Reviews - What do customers think about Johnnie Ray and Miss Kilgallen?
Repressed Catholics Sell Books -- No One Ever Went Broke Underestimating ... Oct 12, 2005
"Johnnie and Dorothy met on the show [What's My Line mystery guest segment]." Co-authors Larry and Bonnie Hearn Hill have their characters meet that way, but the Hills' premise demonstrates their ignorance of Hearst news reporting. I will explain.
The reason Johnnie Ray appeared on What's My Line for the first time was to plug his first movie: There's No Business Like Show Business. The year was 1954, and it was a Hollywood creation. It started production two years after Johnnie first became famous, and that initial fame happened on the Broadway circuit and in jukeboxes. He sold a record number of tickets at the Copacabana nightclub (a mile away from Broadway but part of the Broadway club circuit) in April 1952 followed by a stint at the Paramount, then a major part of Times Square.
The point is, Johnnie Ray and Dorothy Kilgallen had at least one conversation in the spring of 1952, long before What's My Line united them. Part of her job was to interview every singer who sold a lot of tickets at those clubs. Had she neglected this job duty in 1952, her bosses would have lost all faith in her.
Catholic Dorothy's bosses were the Catholic sons of the recently expired William Randolph Hearst Sr., and they hadn't started mismanaging their empire yet. In 1952 Hearst plus those nightclubs plus Toast of the Town had absolute control over which recording artist became a teen idol. Johnnie Ray became one; Merv Griffin didn't. They were almost the same age.
So why would Dorothy Kilgallen pass up a Johnnie Ray interview until he'd toured the world and finished a movie shoot on the Fox lot? No way. The authors screwed up this initial incident in their plot. Selling many tickets at the Paramount by itself warranted interviews with Kilgallen, Sullivan, Winchell, etc. Were the Hearsts that dumb in 1952? They had a monopoly on entertainment journalism then.
My reasoning supports the claim of Miami - based comedian George Hopkins. Nobody has published his eyewitness account of Johnnie and Dorothy meeting at a press party for his new 45 single that sold more copies than any 45 single on the Columbia label up to that time. Party took place at the old Astor Hotel across the street from the Paramount marquee that shouted "Johnnie Ray." Also present: Vic Damone, Tony Bennett, Kitty Kallen and many others who passed long ago.
The Hills paint Dorothy's search for Lee Oswald's delusions/accomplices as an obsession that started in November 1963, blocking every other story within her reach. In truth, she devoted an entire column to the kidnapping and rescue of Frank Sinatra Jr. just weeks after Oswald died. You don't see any traces of her feud with Frank Sr. in it. She lambasted TV reporters for asking police officials the wrong questions. She wanted them to ask why the kidnappers set up the ransom drop at a highway overpass that was well - lit at night.
I'm well aware the Hills always write fiction. You can see a list of their titles. Why did they devote their very first novel to transforming a smart, worldly woman into a horny Catholic who sees paths to paradise and conspiracy everywhere? Bonnie Hearn Hill proves what Shirley Chisholm said about more people picking on her for being a successful woman than for being a successful African American.
Ms. Chisholm and Ms. Kilgallen were New Yorkers and contemporaries, and Ms. Chisholm made her famous observation just a few years after the Voice of Broadway expired. Sadly, the reality of sexism trumping racism burns brightly in 2005. When was the last time you read in the Sunday New York Times that James Baldwin was ugly with bulging eyes? His looks don't matter, but Ms. Kilgallen's weak chin does.
Dorothy referred to James Baldwin during her testimony on behalf of Lenny Bruce's First Amendment rights, but that's yet another episode the Hills ignored while they painted their Kennedy / Marilyn / bisexual chic portrait. No one ever went broke underestimating ...
Crying Time and Guessing Games Oct 2, 2005
A relationship between Johnnie Ray and Dorothy Kilgallen sounds almost absurd. He was one of the most acclaimed pop singers of the early 1950s, best known as the "Cry Guy" due to his huge #1 smash, "Cry." She was the proper and overly mannered journalist who wrote the influential New York gossip column, "Voice of Broadway." Today's readers, however, are more likely to recall her 1950-1965 stint as the rather humorless panelist on the long-running game-show "What's My Line." The Game Show Network has been re-running that show for a few years; that's how I become aware of Dorothy Kilgallen, or "Miss Kilgallen" as the host John Daly generally referred to her.
