfy the public's uneasy mind about this peculiar assassination of the assassin or he will start his term in office by making a dire political mistake that could cost him the 1964 election.
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 - operator of a striptease honky tonk -could stroll in and out of police headquarters as if it were a health club at a time when a small army of law enforcers was keeping a "tight security guard" on Oswald.
Security! What a word for it.
I wouldn't try to speak for the people of Dallas, but around here, the people I talk to really believe that a man has the right to be tried in court.
When that right is taken away from any man by the incredible combination of Jack Ruby and insufficient security, we feel chilled.
Justice is a big rug. When you pull it out from under one man, a lot of others fall too.
That is why so many people are saying there is "something queer" about the killing of Oswald, something strange about the way his case was handled, and a great deal missing in the official account of his crime.
The American people have just lost a beloved President.
It is a dark chapter in our history, but we have the right to read every word of it. It cannot be kept locked in a file in Dallas.
(9) Dorothy Kilgallen, New York Journal American (21st February, 1964)
Herbert Miller (assistant attorney general) informed Tonahill that (although it was unusual to be sure) the FBI would be instructed to turn over to the defense the names and present addresses of persons who knew Ruby, or had met him at some time in his life, or who had expressed opinions about his personality or recalled incidents which might be important to the case. The "kicker" - the punchline? Mr. Miller's sentence: "information concerning Oswald's assassination of the President will not be available as it does not appear to be relevant."
Say that again, slowly. Information concerning Oswald's assassination of the President will not be available. Perhaps it is dramatizing to say that there is an Orwellian note in that line.
But it does make you think, doesn't it?
It appears that Washington knows or suspects something about Lee Harvey Oswald that it does not want Dallas and the rest of the world to know or suspect... Lee Harvey Oswald has passed on not only to his shuddery reward, but to the mysterious realm of "classified" persons whose whole story is known only to a few government agents... Why is Oswald being kept in the shadows, as dim a figure as they can make him, white the defense tries to rescue his alleged killer with the help of information from the FBI? Who was Oswald, anyway?
(10) Lee Israel, Kilgallen (1979)
Under the headline NEW DOROTHY KILGALLEN EXCLUSIVE - TALE OF "RICH OIL MAN" AT RUBY CLUB - Dorothy printed Mark's secret testimony. But his testimony implicated a trio at the Carousel: Ruby, Tippit, and Weissman. Reexamining the transcript of Ruby's testimony before the commission, she noticed that the questions posed to him concerned not a trio, but a quartet. Earl Warren, in his questioning, informed Ruby that Lane had said: "In your Carousel Club you and Weisman (sic) and Tippit... and a rich oil man had an interview or conversation for an hour or two."
Dorothy, who did not have access yet to the complete Warren Report, had to deduce:
"The mention of the "rich oil man" by Chief Justice Warren would indicate then, that the Commission was informed of the meeting by a source other than Mr. Lane, and that this second source provided the name of a fourth party - the oil man. If that is not the case, if the Commission had only Mr. Lane's testimony to go on, it would appear that the oil man was "invented" by the investigators. And it is difficult to imagine the Commission doing any such thing.
The introduction of the rich oil man into the questioning effectively discombobulated the already-confused Jack Ruby.
When the report was released, it was clear that no testimony was given by any of the 552 witnesses about a rich oil man. Either there was a significant omission in the report of the Warren Commission, or the oil man was part of the unofficial corpus of information to which Warren was privy, or Dorothy's thesis - however "difficult to imagine" - was correct.
(11) Dorothy Kilgallen, New York Journal American (23rd August, 1964)
Twenty-four hours after the assassination, however, Chief Curry assured reporters that the sound of the shots told him at once they had come from the Texas School Depository and that "right away" he radioed an order to surround and search the building. But actually, as we see from the Police Department's official version of events. Chief Curry's immediate concern was not the Depository, but the triple-tiered overpass : towards which the Presidential car was moving at about eight miles an hour when the fatal shots were fired.
(12) Dorothy Kilgallen, New York Journal American (3rd September, 1965)
Those close to the scene realize that if the widow of Lee Harvey Oswald (now married to another chap) ever gave out the "whole story" of her life with President Kennedy's alleged assassin, it would split open the front pages of newspapers all over the world. Even if Marina explained why her late husband looked so different in an official police photo and the widely-printed full-length picture featured on the cover of Life magazine, it would cause a sensation. This story isn't going to die as long as there's a real reporter alive - and there are a lot of them. This story (the Kennedy assassination) isn't going to die as long as there's a real reporter alive - and there are a lot of them.
