Called by famed attorney F. Lee Bailey “A very bright and very good reporter of criminal cases, the best there was,” “One of the greatest women writers in the world,” by Ernest Hemingway, and by the New York Post, “The most powerful female voice in America,” Dorothy Kilgallen was a What’s My Line? television star, radio personality, celebrated journalist, revered investigative reporter and author.
One of the most courageous journalists in history, Kilgallen was a larger-than-life true Renaissance woman and the first female media icon whose accomplishments rival modern day legends like Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters, and Diane Sawyer.
During the 1950s, and ’60s, the college dropout-turned-feisty-journalist with the light-up smile, Irish wit, and high society manners who achieved phenomenal success in a man’s world, made enemies ranging from show business celebrities to government officials to those in the underworld. Fifteen-plus years of Kilgallen’s scathing Journal-American ”Voice of Broadway” columns, ones that could further or inhibit a career, triggered hatred from television, film and Broadway personalities experiencing her wrath. These columns, focused on the rich and famous, were syndicated by the Hearst chain to more than 200 newspapers across America with Kilgallen’s loyal readers glued to every word.
Kilgallen’s crowning achievement was her dogged investigation of the JFK assassination. For 18-months following her covering the Jack Ruby trial, she upset government officials through gifted investigative skills exposing secret documents, including Jack Ruby’s testimony before the Warren Commission, before their official release. To those in the Mafia, she was a constant threat since Kilgallen wrote poison-pen Journal-American stories aimed at those who believed they were above the law including archenemy Frank Sinatra. These dangerous men knew CBS music producer Marlon Swing’s statement was true: “[Dorothy] was a very powerful woman—people don’t have any idea of the power and contacts she had.”
More than anything, it was Kilgallen’s strong belief in justice—her determined pursuit of the truth—that triggered condemnation, vows of revenge and death threats.
“A lot of people knew Dorothy as a very tough game player; others knew her as a tough newspaper woman. When she went after a story, nothing could get in her way.”
— What’s My Line? panelist and Random House co-founder Bennett Cerf
As Kilgallen neared the end of her JFK assassination investigation, her body was discovered in her townhouse bedroom with the official cause of death a drug overdose combined with alcohol consumption: “Circumstances Undetermined.” Extensive research points toward a true Kilgallen Murder Mystery since she was truly, “The Reporter Who Knew Too Much.”