One of the most popular and controversial figures in radio, Walter Winchell was born April 7, 1897 in New York City. Winchell left school after the sixth grade and spent several years in vaudeville as part of Gus Edwards’ “Newsboys Sextet.”
Winchell was writing a regular gossip column for the New York Daily Mirror when he made his radio debut in 1930 on CBS’s Saks on Broadway, a 15-minute feature devoted to show business news. His radio breakthrough came in 1932, when NBC’s Blue Network (later ABC) tapped him to host The Jergens Journal, another 15- minute show that mixed entertainment news with matters of national importance. In an era dominated by sober analysis, Winchell was colorful, emotional, and fiercely opinionated, and his top-rated show brought him an unprecedented celebrity and power.
Winchell’s broadcasts were fast-paced affairs, with each story delivered in a rapid-fire staccato style and punctuated with the urgent tapping of a telegraph key. Winchell perfected the use of slang to report stories that might have led to legal disputes, although his contract held him harmless from libelous material.
Winchell stayed in radio until 1957 and later narrated the popular television series The Untouchables.
Walter Winchell died on February 20, 1972.
Walter Winchell was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2004.