How Powerful Were Gossip Columnists In the Old Days?

Categories: Film

louella-parsons-1-sized.jpg
Even more powerful than today!

And today I rule from Murray Hill with an iron fist, with occasional broomstick rides to other gossip capitals to wreak even more wide-ranging terror.

But back in the '30s, Louella Parsons was so powerful she might as well have been in the White House.

Louella was a wildly popular radio host and columnist who stars intimately confided in, for fear of being banished into abject horror if they didn't.

They lived in mortal terror of the woman--she was simultaneously their closest confidante and absolute worst nightmare.

My new best friend, the late Helen Hayes, always told the story that one time when screen icon Norma Shearer got pregnant, Helen advised her, "Naturally, you'll tell your husband."

She meant studio mogul Irving Thalberg--a pretty imposing figure himself.

Norma replied by gurgling, "Yeah, um, eventually," then chirped, "But first I must tell Louella Parsons!

"I promised to let her know the minute I got pregnant--that she would be the first to know!"

Oy. Sick shit!

Three questions:

*How do you think Thalberg felt when he learned about the baby by reading about it in Louella?

*If Louella ever found out that Norma had told Helen before her, wouldn't there have been heck to pay?

*And shouldn't Norma have called Louella during the act of conception, to give her a real scoop?

My Voice Nation Help
14 comments
mookindahouse
mookindahouse

a few anecdotes about Hedda and Louella:-Hedda got her ass kicked (literally) by both Spencer Tracy and Joseph Cotten -Joan Fontaine sent Hedda a live skunk as a present-Judy Garland did her best to avoid both of the 'old dinosaurs' (as she called them)-Hedda declared, shortly before her death, that Sonny and Cher would be "kaput" in a year-after Merle Oberon asked Hedda why she printed an item about her husband Alexander Korda having a mistress, Hedda replied 'bitchery my dear, sheer bitchery'-in her book The Whole Truth and Nothing But, Hedda insinuated that a not-yet-out Farley Granger was sleeping with Michael Wilding, Liz Taylor's second husband. Further printings of the book omitted the story after both actors threatened to sue. -Louella was of course responsible for the Citizen Kane fiasco (even though C.F. Kane was based on Robert McCormick, founder of the Chicago Tribune, and Susan Alexander was based on soprano Mary Garden, Welles' parents both knew them) -both had very few intimate friends

Southern Dave
Southern Dave

 Check out the nude (from the rear) photo of Norma Shearer with peacock feathers on the jacket cover of Ethan Mordden's "Ziegfeld: The Man Who Invented Show Business." Norma was very hubba-hubba before she began playing all those lady-with-a-stick-up-her-ass roles.

The book, not so incidentally, is fabulous. Mordden makes you feel like you're living in the era he writes about, seeing the shows he describes.

But then, this is true of all his decade-by-decade "Musicals" books.

MSpeer
MSpeer

I'm just trying to picture Thalberg and Shearer conceiving a child. And I have a lot of respect for both of them!

I read a bio of Thalberg years ago that claimed that they used dine occasionally wearing each other's clothes. Since he was so slightly built he could wear her dresses. Would love it if it were true.

Timmee
Timmee

Norma was probably terrified Irv would ban her from pictures if he found out about her "condition"--for humanitarian reasons of course.

Puque
Puque

I didn't know Louella had "the unexpected leak"! She needed the Tena Twist.

Southern Dave
Southern Dave

Louella ("The Gay Illiterate") had an incontinence problem and dampened many a Hollywood sofa.

Her husband was an alcoholic doctor she called "Docky." At a party one night, when Docky was being told he'd had too much to drink, Louella snapped, "Leave Docky alone! He has to operate in the morning!"

Two favorite Hedda Hopper stories:

Hopper was an actress who came to journalism late in life. When she got her first "scoop," she rushed into the Newsroom and yelled, "Stop the presses! Whatever that means."

Paulette Goddard once took Hopper to lunch after being maligned in her column.

Goddard plunged right in. "Hedda," she said, "why are you writing these terrible things about me?" Hopper patted Goddard's hand reassuringly. "Sheer bitchery, my dear," she said."Sheer bitchery."

Still can't believe that a still-beautiful Elizabeth Taylor played ugly-as-sin Louella in the TV movie, "Malice in Wonderland." Jane Alexander was pretty good as Hedda.

Puque
Puque

His stuff was always dumb but now it's just boring. Next.

Rob in Philly
Rob in Philly

Perez Hilton seems to have muscled his way into prominence.  He doesn't write the super nasty stuff he did a couple of years ago.  I can't say I like him but I read him for the first two years just the same. Figured a lot of it was true, but there's not much reason to read him anymore, he doesn't have much to say (a point of view) without the nastiness.

Wings
Wings

Another question: How did Hedda Hopper feel about Louella getting the scoop??

latenitebump
latenitebump

that´s why i appreciate actors like jack nicholson.he does what he wants to do irregardless of the sheet sniffers say.he goes to the whorehouse, he drinks in public, and did drugs.

Shormanearer
Shormanearer

She might have been hubba-hubba, but why did she always wear her hair in that cabbage style? Ugh!

mookindahouse
mookindahouse

 you clearly haven't seen the photos of a pre-fame Barbara Stanwyck ca. 1922, topless

mookindahouse
mookindahouse

 "He doesn't write the super nasty stuff he did a couple of years ago."

that's because Duhme Moore threatened to sue him after he posted a pic of her daughter Tallulah in hooker shorts... hypocritical much for Miss "Anti-Sex Trafficking"/former escort herself?

mae swazey
mae swazey

This was in the early 1930s before Hedda became a gossip columnist.  Louella had the field all to herself until Hedda became powerful in the late 30s.

Loading...