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5 of Walter Winchell’s best insults

Famed gossip columnist and radio newsman. Credit: Getty Images


Walter Winchell was a syndicated columnist, radio news commentator and television host who pioneered the fast-paced, gossip driven, politically charged media culture that dominates today. At the height of his career, Winchell had a combined print and radio audience of 50 million and the power to make or break careers. He became the most feared and admired man in America, a man who transformed entertainment journalism and championed “Mr. and Mrs. America” in his daily columns and Sunday night radio program.

He was also a man who loved playing with language, and his copy was often punctuated with made-up phrases and clever insults. “Winchell, in such an easy, quick way, could take anybody’s career and destroy it,” said Nancy Gray in the American Masters film Walter Winchell: The Power of Gossip. Winchell seasoned his column with what he called “scallions.” Journalist and historian Neal Gabler added that, “you wouldn’t want a scallion from Walter Winchell. Winchell could kill your career with a scallion.”

Here are five of Winchell’s best insults:

  1. “She’s been on more laps than a napkin.”
  2. “Anita Colby…will play the role of a high class bad girl – which is only half correct.”
  3. “The only difference between a Broadway phoney and a Hollywood phoney is the distance.”
  4. “Their separation was caused by illness. She got sick of him.”
  5. “Presstitutes.” (Referring to newspapermen who could be bought.)

At the same time, Winchell would lift people and careers up and attack those who were threats to democracy. Here are some examples:

  1. “And some of us can recall when Hollywood turned down a young dancer because he was very bald, and had no sex appeal they said…His name is Fred Astaire.” (Referring to a dancer who felt that the scars on his face would eliminate his chance at a Hollywood career and was cast by a movie mogul anyway.)
  2. “Cinemasterpiece.” (Referring to a recently released film.)
  3. “Father’s Day toast to Papa Joe Stalin: Happy Drop Dad!” (A dig at head of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin.)
  4. “Among little known facts about Eisenhower is that he is a handy man with a skillet. Of course, his best culinary job was cooking the Nazi Goosestep.”
  5. “Eardorable.” (Referring to a favorite musical.)