(13) Lee Israel, Kilgallen (1979)
During one of her (Kilgallen’s) visits - sometime in March, before the verdict – she prevailed upon Joe Tonahill to make arrangements through Judge Brown for a private interview with Jack Ruby.
Brown, awestruck by Dorothy, acceded readily to Tonahill’s request. The meeting room in the jailhouse was bugged, and Tonahill suspected that Brown’s chambers were as well. Brown and Tonahill chose a small office off the courtroom behind the judge’s bench. They asked Ruby’s ubiquitous flank of four sheriff’s guards to consent to remain outside the room.
Dorothy was standing by the room during a noon recess. Ruby appeared with Tonahill. The three entered the room and closed the door. The defendant and Dorothy stood facing each other, spoke of their mutual friend, and indicated that they wanted to be left alone. Tonahill withdrew. They were together privately for about eight minutes, in what may have been the only safe house Ruby had occupied since his arrest.
Dorothy would mention the fact of the interview to close friends, but never the substance. Not once, in her prolific published writings, did she so much as refer to the private interview. Whatever notes she took during her time alone with Jack Ruby in the small office off the judge’s bench were included in a file she began to assemble on the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
(14) New York Journal American (15th November, 1965)
The death of Dorothy Kilgallen, Journal-American columnist and famed TV personality, was contributed to by a combination of moderate quantities of alcohol and barbiturates, a medical examiner's report stated today.
As many personalities whose multiple duties and responsibilities demand unceasing attention, Miss Kilgallen experienced recurring tensions in meeting her deadlines for performances - both as a newspaperwoman and TV performer.
In his report today, Dr. James Luke, Assistant Medical Examiner, said that although Miss Kilgallen had only "moderate amounts of each," the effect of the combination had caused depression of the central nervous system "which in turn caused her heart to stop."
(15) William Penn Jones, The Midlothian Mirror (November 25, 1965)
I have a concern for the strange things happening in America in recent months. With the passing of the second anniversary of the murder of President Kennedy, we take not of some of the strange things which continue to plague those around the principals.
Miss Dorothy Kilgallen joins the growing list of persons who have died after a private interview with one of the two members of the Jack Ruby-George Senator team. We have printed the strange deaths of Bill Hunter and Jim Koethe after they had a private interview with George Senator and Ruby’s attorney, Tom Howard. Hunter and Koethe were murdered. Lawyer Tom Howard died under strange circumstances...
Now Miss Kilgallen dies under clouded circumstances. During the Ruby trial in Dallas, Judge Joe B. Brown granted Miss Kilgallen a privilege given no other newsman. She had thirty minutes alone in a room with Jack Ruby. Even the guards were outside the door. Miss Kilgallen told some of what went of during the interview in her columns. But was someone afraid she knew more? Is she another victim of possibly knowing the secret that still moves in the troubled mind of Jack Ruby?...
What is happening in our land? How many murders of persons connected in some way with the assassination principals can go unnoticed by our people? How many lies must we prove on The Warren Commission before a demand for reopening becomes a commanding one?
(16) William Penn Jones, Volume I: Forgive My Grief (1966)
Now we can add to that list of strange deaths that of Miss Dorothy Kilgallen. Miss Kilgallen joins Bill Hunter, Jim Koethe, Tom Howard and others. Miss Kilgallen is the only journalist who was granted a private interview with Jack Ruby since he killed Lee Oswald. Judge Joe B. Brown granted the interview during the course of the Ruby trial in Dallas – to the intense anger of the hundreds of other news people present.
(17) David Welsh, Ramparts Magazine (November, 1966)
We know of no serious person who really believes that the death of Dorothy Kilgallen, the gossip columnist, was related to the Kennedy assassination. Still, she was passionately interested in the case, told friends she firmly believed there was a conspiracy and that she would find out the truth if it took her all her life.
Miss Kilgallen was the first to make public the existence of Acquilla Clemons, a witness to the Tippit killing whose name does not appear once in the Warren Report or volumes. She was also the only reporter ever to interview Jack Ruby privately since the killing of Oswald. During the Ruby trial, which she covered for the now defunct New York Journal-American, Judge Joe E. Brown granted her 30 minutes alone with Ruby in the judge's chambers; the other reporters were furious.
