Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dorothy Kilgallen of What's My Line?: Why was her death linked to the JFK assassination?

Dorothy Kilgallen died 48 years ago, on November 8, 1965.  Her death has been regarded with suspicion and some believe it was associated with the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Kilgallen claimed she interviewed Jack Ruby, the killer of accused Kennedy assassin Lee Harvery Oswald.  The interview apparently took place in March of 1964 in the privacy of the judge's chambers during a recess at Ruby's trial in Dallas.  The subject of their conversation has never been revealed.

Dorothy was an outspoken critic of the Warren Commission's report on the JFK assassination. According to a 2007 article in Midwest Today by Sara Jordan ("Who Killed Dorothy Kilgallen?"), "One of the biggest scoops of Kilgallen's career (as a journalist) occurred when she obtained the 102-page transcript of Ruby's testimony to the Warren Commission.  Readers were shocked at the hopelessly inept questioning of Ruby by Chief Justice Warren, and by Warren's failure to follow up on the leads Ruby was feeding him.  Attorney Melvin Belli, (who represented Ruby pro bono), called Dorothy's scoop "the ruin of the Warren Commission."

In her syndicated newspaper column of October 4, 1964, Kilgallen wrote:

. . . at any rate, the whole thing smells a bit fishy.  It's a mite too simple that a chap kills the President of the United States, escapes from that bother, kills a policeman, eventually is apprehended in a movie theater under circumstances that defy every law of police procedure, and subsequently is murdered under extraordinary circumstances. 

Dorothy's associate, Mark Lane, a lawyer, author and conspiracy theorist, stated that Dorothy told him, "They've killed the President, [and] the government is not prepared to tell us the truth . . . " and that she planned to "break the case."

Dorothy Mae Kilgallen was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 3, 1913.  She was the daughter of Hearst newspaperman James Lawrence Kilgallen and his wife, Mae Ahearn.  Her younger sister, Eleanor, became a casting agent for movies and television.  Below is a photo of Dorothy and her Eleanor in 1942.

The Kilgallen family left Chicago and moved to Wyoming, Indiana.  After returning to Chicago for a time, they finally set down roots in New York City.  In 1930, Dorothy graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn.  She then enrolled at the College of New Rochelle, a private Catholic college in New Rochelle, New York. She dropped out after two semesters, however, to take a job as a journalist with the New York Evening Journal, a newspaper owned by William Randolph Hearst.

At the age of 17, Dorothy became a crime reporter at a time when there weren't many female crime reporters. She covered the 1935 trial of Bruno Hauptmann.  Hauptmann, a carpenter from Germany, was convicted of the abduction and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr., the 20-month old child of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh and his wife, author Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

In September of 1936, Dorothy Kilgallen participated in "a race around the world" against fellow journalists Bud Ekins of the New York World-Telegram and Leo Kieran of the New York Times. The contestants were only permitted to use transportation available to the public and Dorothy completed her journey in 24 days.  She finished second to Ekins in the competition and published a book about her experience, Girl Around the World.

In 1936, Dorothy also appeared in a film called Sinner Take All, an MGM murder mystery, playing the role of a reporter. When she returned to New York in November of 1937, she was given her own column, "Hollywood Scene."   In 1938, Kilgallen began writing for the New York Journal-American, a newspaper formed by the Hearst Corporation when the Evening Journal merged with another of its publications, the New York American. She had a column titled "Voice of Broadway" which she continued to write until her death.  It consisted mostly of business news and gossip but also dealt with such topics as politics and organized crime.

Through the years, Dorothy wrote about some the most high-profile criminal trials in America.  In 1954, she covered the trial of Dr. Sam Sheppard, an American osteopathic physician who was convicted and then acquitted of the murder of his pregnant wife, Marilyn, in the couple's Cleveland-area home.  Kilgallen was instrumental in helping Sheppard get a second trial because her deposition established judicial bias at the first trial.  (Prior to the original trial, the judge had told Dorothy that the defendant was "as guilty as hell.")  In 1966, Sam Sheppard was retried and found not guilty.

