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Winchell, Walter

Winchell, Walter, 1897–1972, journalist and broadcaster, b. New York City as Walter Winchel. He performed in vaudeville, and adopted a marquee's misspelling of his surname. After serving two years in the navy, he returned to performing and began writing theater news and gossip for Vaudeville News (1922). He wrote a show-business column for the New York Evening Graphic (1924–29), then moved to the Daily Mirror (1929–63); he also had a weekly radio program from the 1930s to early 50s. His opinionated broadcasts and columns won him admirers and critics. Originally a supporter of F. D. Roosevelt, he used his columns and radio shows in the 1950s to further Joseph R. McCarthy 's sensational exploitation of the public's fear of Communism. Winchell is credited with originating the cult of celebrity gossip in the United States.

See biographies by B. Thomas (1971), H. Klurfeld (1976), M. Herr (1990), and N. Gabler (1994).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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