One of the biggest scoops of Miss Kilgallen's career came when she pirated the transcript of Ruby's testimony before the Warren Commission and ran it in the Journal-American. Thousands of New Yorkers were shocked at the hopelessly inept questioning of Ruby by Chief Justice Warren, by Warren's almost deliberate failure to follow up the leads Ruby was feeding him.
Miss Kilgallen died in her bed on November 8, 1965. Dr. James Luke, a New York City medical examiner, said the cause of death was "acute barbiturate (sic) and alcohol intoxication, circumstances undetermined." Dr. Luke said there were not high enough levels of either alcohol or barbiturates (sic) to have caused death, but that the two are "additive" and together are quite enough to kill. This cause of death, he observed, is not at all uncommon. Was it suicide? Accident? Murder? - Dr. Luke said there was no way of determining that.
As we say, Dorothy Kilgallen probably does not belong on any list of Kennedy-related deaths. But questions do remain. An editor of Screen Stars magazine, Mary Brannum, says she received a phone call a few hours before Dorothy's body was discovered, announcing that she had been murdered. Miss Kilgallgen's "What's My Line" makeup man said that shortly before her death she vowed she would "crack this case." And another New York show biz friend said Dorothy told him in the last days of her life: "In five more days I'm going to bust this case wide open."
(18) William Penn Jones, Volume II: Forgive My Grief (1967)
Tom Howard knew too much from Ruby and he knew too well how the Dallas power structure and Police Department worked. Howard had to die.
At the Ruby trial in Dallas during March of 1964, Dorothy Kilgallen had a private interview during one of the noon recesses with Judge Joe B. Brown. This was immediately followed by a thirty minute private interview with Jack Ruby in Judge Brown’s chambers. Even Ruby’s bodyguards were kept outside the Judge’s chambers. Joe Tonahill and others thought the meeting room in the jail was “bugged,” but it is doubtful if the Judge’s own chambers would be bugged. Judges have the power of contempt of court for such irregularities.
This then, was the second person Ruby had talked to who could know for whom Ruby was acting; therefore Miss Kilgallen had to be silenced along with Tom Howard.
Shortly before her death, Miss Kilgallen told a friend in New York that she was going to New Orleans in 5 days and break the case wide open. Miss Kilgallen 52, died November 8, 1965, under questionable circumstances in her New York home. Eight days after her death, a ruling was made that she died of barbiturates and drink with no quantities of either ingredient being given.
Also strangely, Miss Kilgallen’s close friend, Mrs. Earl E.T. Smith, died two days after Miss Kilgallen. Mrs. Smith’s autopsy read that the cause of death was unknown.
Many skeptical newsmen have asked: “If Miss Kilgallen knew anything, surely as a journalist wouldn’t she have left some notes?” This is a legitimate question. Possibly Mrs. Smith was the trusted friend with the notes. No one will ever know now.
(19) Jim Marrs, Crossfire (1989)
Whatever information Kilgallen learned and from whatever source, many researchers believe it brought about her strange death. She told attorney Mark Lane: "They've killed the President, (and) the government is not prepared to tell us the truth . . . " and that she planned to "break the case." To other friends she said: "This has to be a conspiracy! . . . I'm going to break the real story and have the biggest scoop of the century." And in her last column item regarding the assassination, published on September 3, 1965, Kilgallen wrote: "This story isn't going to die as long as there's a real reporter alive - and there are a lot of them." But on November 8, 1965, there was one less reporter. That day Dorothy Kilgallen was found dead in her home. It was initially reported that she died of a heart attack, but quickly this was changed to an overdose of alcohol and pills.
(20) David B. Herschel (18th November, 1993)
As the thirtieth anniversary of the JFK assassination approaches, I must tell the world about a 58-year-old man who can identify the conspirators. What follows has never been published before. I am a journalism student at Virginia Commonwealth University who was born after the assassination. I don't have the money to travel to New York City where I know of people who can testify that this 58-year-old man holds the key. In the limited time I have had to solicit media people who could expose this story, they have all dismissed the idea as libelous. The Washington Post and the New York Press (a free weekly) turned it down. My faculty has no pull.