On April 6, 1940, Dorothy Kilgallen married actor, singer and Broadway producer Richard Tompkins "Dick" Kollmar. (born December 31, 1910).  Kollmar made his Broadway debut in 1938 in the musical Knickerbocker Holiday, followed by a role in another musical, Too Many Girls, with Van Johnson, Desi Arnaz and Eddie Bracken.  He later became a producer of such stage musicals as Dream with Music and Plain and Fancy.

From 1945 until 1949, Kollmar played the title role in a syndicated radio show called Black Birdie.  Starting in April of 1945, he and Dorothy co-hosted a live radio talk show on WOR-AM called Breakfast With Dorothy and Dick.  The show originated from the dining room of the couples's 16-room Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan. In 1952, when they moved to a brownstone on East 68th Street, the program was broadcast from their new home.  Breakfast With Dorothy and Dick remained on the air until 1963.

In 1959, Richard Killmar owned and operated a New York City nightclub called The Left Bank, located on West 50th Street.  He displayed models of hands, which he collected as a hobby, in his restaurant.  Dorothy and Dick had three children, Jill Kollmar, Richard Kollmar Jr. (known as Dickie), and Kerry Arden Kollmar (born March 19, 1954).

Richard Kollmar

In 1950, Dorothy Kilgallen became a panellist on a new U.S. television quiz show called What's My Line?. It was a program on the CBS network and it became the longest-running game show on American prime time television.  The premise of the show was that a contestant would appear before a panel which regularly included Dorothy, actress Arlene Francis, Radom House founder Bennett Cerf and a fourth guest panellist. Contestants were asked simple yes and no questions so that the panel would be able ascertain their interesting or out-of-the-ordinary occupations.  Every time a contestant responded no to a question, he or she would receive $5.  A maximum total of ten negative replies signalled the end of the game.

What's My Line? had a great deal of fun with celebrity and VIP contestants.  The panel was blindfolded and the celebrity guests were told to "enter and sign in please?" Each guest would place his or her autograph on a chalk board. The enthusiasm of the audience's response sometimes provided a hint as to identity of the guest.  The guest, however, would then attempt to disguise his or her voice while answering yes or no questions from the panel. Trivia Note: A list of some of the show's most distinguished Mystery Guests (originally called Mystery Challengers) includes Alfred Hitchcock, Frank LLoyd Wright, Salvador Dali , Eleanor Roosevelt. Carl Sandburg, Cecil B. DeMille, Billy Graham and Sir Edmund Hillary.  Dorothy Gilgallen's two oldest children, Jill and Richard Jr., appeared as Mystery Guests after the birth of her third child, Kerry.

So, what was the secret to What's My Line's success.  Here's the answer according the the he Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows: 1946-Present

That little game, by itself, hardly warranted an 18-year run, when other panel shows of the early 1950s came and went every month.  But What's My Line was something special, both for the witty and engaging panel, and for a certain elan which few other shows have ever captured.  There were no flashy celebrities-of-the-moment or empty-headed pretty faces on this panel: they were obviously very intelligent people all, out to have some genteel fun with an amusing parlour game.

What's My Line? was hosted by John Daly, a journalist and radio and television personality.  It was known for its manners and the formal attire of its host and panellists. When the show began, the women wore street dressses and the men wore business suits.  From 1953 on, however, the female panellists wore fancy gowns, jewels and sometimes gloves.  The men wore black suits and bow ties. Host John Daly referred to the panelists as "Miss Kilgallen," "Mr. Cerf" and "Miss Francis. The sign of his desk read "Mr. Daly".

What's My Line? was highly popular and remained on the air until 1967.  Dorothy was still a panellist at the time of her death.  In fact, she had appeared on the show before returning home on the night of her passing. Below is a photo of the What's My Line? panel.  Dorthy Kilgallen in  in the back row with comedian and legendary radio personality Fred Allen to her left and host John Daly to her right.  Allen was a panellist on the show from 1954 until his death in March of 1956.

Although Dorothy and Richard Kollman never divorced, they eventually led, for the most part, separate lives. Dorothy became involved in a relationship with troubled singer Johnnie Ray (some sources say it was a romance).  The two were definitely good friends and Dorothy was one of his most loyal supporters.  Ray, whose biggest hit was "Cry," was arrested twice for soliciting men for sex. Both incidents occurred in the city of Detroit.  The first time, in 1951, he pleaded guilty and paid a fine.  The second time, in 1959, he went on trial before a jury of a dozen women.  Dorothy stood by him throughout the trial and he was found not guilty.

