To most people, Dorothy Kilgallen was known as a long-time panelist on the television game show What’s My Line? (Does ‘Is it bigger than a breadbox?’ ring a bell?) or as a high society New York newspaper columnist. She was also throughout her career a rather enterprising reporter. Her journalism coming out party was a 1936 race around the world against two male colleagues. Her cabled columns and a book Girl Around the World made her a celebrity.
In 1963, she once again took up the role of daring reporter. According to a biographer, Kilgallen was devastated when President Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald. She was among those who refused to believe that Oswald acted alone. She spent the next two years in her own investigation of the assassination, gathering evidence and conducting interviews. She was the only reporter to interview Jack Ruby, and she somehow got hold of an advance copy of the Warren Commission report even before President Lyndon Johnson had seen it. He was miffed.
So was J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI and CIA both began to follow her and her friends. She was interrogated, and her phone was tapped. In 1965, she told her lawyer that she was going to break the real story and that it would be the scoop of the century. She planned to meet a secret informant in New Orleans.
On November 7, she appeared on What’s My Line? as usual, and afterward wound down with a few drinks along with other members of the show before returning to her apartment. The next day — November 8, 1965 — she was found dead, sitting up in bed in a blue bathrobe and still wearing in her hair a floral accessory from the previous evening. On her nightstand, an empty sleeping pill bottle and a drinking glass. The police playing the bumblers they traditionally play in detective fiction found nothing suspicion. Her death was attributed to an accidental overdose.
Loose ends included the fact that her accumulated evidence had gone missing, that she was found in a bed she never slept in wearing clothes she never wore to bed, that she had recently bought a gun telling her hairdresser she was ‘scared for her life.’ Lawyer and author Mark Shaw suggested in a 2016 book The Reporter Who Knew Too Much that Kilgallen’s death was orchestrated by a mobster who feared her book would name him as the mastermind behind Kennedy’s assassination.
There is something about a home aquarium which sets my teeth on edge the moment I see it. Why anyone would want to live with a small container of stagnant water populated by a half-dead guppy is beyond me. ~ S. J. Perelman