So please, somebody, steal the following story! I'm a poor student who must prepare for final exams. Can you send this along to a journalist you know who can publish or broadcast it? He or she knows that the best defense against libel is the truth, which is:
The JFK assassination conspirators recruited Ron Pataky, now 58, to seduce and kill journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. Their motive was to prevent her from printing the truth about November 22, 1963 in her widely read newspaper. She had already published front-page stories in newspapers around the country implicating Chief Justice Earl Warren and the Justice Department in the cover-up. She worked closely with Mark Lane, a lawyer who in 1964/65 was working on his ground-breaking assassination book "Rush To Judgment." He gave Kilgallen leads for her news stories. In the fall of 1965, she told him and other friends that she was about to travel to Dallas, where she expected to find evidence that would break the JFK case wide open.
But on November 7, 1965, a newspaper columnist named Ron Pataky waited for his intimate friend Dorothy Kilgallen to arrive for a prearranged meeting in the cocktail lounge of New York's Regency Hotel. That night she appeared as usual as a panelist on the TV game show called "What's My Line?". Millions of people around North America saw her figure out the careers of two contestants as CBS broadcast the series live from 10:30 to 11:00 pm. She then joined Bob Bach, the producer of "What's My Line?", at a club called P.J. Clarke's, whose employees later admitted having seen her. After midnight, she left Bach to visit the cocktail lounge of the Regency Hotel (Park Ave. and 61st St.), whose employees have never admitted what they saw.
One Regency employee, Harvey Daniels (press agent), did tell a writer in 1976 that he saw Kilgallen enter the cocktail lounge at about 1:00 am on November 8. But he did not pay attention to where or with whom she sat. He left the building shortly thereafter. This writer who interviewed him is Ms. Lee Israel, a veteran magazine journalist whose conversations with Helen Gahagan Douglas and Katherine Hepburn had appeared in Esquire and Saturday Review. When Ms. Israel tried to interview other Regency employees for the Kilgallen book she was working on, the management (Loews Hotels) warned her away.
I found out earlier this month (November 1993) that several employees of the Regency who were on duty that night still work there. The only name I know is John Mahon, a bartender. He told me that he and various waiters and bellhops will talk if you clear it with Loews Hotels. The contact person, Debra Kelman, did NOT work there in 1976 when Loews told Lee Israel to keep away.
The direct line to Debra Kelman is 212-545-2833. On the phone she sounds too young to remember the assassination. But I don't have the money to stay in New York to interview anyone.
What could you get out of an interview with a Regency employee? Well, the official cause of Dorothy Kilgallen's death is an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol, "circumstances undetermined." I interviewed Ron Pataky and I believe he gave her a Mickey Finn in that hotel lounge. When Loews Hotels warned away Lee Israel in 1976, the media did not have the power it has today. Oprah Winfrey and cable TV had not yet come along, and the JFK assassination was still largely a taboo topic. Someone who approaches Loews and then bartender John Mahon and other Regency employees may get better results today.
You might wonder about contacting Ron Pataky. I already interviewed him on the phone for three hours and taped it. In the beginning of the conversation he became very upset when I asked about his frequent stays at the Regency in 1964/65. He then rambled on about his "close friendship" with Dorothy Kilgallen. He later admitted to talking to her on the phone long distance five times a week, often at three in the morning. He revealed that she made overseas calls to him from a vacation she made to Europe, and she sometimes used his Regency Hotel suite to change clothes before they painted the town in New York. He says he wrote the lead paragraph to one of her JFK articles. He first met her a year and five months before she died, but he denies that they had an affair.
(21) Donald Nolen, review of Lee Israel, Kilgallen, Amazon (14th January, 2004)
So posterity needs to evaluate each mysterious death according to how plausible the murder theory is. Lee Israel puts in this book some evidence that a broken love affair with Johnnie Ray and the fall of the Hearst newspaper empire gave Dorothy Kilgallen trouble sleeping, and she could have mixed barbiturates with booze. But Lee also details the strange circumstances of Dorothy's death. Police and medical examiner reports say her body was found in a bed in which she never slept. Nobody slept in it. It was a showroom to convince celebrity houseguests who partied in the next room that everything was hunky dory in the 25 - year marriage of Dorothy and her husband Richard Kollmar.