Dorothy with Johnnie Ray

Dorothy also became involved in a long-distance relationship with Ron Pataky, a film and drama critic for the Columbus Citizen-Journal (Pataky has steadfastly insisted that the relationship was platonic). They first met in June of 1964, on a trip paid by Twentieth Century Fox to publicize three of its films: The Sound of Music, The Agony and The Ecstasy and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.  Pataky, born May 21, 1935, was over 20 years younger than Dorothy and they kept their relationship secret.  In her 1979 biography titled Kilgallen, author Lee Israel referred to Pataky as "Out-of-Towner" in order to avoid legal problems.  Another author, John Simkin, founder of the Spartacus Educational website, has suggested that Dorothy suspected "Out-of-Tower" of being a CIA agent.

Some conspiracy theorists allege that Pataky was involved in Dorothy Kilgallen's death.  Cassie Parnau, author of The Kilgallen Files, conducted an extensive investigation into the circumstances of Dorothy's demise, probing her FBI and CIA files (the results appear on The Kilgallen Files website).  Parnau interviewed Pataky and asked him the following questions point-blank: Was he with Dorothy the night of his death?  Was he, as reported on some websites, a hired CIA assassin?  According to Parnau, Pataky told her that Dorothy "was his best friend in the entire world."  He vehemently denied any involvement in her death.

Do they think for a moment the police didn’t investigate these matters? It was clear to all but a few truly dumb asses that I was in Columbus (Ohio) - in my office — at eight the following morning! THAT’S WHERE I WAS HORRIFIED TO RECEIVE THE NEWS OF DOROTHY’S DEATH … WITH A NEWSPAPER CITY ROOM UTTERLY JAMMED WITH WITNESSES, ALL OF WHOM KNEW DOROTHY FROM HER VISITS TO MY OFFICE! Moreover, phone records - FROM Columbus — placed me here until well past midnight that night!”

On the morning of November 8, 1965, Dorothy Killgallen was found dead in her New York City apartment. Her hairdresser and confidant, Marc Sinclaire, discovered her body when he arrived to style her hair. Strangely she was not in the bedroom where she usually slept.  She was found sitting upright and fully clothed on a bed in another room.  Her notes from her interview with Ruby had vanished as had the article she was writing about the case. Dorothy's husband, Richard, her youngest child, 11-year-old Kerry and Kerry's tutor, were sleeping in other rooms when she died.

Although it was initially reported that Dorothy died of a heart attack, the cause of her death was an overdose of alcohol and barbiturates.  On November 15, 1965, a week after Dorothy's body was discovered, her own paper, the Journal-American quoted Assistant Medical Examiner James Luke on the cause of her death:
The death of Dorothy Kilgallen, Journal-American columnist and famed TV personality, was contributed to by a combination of moderate quantities of alcohol and barbiturates, a medical examiner's report stated today. 

It has never been categorically determined whether Dorothy Kilgallen's death was an accident, suicide or murder.  The cause of her death was ruled "undetermined."  In her last column item about the JFK assassination, published on September 3, 1965, she wrote: "This story isn't going to die as long as there's a real reporter alive - and there are a lot of them."

After Dorothy's death, Richard Kollmar remarried.  His second wife was American fashion designer Anne Fogarty.  Ironically, Fogarty designed the dress that Dorothy wore on her last appearance on What's My Line?.  She and Kollmar wed in 1967.  Kollmar had problems with alcoholism and his last years were very troubled. He committed suicide in New York City on January 7. 1971. Just like Dorothy, he was found dead in his bed of an overdose of drugs, although Richard's was a massive overdose.  He was 60 years old at the time of his passing.


* Dorothy Kilgallen's friends called her Dolly Mae.

* Below is a clip of a 1959 article by Dorothy on the subject of Elvis Presley being released from the Army.