Johnnie and Dorothy met on the show; he was the mystery guest (the panelists had to blindfold themselves during this portion of the show), and I saw this episode a few months before reading this book. Apparently, an affair soon blossomed between the two, which caused scandal for both of them. The fact that Johnnie was bisexual and arrested several times for solicitation didn't help matters. Their affair probably hurt both of their careers, although the rise of rock probably signaled the end of Johnnie's career as well.
"Johnnie Ray and Miss Kilgallen" is a fictionalized account of their relationship. The married authors, Bonnie Hearn Hill and Larry Hill, apparently did extensive research, but the book is clearly more novel than biography. The writing is quite good, and the topic is interesting. Johnnie and Dorothy were celebrities during a fascinating time period, and they were pals with icons like Marilyn Monroe and Ava Gardner. Frank Sinatra also came into their lives: as an enemy, after Dorothy wrote critical items about him in her column. To the public, the much older Dorothy presented herself as a mentor of sort to the troubled Johnnie. Out of the limelight, they lived a life flitting from one celebrity party to another, usually flaunting their affair and totally drunk from too many martinis. Toward the end, Dorothy's career careens toward oblivion as she becomes increasingly involved in chasing JFK assassination conspiracies. How much of this book is fictionalized is never completely apparent, but I suppose it's fruitless to quibble or wonder at this point.
Although I enjoyed this novel, there are a few flaws, particularly the structure. Each chapter contains sections told through the characters' eyes - not really a "he said, she said" novel per se, but along those lines. What I dislike is that Johnnie's sections are told in the first person, whereas Dorothy's sections are second-person narrative. I suppose that choice makes sense - Johnnie was a swinging, ring-a-ding kind of guy, and Dorothy was remote. However, it's simply jarring at times. The other problem concerns Dorothy herself. On television, Dorothy was an icy woman, and although handsome in a patrician manner, she is hardly the type of woman around whom a fairly sexually explicit novel probably should be based. Nevertheless, I mostly enjoyed this novel, and it's strengths far outweigh any misgivings I had. If you're interested in Johnnie Ray or Dorothy Kilgallen or celebrity life during this time period, then you'll probably enjoy "Johnnie Ray and Miss Kilgallen."
A good read Aug 24, 2003
A good read. Kilgallen was a looker though it is hard to tell from watching the old kinescopes of What's My Line? She was a great reporter who had many successes but is best remembered for her Voice of Broadway column in the old New York Journal American. Johnny Ray was a so-so singer and never could believe the rumors of his affair with DK. Anyhow, not a bad read for those who remember Kilgallen, Ray, and What's My Line?
Fiction Stranger Than Truth Aug 14, 2003
Mr. and Ms. Hill are vivid writers, but the logic they use when they create fiction leaves something to be desired.
Let's see if I understand the scene at the Washington, DC fundraiser on the night before John F. Kennedy took the oath of office. Would the next reviewer please tell me if I got it right ?
Dorothy Kilgallen became physically ill while she angrily accused her boyfriend Johnnie Ray of cheating on her. Dorothy was shouting and wailing into a coin telephone inside a Washington, DC building where Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and their many friends were singing and laughing and drinking. Dorothy had the right to be angry because a few moments earlier Frank Sinatra had uncharacteristically treated her nicely.
Kilgallen and Sinatra had been enemies for several years at this point, and he regularly told his audiences in Las Vegas that she was as ugly as a chipmunk, but he decided to be nice to her at the inaugural celebration. Dorothy figured out that the reason he was being nice was that his ex - wife Ava Gardner had forced him to act that way after Johnnie Ray had issued the order while having sex with Ava. They had that roll in the hay on his New York City hospital bed where he was emaciated and deathly ill with cirrhosis of the liver. And that's why Frank Sinatra's good manners made Dorothy so angry that she got sick.
Say what ? Even John Charles Daly never used such feeble - minded logic on the many occasions that he answered Dorothy's intelligent questions. It is true that reading well - written books can enhance one's verbiage more successfully than basic cable TV can. But there is also such a thing as truth. You will get more of it by tuning in to the Game Show Network on which Dorothy Kilgallen does her job every morning at 4:30.
Gripping and Sexy Aug 2, 2003
This one really surprised me. I was intrigued by the pairing of Ray and Killgallen, but didn't figure on such a well-written treatment of the unlikely duo. Tough to put aside. Very cinematic.