There was no pill bottle on the bedside table or anywhere else in the death scene. Dorothy had fallen "asleep" while reading a new novel by Robert Ruark, even though she had said in her newspaper column four months earlier that the protagonist of the book dies in the end. She had discussed said novel with her hairdresser Marc Sinclaire some weeks before cops and doctors found the book in her dead hand. She had told Mr. Sinclaire that she had enjoyed the work after having finished reading it.
That's what you will find in this book. Now I'll add the two things I've seen while sight seeing. First, you can find Dorothy Kilgallen's death certificate at the National Archives in Maryland, a popular tourist site. In the section where the doctor makes the classification of natural causes, suicide, homicide, etc., the thing says "undetermined pending further investigation." Strangely, the deputy medical examiner of Brooklyn signed it "for James Luke," the chief medical examiner. Kilgallen died in the borough of Manhattan, and Dr. Luke had no reason not to sign it. He visited the death scene for 45 minutes, according to the Washington Post obituary. That Brooklyn deputy M.E., Dominick Di Maio, is still alive.
The second thing I've seen that's not in the book is a video interview with criminal defense attorney Joe Tonahill preserved at Lamar University in Texas. On it he says his last telephone conversation with Dorothy Kilgallen happened a short time before she died, "maybe a week before." They planned to participate in a radio talk show about the JFK assassination, but she died before the plans could materialize. Shortly before that conversation, Dorothy visited Miami to discuss Oswald, etc. on the talk show of a young Larry King. The same Larry now on CNN.
(22) Eric Paddon, Dorothy Kilgallen and the JFK Assassination (2002)
Kilgallen ran one last column on the JFK assassination on September 3, 1965. It was little more than a rehash of questions surrounding the photos, and an assertion that if Marina Oswald could explain the "real story" it would undoubtedly cause a "sensation." She closed by vowing, "This story isn't going to die as long as there's a real reporter alive - and there are a lot of them."
She evidently found time to investigate one lead on her own in New Orleans. Her make-up artist for "What's My Line?" recalled Kilgallen telling him in October that she had planned to go to New Orleans to meet someone who would give her "information on the case." The appendix to Israel's book indicates that the contact was either Jim Garrison or one of his associates. This would make a great deal of sense. Mark Lane, in addition to providing Kilgallen with information, would also become a prime source of assistance to Garrison once his "investigation" kicked into high gear, and it may be possible that he or one of the other conspiracy authors he associated himself with, had referred Garrison to Kilgallen. It is worth noting that the connections of Lane and his associates to Garrison is never mentioned in Israel's book.
What she learned, if anything, was never written up. In the early morning hours of November 8, 1965, just four hours after doing the live broadcast of "What's My Line?" and not long after she had left her next-day's column under the door of her apartment, Dorothy Kilgallen died under circumstances that remain puzzling to this day. The official explanation of complications from barbiturates and alcohol remains dubious to some people because they felt that Kilgallen was largely over her addictions by 1965, especially since she had recently begun a happy affair with a gentleman Israel describes as "The Out-Of-Towner". The tape of the "What's My Line?" broadcast however, clearly shows her slurring her speech at various points (not "crisply perfect" as Israel falsely claims). None of this affected her game-playing abilities, which were always superior to any other member of the panel, but it is clear that she was not in the best of health that particular night. In 1978, HSCA counsel Robert Blakey asked for a review of Kilgallen's autopsy (a copy of which is in the JFK Assassination files in the National Archives), but he and his staff evidently found nothing worth pursuing since no mention of Kilgallen ever made it into the final report.
Someone might be able to prove someday that there was more to Dorothy Kilgallen's death than met the eye that night. But if someone succeeds in doing that, he will still not be able to show that it could have had any remote connection with the JFK assassination. If one encompasses everything she knew at the time of her death, it is clear that she did not have a clue as to what the truth really was. Her entire investigation had consisted of shoddy detective work on her part, coupled with false and misleading information from a dishonest gentleman named Mark Lane. Had she been able to tell the world everything she knew on the night of her death, they would have been given another sneak preview of some of the stories Mark Lane would trumpet in his book (I) Rush To Judgment (I), as well as a possible preview of some of Jim Garrison's outlandish assertions that culminated in his witchhunt against Clay Shaw. In both instances, Kilgallen had been nothing more than a courier, not an investigator. Considering that no ill-fortune befell either Lane or Garrison when their respective work appeared in full bloom by 1966 and 1967, the likelihood of Kilgallen's death being assassination-related becomes even more remote. Indeed, the FBI files available to us, indicate that at no time were they ever concerned about the nature of any of her 1964 assertions about the case that were fed to her by Lane. The only thing about Dorothy Kilgallen that ever worried the FBI was the prospect of more columns unjustly maligning their image if they continued their investigation of who leaked the Ruby transcript to her.