* Arlene Francis, Dorothy's fellow panellist on What's My Line? died in San Francisco on May 31, 2001. She was 93 years old and had suffered from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

* John Daly, the amiable host of What's My Line?, married Virginia Warren, daughter of then-Chief Justice Earl Warren (yes, the man who headed the investigation into JFK's assassination).  The wedding took place on December 22, 1960, in San Francisco, California.  It was Daly's second marriage and it lasted until his death of cardiac arrest on February 24, 1991.  He passed away in Chevy Chase, Maryland at the age of 77.

Below is a photo of John Daly on the television panel show It's News to Me in June of 1952.

* The New York Journal-American ceased publication in 1966, the year after Dorothy Kilgallen's death.

* Johnnie Ray suffered from alcoholism.  He was treated for tuberculosis in 1960 and recovered.  He didn't stop drinking, though, and was diagnosed with cirrhosis when he was 50 years old.  On February 24, 1990, he died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles of liver failure.  Johnnie Ray was 63 at the time of his passing.

Ron Pataky, now 78 years old, left his job at the Columbus Citizen-Journal in 1980.  He later became a Christian councillor in Columbus, Ohio.  In 2005, Lee Israel admitted to author John Simkin that Pataky was the "Out-of-Towner" and she also claimed that he "had something to do with it.(the death of Kilgallen)."

* Dorothy's father, James Killgallen, passed away in New York City on December 21, 1982.  A news reporter for over 75 years, he was 94 years old at the time of his passing.  Dorothy's sister, Eleanor Kilgallen, is still alive.

On July 12, 2012, film and television historian Stephen Bowen, posted an interview with actor Robert Pine on his website, Classic TV History Blog http://classictvhistory.wordpress.com/tag/quinn-martin.  In the interview, Pine discusses how he did a scene in front of Eleanor in February of 1964, when he was trying to beak into acting.  Eleanor was then a representative for Universal Studios in New York for new talent. "Eleanor is still with us, at age 94," he tells Bowen, "and I still keep in contact with her."

There is a listing in the White Pages for an Eleanor E. Killgallen, born March 1919, who resides in New Jersey. I think that is Dorothy's sister.

* Dorothy's youngest child, Kerry Kollmar, now 59 years old, is a self-defence instructor.  He is the President and founder of Martial Hearts Inc.  Based in  Roswell, Georgia, Martial Hearts is a self-defence organization dedicated to preventing violence against women and children.  It is interesting to note that Kerry was a child actor and had a small role in the 1964 film Pajama Party starring Annette Funicello. Dorothy, too, had a cameo in the film, in which she landed on a motorcycle.

Kerry Kollmar

* Dorothy Kilgallen made an appearance of Edward R. Murrow popular interview program, Person to Person, in the winter of 1956 (Season 3, Episode 21, Air Date: January 20, 1956).

* In 1965, just months before her death, Dorothy was a guest on Merv Griffin's popular talk show twice (Season  2, Episode 29, Air Date: June 17, 1965) and Season 2, Episode 51, Air Date: July 19, 1965).

* Dorothy appeared on other television game shows besides What's My Line?.  In 1961, she was
a celebrity contestant on Password.  That same year, on September 25, she made an appearance on I've Got a Secret along with the rest of the What's My Line? panel. From 1963 until 1964 she was a guest celebrity on 10 episodes of The Match Game.  On November 2, 1965, she and Arlene Francis taped an episode of the daytime version of To Tell The Truth in which they portrayed Joan Crawford impostors.  Six days later, the episode was broadcast at the same time as Dorothy's death was making news.

* At the suggestion of fellow What's My Line? panellist and Random House publisher Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Killgallen wrote a book about some of the famous murder trials she had covered during her career as journalist.  Radom House published the book, Murder One, after Dorothy's death.

- Joanne


  1. Ron Pataky has changed his story about how he learned of Dorothy Kilgallen's sudden death.

    An audio recording exists of him saying in 1976: "My own mother told me about her death."

    Ron's mother Daisy Pataky Wollett, nicknamed Day, lived near him in Columbus at the time Dorothy died.

    Starting in 1992, when Oliver Stone's JFK movie prompted new generations of people to question Ron, he said he had learned the "shocking" news about Dorothy from another writer at his Columbus newspaper: Jane Kehrer Horrocks. She was the correspondent who covered ladies' fashions.

