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Updated on July 25, 2010

Midnight Earl best known as a Broadway gossip columnist

:: WHO'S WHO ::


• Gossip is when you hear something you like about someone you don't... (Earl Wilson)

Earl Wilson (May 3, 1907 in Rockford, Ohio – January 16, 1987 in Yonkers, New York) was an American journalist, gossip columnist and author, perhaps best known for his nationally syndicated column, It Happened Last Night.

Wilson's column originated from the New York Post and ran from 1942 until 1983. His chronicling of the Broadway scene during the "Golden Age" of show business formed the basis for a book published in 1971, The Show Business Nobody Knows.

He signed his columns with the tag line, "That's Earl, brother." His nickname was "Midnight Earl." In later years, the name of his column was changed to Last Night with Earl Wilson. In his final years with the Post, he alternated with the paper's entertainment writer and restaurant critic, Martin Burden, in turning out the column (Burden, who died in 1993, took over the Last Night column full-time upon Wilson's retirement).

Earl Wilson appeared in a few films as himself, notably the Groucho Marx-Carmen Miranda movie Copacabana (1947), A Face in the Crowd (1957), College Confidential (1960), and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965). His son, Earl Wilson, Jr., became a songwriter for the musical theatre.

* From Wikipedia



LEAD: Earl Wilson, who chronicled New York's night life for four decades in a chatty syndicated column that originated in The New York Post, died yesterday at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Yonkers. He was 79 years old and lived in Yonkers.

Mr. Wilson, who had suffered from Parkinson's disease for several years, was admitted to the medical center on Dec. 14 with pneumonia and subsequently suffered a stroke, according to Jodi Horton, a spokesman for the hospital. The former columnist died at 4:30 P.M., she said. She added that the hospital's policy was to not release the cause of death.

Billed as the newspaper's ''Saloon Editor,'' he prowled the city's cabarets, bars and other Broadway spots in search of tidbits for his column, which was titled ''It Happened Last Night'' for most of its run. His readers came to expect, and were usually rewarded by finding, the results of the columnist's copious research into the physical endowments of stage and film starlets.

But in the years between 1942, when he started his six-times-a-week column, and 1983, when he retired, he also captured the pulse of show business and was able to sustain a gossip column when many of his rivals found their audiences dwindling. In the late 1960's his column was carried by 175 newspapers across the country. Accompanied by 'B.W.'

Mr. Wilson worked an 18-hour day -much of it in the after-dark hours. Typically, he rose in late morning at his West End Avenue apartment, telephoned news sources and took reports from several assistants. About 8 P.M. his work pace intensified when he set out for dinner at Toots Shor's or a similar theater-district restaurant, invariably accompanied by his wife, Rosemary, known to his readers as ''B.W.'' (for Beautiful Wife). The couple then made the rounds of night spots until 2 A.M. or 3 A.M., when it was time to return home to the typewriter.

Harvey Earl Wilson was born into a farm family in Rockford, Ohio, and got a $15-a-week job as sports editor of The Piqua Daily Call by writing stories free while in high school. He later earned a journalism degree from Ohio State University and worked for newspapers in Columbus and Akron and for the International News Service before moving to The Washington Post.

In 1935, Mr. Wilson made it to New York with the help of Ruth McKenney, who had been a colleague of his on The Ohio State Lantern, and went on to work for The New York Post and later gained fame as the author of ''My Sister Eileen.''

Ms. McKenney found Mr. Wilson quarters in a rooming house off Washington Square and it was there that he met Rosemary Lyons, a secretary from East St. Louis, Ill. Mr. Wilson was the author of several books, most of them drawn from his columns. For several years Mr. Wilson hosted talk shows on local radio stations and in 1957 was the host of a segment of the ''Tonight Show'' on NBC-TV.

Surviving is a son, Earl Wilson Jr. of Manhattan.


Mrs. Wilson died last February**.

** February 26, 1986: Rosemary Wilson, wife of Earl Wilson, the syndicated columnist, died Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She was 76 years old.

Mrs. Wilson was known to countless readers as the ''B.W.,'' shorthand for beautiful wife, as her husband referred to her in his column. The couple met in 1935, when he was a reporter on The New York Post and she was a secretary. Once married, she accompanied him on most of his assignments and was a familiar figure in New York restaurants and nightclubs.

''When Earl started writing this column 12 years ago,'' she said in an interview in Collier's magazine in 1955, ''I decided I want to be a wife he went home with, not to!'' When Mr. Wilson retired in March 1983, he said he planned to let his wife run their lives. ''One thing I'm sure of,'' he said, ''she won't want to go to nightclubs for a while.''



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