Dorothy Kilgallen was without question a bright, intelligent woman who had solid credentials as a reporter, and who was the key to much of the success of "What's My Line?". It is unfortunate that at a time when she was not up to her best standards of health and deductive reasoning, she became a willing target for the deceptions of Mark Lane and company. She would not have been the first intelligent person to fall victim to Lane's chicanery. The distinguished historian Hugh Trevor-Roper also would be suckered by Lane, when he agreed to write the introduction to (i) Rush To Judgment (ii) and made assertions about the case that only repeated unchallenged what Lane had told him. So too, did Dorothy Kilgallen have a bizarre willingness to accept everything Lane had given to her without utilizing any of her usual skills of reporter's skepticism and investigative prowess. The end result caused her tragic death to be surrounded in pointless sensationalism and disinformation that ultimately did her memory a tragic disservice.
(23) John Simkin, Florence Pritchett and the Kennedy Assassination (24th November, 2004)
There has been no investigation into the death of Florence Pritchett. Officially she died of a cerebral haemorrhage. Is it possible that she was murdered? Maybe it was because she had Kilgallen’s notes for her article on the Kennedy assassination. However, I think if she was murdered it might have been more about what she knew rather than what property she had in her possession. I believe that Florence Pritchett had been her main source of information on political issues connected to Kennedy. Not only because she was had been having an affair with Kennedy for nearly 20 years, but because she was the wife of Earl Smith, a leading figure in the anti-Castro community in Florida. Pritchett was ideally placed to know what had been going on during 1963. The greatest puzzle of all is why she was allowed to live as long as she did.
(24) Jonathan Wendland, Dorothy Kilgallen: The Key Witness (14th March, 2005)
Ron Pataky had no ties to organized crime, but he did graduate from one of the schools for assassins that later became the U.S. Army School of the Americas. During the year and four months that he was close with Kilgallen he worked as a movie reviewer for a daily newspaper called the Columbus (Ohio) Citizen Journal. It no longer exists.
Dawnlight Music was incorporated in New York on February 23, 1965 with the following shareholders: Pataky, Kilgallen, American singer Jerry Vale and Vale's manager Dee Anthony, who later became famous managing Peter Frampton and Joe Cocker. The purpose of Dawnlight was to promote Pataky's original songs. They were in the "cocktail" musical genre of Sinatra and Vale, NOT rock & roll.
A short time after Dawnlight was incorporated, the Citizen Journal ran two strange film reviews by Pataky that contained non - sequiturs about American patriotism. Both appeared in April of 1965 when Kilgallen was hospitalized for a broken shoulder. She had a little more than six months left to live.
Pataky's laudatory review of The Sound Of Music had a non sequitur at the end. He said in effect that Julie Andrews was the most wonderful woman in his life. "Next to Betsy Ross of course" are his very words.
Shirley MacLaine was the star of the other film that reminded Pataky of his patriotism: "John Goldfarb Please Come Home." Pataky wrote that officials of Notre Dame in Indiana had complained about the silly way their football team was portrayed in the film. Pataky wrote that they were remiss for saying nothing about the silly way that U.S. intelligence agencies were depicted in the film. His very words: "Alma mater, si ? United States, no ?"
The microfilm copies of Pataky's reportage in the Citizen Journal are available at several libraries in Columbus, Ohio and at Ohio University in the small isolated Ohio town of Athens (far away from Columbus and close to West Virginia). The microfilm collection at Ohio University evidently never got the attention of Dr. Eric Paddon when he taught history there in the 1990s. He authored the segment of Dr. John McAdams' web site that tries to debunk the Kilgallen - JFK theory. He doesn't refer to Pataky at all in it.
(25) John Simkin and Lee Israel discussing Dorothy Kilgallen (20th December, 2005)
John Simkin: Does Florence Pritchett’s son object to his mother being named as the long-time mistress of JFK or by the suggestion that she might have been one of Kilgallen’s sources?
Lee Israel: Yes. He says his mother lay dying of leukemia for months so she couldn't have been Kilgallen's source on anything but side effects of medication that was scarcely available then.
