HELLO AMERICA!—It was back to the gossip world again, and I was ready. As soon as it was known that I was resuming my column, the phone began to ring off the wall. And that’s the way I liked it. Sonny King, a mutual friend and one of Elvis Presley’s bodyguards, called and gave me information about the rock king that no one else had. When he shot out his television set in his Las Vegas suite, I was able to break the story first.
Every time he had a new girl in his bed, the phone rang to give me the scoop. My editor at Curtis Publishing in New York was puzzled as to how I was getting the information, but I couldn’t reveal the name, because of my friend’s position with Elvis. Years later when he had been fired, Sonny wrote a scathing book about the singer’s lifestyle.
Opportunities were knocking at my door constantly. Eddie Goldstein, a small-time New York publisher of nudie magazines, approached me to edit an entertainment book for teenagers. He had, also, purchased the rights to two outrageous publications: Whisper and Confidential which had a terrible reputation for defaming Hollywood personalities. He wanted me to try and change the image of these books. I thought it might be interesting to try.
We called the teenage book, “Teen Talk.” It was a fun book to put together. The kids hungered for news about Alice cooper, Frank Zappa, Dion, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, and always Elvis. My art director, a gifted New Yorker by the name of Sal Scorza, and I produced a damn good publication that was filled with photos and short, entertaining stories. Because of his experience on some of the biggest publications out of New York, Sal helped to produce a product that was a step above the average fan magazine.
“For Whisper and Confidential,” we had to come up with high-powered story ideas. Somehow, they seemed to fall right in my lap. I was the first to break what was behind the mysterious Susan Hayward illness. The temperamental actress had dropped from sight, and the press was going wild trying to find out what her problem was. Fortunately, I had on my staff a young, rather pretty, English writer Barbara Hinton, who called to tell me that she was about to have dinner with Susan’s son, Timothy. She would do anything she could to find out about the boy’s mother. I knew if anyone could do this, it was Barbara.
As expected, Barbara showed up at the office the next morning, wearing a broad smile. Timothy had talked his heart out over a few drinks. As a result, we learned that Susan was suffering with a brain tumor. She was dying, but she was determined to fight back. She was not one to sit back and wait for anything to happen.
The actress was a tough lady who grew up in the Bronx and who had, through the years, bounced back from numerous personal and professional upheavals. She wasn’t ready to lie down and die. All of Hollywood witnessed her spunk when she insisted on appearing at the year’s Academy Awards presentation. She was in dire pain, but she proved to all the industry that she was a trouper.
This is a slice of Chapter 21 from Michael St. John’s book “Hollywood Through The Back Door.” Michael’s life has been full adventures from the time he was able to sing, breaking his way into show business, and pioneering avenues never traveled by becoming NBC’s first black director. Michael is now battling for his eye sight. Though the diagnosis isn’t very positive, he battles on like a true warrior. My prayers go with him.