OFFBEAT: Hammond reader corrects columnist Earl Wilson mention

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-12-03T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Hammond reader corrects columnist Earl Wilson mentionBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

My column Friday about Chicago newspaper columnist Irv "Kup" Kupcinet prompted Hammond reader Jim Pratt to contact me about one of the bold-face names referenced.

"You mentioned in your column that after Kup's daughter died, he received messages of condolences from his newspaper columnist colleagues, including Earl WISON," Pratt recounted.

"It might just be a typo, but this columnist's last name was WILSON and he was quite well known, especially for us here in the Midwest since The Hammond Times used to run his syndicated column."

Thank you for contacting me to alert to this mistake. And you are indeed correct, that this missing letter was a typing mistake made during the busy hectic holiday deadline rush last week.

I also didn't know Earl Wilson's syndicated column, originally called It Happened Last Night and later changed to Last Night with Earl Wilson, was carried in our Hammond Times. His New York-based column, covering Broadway shows, celebrities and entertainment and restaurants, appeared in the flagship newspaper The New York Post, as a fixture from 1942 until he retired in 1983, while also being syndicated to 179 newspapers around the country.

In the 1950s and 1960s, it was not unusual for larger newspapers in the Midwest to include syndicated gossip columnists based on either the West Coast or East Coast. I know our newspaper neighbor to the east, The South Bend Tribune, ran Dorothy Kilgallen's syndicated Voice of Broadway column, based in New York at her flagship newspaper The New York Journal American, owned by William Randolph Hearst.

As for Wilson, he also worked with Kupcinet and their fellow New York City gossip columnist counterpart Hy Gardner for a short 13-week stint in television hosting the late night talk show that replaced Steve Allen's popular "Tonight!" show on NBC in 1956. It was called "America After Dark," and it featured newspaper columnists from around the country making their nightly rounds to nightclubs and Broadway show openings for live segments. When this "fluid" format failed to work, it was Wilson who suggested Jack Paar step in to host what became today's still ratings success story "The Tonight Show."

Wilson was born and raised in the tiny town of Rockford, Ohio, not far from the Indiana state line. When the popular amusement park destination King's Island, located just outside of Cincinnati, opened in May 1972, Wilson was flown in, along with animation legends William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (whose cartoon characters are the theme for the park) for the ribbon cutting.

And in one 1956 episode of "I Love Lucy," called "The Fox Hunt," when Lucy and Ricky are visiting in London, she attempts to impress royalty after being introduced to a baron. She casually mentions she knows "the Earl of Wilson," serving as a nod from Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz to their newspaper friend.

Wilson died in January 1987 at age 79, just a year after his beloved wife Rosemary. The couple had one son, Earl Jr. of Manhattan.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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