John Simkin: In your book you do not mention that Pritchett was JFK’s mistress. Is that because you did not know or was it a case of you protecting her privacy?
Lee Israel: It was totally irrelevant. I didn't drop the name Judith Campbell Exner, either.
John Simkin: You do not mention that Pritchett was married to Earl E. T. Smith, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Cuba (1957-59). Did you know that at the time you wrote the book? Is it not possible that Pritchett passed on information to Kilgallen as a result of her relationship with her husband and JFK?
Lee Israel: Yes, I did know that. I also knew that when Kilgallen visited New Orleans and Dallas, the poor ambassador was preoccupied with his dying wife.
John Simkin: In your book you make a lot of Kilgallen’s relationship with the man you call the "Out-of-Towner". In fact, you imply that he was in some way involved in her death. Is it correct that the man’s name is really Ron Pataky?
Lee Israel: Yes.
John Simkin: Did you find any evidence that Ron Pataky was working for the CIA?
Lee Israel: No. Only that he dropped out of Stanford in 1954 and then enrolled in a training school for assassins in Panama or thereabouts.
John Simkin: Do you believe that Ron Pataky murdered Dorothy Kilgallen?
Lee Israel: He had something to do with it.
(26) Sarah Jordan, MidWest Today (21st October, 2007)
Then John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Dorothy was devastated. Ten months before, she had taken her young son Kerry on a tour of the White House one Saturday. To their surprise, President Kennedy invited them into the Oval Office and was extraordinarily kind.
As a formidable crime reporter, Kilgallen immediately started asking tough questions of the authorities. 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.
In the midst of her aggressive reportage on the Kennedy case, Dorothy met a man who was to intrigue her the last months of her life. He helped her on some of her JFK stories but ultimately was to come under suspicion by amateur sleuths as having been involved in her death. Questions about him were raised by Lee Israel, who wrote the 1979 biography "Kilgallen." She never printed his name, and referred to him only obliquely as "the Out-of-Towner." But he is Ron Pataky, and he was interviewed by Midwest Today publisher Larry Jordan.
Employed then as an entertainment writer for the Columbus Citizen-Journal, Ron first met Dorothy in June 1964 during a press junket for journalists covering the film industry. "[We were in] Salzburg [Austria] on the set of 'The Sound of Music.' And the bus had arrived at the set from the hotel," he recalls. "She walked up to the door of the bus and kind of tripped and I caught her by the elbow. She was on the outside of the bus. I looked at her and I said, 'Well, hello!' knowing instantly who it was. She said, 'Thank you very much. And who are you?' flirtatiously. She giggled a lot. She was giggling the first 30 seconds we ever talked and kind of charming. And I said 'What are you doing after we get off the [bus]?' And she said 'Nothing.' And we went and had drinks."
Over the next 17 months, Ron and Dorothy rendezvoused often. Sometimes she'd come to Ohio to see him, and he even took her to meet his mother. He'd frequently go to New York. "[We'd] shuck the rest of these phonies and go off and do our thing," Pataky explains. "We made trips together. We went to Florence together, we went to London together." Yet Pataky steadfastly insists that he and Dorothy were platonic. He says, "We'd kiss hello on the cheek if I was coming into town. But there was no goodnight kiss when I dropped her off, and I dropped her off a lot of times. Because it wasn't that kind of relationship. Never. Not even close. I had my girlfriends. She knew about them." Ron avows they had nothing to hide. He says that while they did openly meet at hotels "we never, ever spent any time in a hotel room."
But that's not what Marc Sinclaire claimed. Marc was Dorothy's chief hairdresser and confidant. Though he later found her body, he was never questioned by the police and never spoke out publicly. His remarks are published here for the first time anywhere.
He said that one Sunday night in February 1965, as he was doing Kilgallen's hair at her townhouse just before she left to do "What's My Line?", her married daughter, Jill, came by and confronted her mother. Jill "was very angry," Sinclaire alleged. She mentioned Ron Pataky by name and "said that she was highly infuriated because her mother was going out with this man and sleeping with him all over town, and she said, 'It's just too embarrassing to be seen in public with you.' And after she left, Dorothy cried. And she said, 'I don't know why Jill wants to behave this way. She knows about her father [and his indiscretions]. I've told her. And she knows a lot of other things.' " She vowed, "I will never see [Jill] in public again." And she never did.