    Contacted by snail mail, Jane confirmed Ron's claim that the two of them had shared an office and a telephone line in the newspaper building, but she clearly remembered that she had been in California covering ladies' fashion news when news of Dorothy Kilgallen's death reached her.

    Why did that stand out in Jane's memory more than thirty years later? Though Jane and Dorothy never met, they had many brief telephone conversations when Dorothy made long distance calls to try to reach Ron, and only Jane was in their shared office.

    Ron worked as a critic of the cinema, live theater and jazz music. Dorothy had no way of knowing in advance when Ron had to attend a screening at a movie theater or a performance at a legitimate theater. He showed up at a place for entertainment almost every day.

    Jane Kehrer Horrocks' coverage of ladies' fashions required fewer trips throughout the Columbus area, so she frequently answered the phone when Ron was out of the office. Remember, she and Ron shared an office telephone line.

    After listening to Dorothy talking coherently many times over the phone for more than a year, Jane was shocked to learn that Dorothy had died suddenly in her home. That shock stayed in her memory, and she could say for certain decades later that she had been far away from Ohio at the time.

    When Ron Pataky now 79, says Jane Horrocks drew his attention to the wire service machine inside their newspaper building as it announced Dorothy's death, he is lying.

    Someone reading this might want to confirm that Ron said in 1976, "My own mother told me about her death." Lee Israel has the audio recording at her New York home. And the snail mail letter from Jane Kehrer Horrocks? I can scan it and email you a Jpeg if you contact me at janinemgaston @ gmail ...

    To understand the significance of Ron Pataky's statements over a period of almost forty years, watch television documentaries about men with creepy voices who have been suspected of committing murders and beaten the rap because of insufficient evidence.

    A common thread among them is that police occasionally ask them the circumstances under which they learned that the victims were dead, and the psychopaths keep changing those circumstances.

    Ron's voice has been creepy for a long time -- at least since 1975 when Lee Israel first taped him.

  2. Sadly, every single one of the nationwide television broadcasts that Joanne describes in the following portion of her article (pasted below this paragraph) disappeared immediately after millions of people watched it. All of the shows were videotaped at least a day in advance, in some cases six or more days in advance. The era of live television was in limbo during the mid 1960s except for sports. Ampex videotape was commonly used by New York television producers during the last five years of Dorothy Kilgallen's career and life. Even What's My Line, which its fans thought was always live, videotaped summer episodes and Christmas episodes in advance. They were preserved with kinescopes. The Ampex videotapes of the summer and Christmas episodes "got wiped," as people in the television business used to say. Here is what Joanne wrote, and remember that no kinescopes exist of any of it:

    * In 1965, just months before her death, Dorothy was a guest on Merv Griffin's popular talk show twice (Season 2, Episode 29, Air Date: June 17, 1965) and Season 2, Episode 51, Air Date: July 19, 1965).

    * Dorothy appeared on other television game shows besides What's My Line?. In 1961, she was a celebrity contestant on Password. That same year, on September 25, she made an appearance on I've Got a Secret along with the rest of the What's My Line? panel. From 1963 until 1964 she was a guest celebrity on 10 episodes of The Match Game. On November 2, 1965, she and Arlene Francis taped an episode of the daytime version of To Tell The Truth in which they portrayed Joan Crawford impostors. Six days later, the episode was broadcast at the same time as Dorothy's death was making news.

  3. Dorothy Kilgallen's death is beyond one's ken.

  4. I am willing to consider the possibility of some sort of conspiracy behind the killing of President Kennedy (I think there's a 50-50 chance the Mob was involved) but I find laughable the idea that such a plot would extend to Dorothy Kilgallen. Get a grip, is what I say to that.

    1. I hope you've done a bit of research since making this statement. Think about who would benefit from JFK's death. Don't rely on main stream media for anything other than sports scores.

  5. Dorothy Kilgallen had the judge overseeing the Jack Ruby case grant her an interview with Ruby. He's well known to have said the US Government and LBJ killed President Kennedy. So he detailed that to DK, and so the federal regime killed her and her assistant.

    Everybody knows.