The Most Powerful Person in Hollywood Without a Studio

Dealing with a lifetime of difficult experiences, both personal and professional, Kennedy would commit suicide in 1991. continued to glean information from his father’s trusted secretary, George Kennedy, who had helped his boss incinerate a majority of papers and records from The Hollywood Reporter offices. Though most power players in Hollywood did not subscribe to far-left ideology, studios were not happy with Wilkerson’s column. There were also plans to have the first air-conditioned hotel attached to his gambling palace. Billy Wilkerson was born in Nashville on September 29, 1890. One day, his house was burgled, and whoever broke in had stolen all his notes. Wilkerson became the most powerful person in Hollywood without a studio, making his moves from behind a typewriter or in back rooms at his restaurants. Those who truly hold power are not always living in the open for all to see. This grand vision would be called the Flamingo, which still stands on the Las Vegas strip. first got the idea to research his father while attending college. By the 1940s, Wilkerson found himself embedded with gangsters in hotel and casino ventures in Las Vegas. If he lost a big bet at his own casino, he would ultimately be getting his own money back. His body would be found next to a photo of Wilkerson, whose life was a model of scrappiness. Wilkerson oversaw construction and sought to keep the mob connections only peripherally involved. Wilkerson’s association with gangster Johnny Rosselli came in handy here, as The Hollywood Reporter got scoops by stealing documents from studios. But W. After toying with careers in medicine and the church, Wilkerson took a job as a film producer in 1912 at Lubin Manufacturing Company in New York City in an early era of hostile competition. Behind the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Wilkerson was the invisible force behind some of the industry’s greatest successes and controversies. Never forgive an enemy.”
These are the words of Billy Wilkerson, the founder and publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, who would work around the clock to either suppress or publish career-threatening stories. Both Columbia’s Harry Cohn and MGM’s Louis B. Wilkerson frequented Currie’s Ice Cream, a block away from the Hollywood High School, where he enjoyed eyeing young women. Wilkerson III, authored this biography of his father with a respectable distance from the subject and he pulls few punches. The business relationship was tempestuous to the point of death threats. Wilkerson fed as much food to the power elite as he did gossip, founding trendy boîtes like Café Trocadero and Ciro’s, where inebriated actors and producers were primed to spill information. R. The most widely known story of Wilkerson is his discovery of actress Lana Turner. ¤
Chris Yogerst is assistant professor of communication, department of arts and humanities, at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Taking the sour grapes approach he changed his angle to attacking the industry via The Hollywood Reporter, founded in 1930. One day at Currie’s, Wilkerson spotted Lana Turner and helped her find a producer. W. Still a sleepy desert town, Las Vegas was the site many Los Angeles gangsters decided to set up new enterprises. Wilkerson is a character who shows up in many histories of Hollywood, largely in a supporting role. Wilkerson took a film he produced and screened it for every studio in Hollywood. Wilkerson also got a taste of bootlegging, and would eventually run his own speakeasy with the help of distributor Joe Kennedy and Jimmy Walker, the dandyish mayor of New York City who nevertheless practiced “broken nose politics” that set the stage for Wilkerson’s approach to Hollywood. NOVEMBER 11, 2018
“NEVER FORGET a friend. As he gathered information, his family grew wary of what he would expose. As George Kennedy confirmed, Wilkerson’s agenda was never physical; he was not the “casting couch” type. Wilkerson never showed any signs of regret. The names featured were some who would eventually become the Hollywood Ten. The moguls were upset because painting Hollywood with the brush of communism would not help the box office. The Hollywood Reporter’s work emboldened Senator Joseph McCarthy to start his own investigation, and he even phoned Wilkerson to congratulate him on a job well done. Hughes delivered the names, but before Wilkerson published them, he went to confession. Known by some as the “Hollywood Godfather,” Wilkerson was likely praised more out of fear than respect. Mayer — a staunch Republican — called Wilkerson to complain. R. After a conversation with Howard Hughes, the aviator agreed to mine his government contacts to find out who the FBI was watching in Hollywood. As Kennedy tells it, Wilkerson saw Father Cornelius J. The new biography, Hollywood Godfather: The Life and Crimes of Billy Wilkerson, explores the life and intentions of arguably the most influential person in Hollywood from the 1930s through the 1950s. McCoy, who responded, “Castrate those commie sons of bitches, Billy!” On July 8, 1946, an “exposé” was published in The Hollywood Reporter. The two met at one of Wilkerson’s restaurants, but Hughes would also call meetings arranged for the middle of the night. He inherited his father’s obsession with gambling and his mother’s devotion to Catholicism. Kennedy remembered meeting Siegel, noting of the gangster’s charisma that “he could charm the wrappings off a mummy.” Wilkerson would eventually, though reluctantly, partner with Bugsy Siegel. As a Catholic, Wilkerson saw communists as a threat to both politics and religion in the United States. With decades worth of interviews, Hollywood Godfather is an honest biography that draws information from a wide range of personalities and debunks regurgitated legends. Wilkerson made key alliances with Warner Bros.’s director Raoul Walsh, 20th Century Fox head of publicity Harry Brand, MGM’s head of publicity Howard Strickling, and MGM’s “boy wonder” producer Irving Thalberg. One day, two of Wilkerson’s mob investors, Moe Sedway and Gus Greenbaum, brought in a boisterous, well-dressed young man named Bugsy Siegel. Rivals could be wiped out by the flick of a match: entire warehouses of silent films went to ashes. Wilkerson saw a casino investment as a way to hedge his own losses. Wilkerson would utter “jailbait” under his breath when he saw Flynn scoping the prospects. The arsonists of those days did incalculable damage to film history. One of Wilkerson’s most inscrutable confidants was the eccentric aviator Howard Hughes. The decades-long process of completing this project is nearly as interesting and engaging as the story of Billy himself. R. No one was impressed, and Wilkerson found himself shut out of the industry — something he wrongfully blamed on the Jewish moguls. Miraculously, Wilkerson was able to convince Siegel to buy him out of the project. Hollywood Godfather provides sensational detail about the secret dealings and vengeful agenda of Billy Wilkerson. This friendship, while strange, allowed Hughes to filter any reference of himself out of The Hollywood Reporter. Wilkerson’s son, W. As the project grew, Siegel began to take credit for all of Wilkerson’s ideas. Owning restaurants would also allow Wilkerson to host high-stakes poker games in the back room, which also maintained his underworld connections along with the studio chiefs. When challenged, the mobster would fly into fits of rage. Actor Errol Flynn, on the other hand, frequented the local high schools to ogle the young women. After all, this was the mobster-affiliated man who encouraged the federal investigation into communist activities in Hollywood that resulted in a decades-long blacklist.