Dorothy Kilgallen, known as “Dolly Mae” to her friends, was considered a “gossip columnist” by most. So, it is difficult to find mention of her in regard to the assassination of President Kennedy…. She was there and after Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald, she was convinced there was a conspiracy.
Dorothy had this system about reporting on celebrities…It was a type of I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. She had a ton of contacts, and she was syndicated in 200 papers nationwide. She also had Hollywood and Broadway at her feet. Her policy was if you want me to talk favorably about your celebrity, bring 3 me stories about other celebrities. A 3 for one deal… She was part of the Hearst publishing family, who were behind McCarthyism, and the anti-Castro media. All the information Hearst came upon was shared with its reporters. Don’t forget she covered famous trials and hard stories also. Finally, Dorothy Kilgallen was an important media contact for the CIA, that’s right she had access to the Central Intelligence agency. She wrote for the American Journal
The FBI had a file on Kilgallen, and kept track of what she was writing about. She was friends with JFK and became aware of the desire to remove JFK from office after the death of Marilyn Monroe. She believed the brothers were Being set up to take the fall for her death. It was an awakening of sorts. She began to investigate Kennedy’s death almost immediately. It started with articles in the Journal American, as she had contacts within the Dallas Police department.
On November 29, 1963 President Lyndon Johnson established the Warren Commission with executive order 11130. Johnson appointed Commission to report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, mandating the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of evidence concerning the infraction occurring in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. (1) Dorothy had a contact on the Warren Commission.
The stories Dorothy was writing about the assassination brought her into contact with author Mark Lane. Lane would go on to author a critique on the Warren Commission called “Rush to Judgement” that came out a year after Dorothy’s death. He related to Dorothy that officer J.D. Tippit (the policeman Oswald was to have shot after Kennedy), Jack Ruby and Bernard Weissman were to have met at the New Orleans Carousel Club 8 days before Kennedy was shot. Lane got the information from Thayer Waldo reporter on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Waldo was afraid to publish it. (2)
Dorothy was writing articles about what she learned. It is thought the CIA, and FBI were surrounding her as she revealed more information. She was the only reporter to get a private interview with Jack Ruby, she went through his lawyer Joe Tonahill. She had a mutual friend in the music business, and passed a message to Ruby from him. The interview lasted 8 minutes, and she never revealed what Ruby told her. There is a theory that she was going to reveal it in the book she was gathering evidence for.
Dorothy was getting more frightened as time went on. She believed her home was bugged and she was being watched. She even purchased a gun and told friends she was afraid her son would be kidnapped. She was careful who she brought close to her. Her new confidant was her much younger lover from Ohio, Ron Pataky, it is thought that Pataky was the last person to see her alive. She had a file she kept with her no matter where she went. It contained all the evidence she gathered on the Kennedy assassination. There were no photocopiers at that time. Anyone who wanted a duplicate used carbon paper. It disappeared after her death. When the Warren Commission finally was released its findings, Dorothy called it “laughable.”
A few weeks before she died she asked her hairdresser Marc Sinclaire to go with her to New Orleans. She did not tell Sinclaire why they were going. It became more mysterious as she booked them different flights on separate planes. She also booked them separate hotel rooms in different hotels in New Orleans. They had dinner that night and he went back to his hotel room. In the morning, she called him and told him she had gotten him a plane ticket home, to leave immediately and not to tell anyone he had ever gone with her. What happened between dinner and the next morning that frightened her so badly? (3)
Dorothy filmed her last show on “What’s My Line?” on November 7, 1965. She met Bob Bach after the filming at P.J. Clarks for a drink. She told him that she had a late date, excused herself and went to the Regency Hotel Bar. She was joined by a man and sat in the back…. the next morning the most powerful voice in America was dead. She was discovered the next morning, November 8, 1965, by her hairdresser Sinclaire, the same man who went to New Orleans with her.
Here are the basic points of Sinclaire’s discovery of that morning:
- Dorothy Kilgallen’s body was discovered in the third floor bedroom of the townhouse. She always slept in the fifth floor bedroom.
- She was found sitting up in bed, still wearing her make-up, false eye lashes, false hairpiece, and earrings. Normally, she would never go to bed all “made up” for going out.
- She was not wearing her regular pajamas, but instead a blue matching peignoir and robe.
- A book was on her bed, but upside down. It was also a book she finished reading two weeks earlier. Her reading glasses were nowhere nearby.
- The air conditioning was on though there was no need for it. Sinclaire says she was cold natured and would have preferred the heat on.
- Sinclaire sees a piece of paper on the floor but never examined it.
- Upon leaving the townhouse, Sinclaire sees a police cruiser with two officers sitting in it. They ignore him. Oddly, Sinclaire does not approach them to tell them of his discovery of Dorothy Kilgallen’s body. Police detectives do not show up till later in the day after an announcement is made by Douglas Edwards on CBS News. (4)
She died of a combination of barbiturates and alcohol. Each alone not enough, but together, a lethal cocktail. The Freedom of Information Law allowed author Mark Shaw to obtain the lab results. It revealed that Kilgallen’s system also contained Tuinal and Nembutal, not just Seconal. She had a prescription for Seconal. The tests also revealed powder residue on the glass found at her bedside, suggesting that someone opened and put the capsules into her drink. (5)
On October 24, 1965, a few weeks before she died, and just minutes before she was to do “What’s My Line?”, an announcement came over the theater sound system that rattled Dorothy.
A voice said, “The keys to Ron Pataky’s room are waiting at the front desk of the Regency Hotel.”
No one knew who made the announcement or why they hadn’t just brought her a note. She was so shaken up that as the show began and the panelists were introduced, Dorothy sat down too soon, and then quickly got up again. (6)
Another weird note, Dorothy gave a copy of a chapter to her friend Florence Pritchett. She was afraid at that point and gave the chapter to Florence for safekeeping. Florence died the day after Dorothy did. The chapter was never found.
Dorothy Kilgallen’s body was not taken to the coroner’s office in Manhattan where she lived. It was transported to Brooklyn. The reason? Shaw states Dr. Steven Goldner revealed that to him that the Brooklyn coroner’s office was controlled by the mob.
Mark Shaw came out with a book in 2016 (The Reporter that Knew Too Much) enabling him to have the District Attorney of NYC reexamine Dorothy Kilgallen’s case. Shaw believes that New Orleans Mafia Don Carlos Marcello had something to do with Dorothy’s death. Why? Shaw believes Dorothy was going to write a tell all book in which Marcello is outed as the mastermind behind the assassination of JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald. That her death may have been carried out by the last person she saw, Ron Pataky. That Pataky was the man in the booth with her at the Regency Hotel at 2:00 a.m. Further that the bedroom scene at her death was staged.
Shaw interviewed more than 50 witnesses. That information along with other evidence he collected Shaw took to the District Attorney of New York (Manhattan), Cyrus Vance, Jr. This to reopen the case on Dorothy Kilgallen’s death. 50 later, there may be a completely different outcome for the smart woman who was way ahead of her time.
- “Joint resolution authorizing the Commission established to report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of evidence – P.L. 88-202”(PDF). 77 362. U.S. Government Printing Office. December 13, 1963.
- Simkin, John, Dorothy Kilgallen: The Key Witness, http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?/topic/1615-dorothy-kilgallen-the-key-witness/, September 12, 2004
- Shaw, Mark, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much; The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen, Post Hill Press, 2016
- Bailey, George, Oswald’s Mother, The Lonesome Death of Dorothy Kilgallen
- Edelman, Susan, Journalist’s Tell-All on Mobster Tied to JFK Might Have Gotten Her Killed, http://nypost.com/2016/12/04/dorothy-kilgallens-tell-all-on-a-mafia-don-might-have-got-her-killed/
- Higham, James Kilgallen, http://www.nourishingobscurity.com/2014/11/kilgallen/
- Colby, Christine, The Mysterious death of Journalist Dorothy Kilgallen, Crime Feed, http://crimefeed.com/2016/11/the-mysterious-death-of-journalist-dorothy-kilgallen/