30th Anniversary Issue / Cindy Adams: Gossip Queen

I’m a quintessential New Yorker, born and bred – one of the four you’re going to meet in the whole city. I grew up on West End Avenue. The nose came from my mother. But my career came because I married Joey. He was the brother-in-law of Walter Winchell, who was the adopted son of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Some of the best judges money can buy were in our living room. I was a young creature trying to be somebody. A model, which was one of my classier titles. I fell in with some people who were trying to make me Miss Bagel – a Brooklyn Better Bagel Bakers’ Bureau. And I was on a radio program with Joey one day.

After we got married, I was bored, because I wasn’t meant to be a housewife. I wouldn’t know a Drano from an Ajax, and I’m not looking to find out. So I began writing for some local little newspaper that had a readership of five; four were Linotypers. I finally graduated to a weekly called Our Town. But when the time came that I was being wooed to go to the Post, the editor fired me. He was paying me $5 a week!

Oddly enough, when I was growing up, I lived only a quarter of a block from a man by the name of Earl Wilson. For 35 years, he had the column that I inherited when he passed away. How did I get it? Joey was doing a column of jokes for a newspaper called the Long Island Press. One week, in comes some guy from Australia nobody’s ever heard of. He talked funny, with an accent, and he bought the New York Post and the Long Island Press. The Australians were the sharpest, the smartest, the toughest, the brightest, but they didn’t have the Rolodex. I had the Rolodex. So whenever they needed to know whom to call, they’d call me. Or I’d say, “Here’s where you’ve got to go to get the number.” So over the years they began to kind of rely on me.

In December 1979, the Shah of Iran was in New York Hospital dying. That night, I was supposed to have dinner with Roger Wood, who was then editor-in-chief of the New York Post. So in my innocence, I called Roger and I said, “I can’t go to dinner. I have to go up to see the Shah.” There was like a thud at the other end of the phone. And he figured he’s got a retard on the other end of the phone and he has to handle me carefully because obviously I’d passed away mentally. And he said, “Well, now darling, let us not be upset about the dinner. Take all the time you need, love. But give us a call when it’s all over.” So I said, “Yes, sure. I’ll be happy to do that.” So I call him later and I say, “Roger, you know what was so funny? There is His Majesty, sitting in rumpled white silk pajamas. And on the door of his closet there is a giant poster of an ugly, ugly gorilla with a terrible smile. And underneath the caption it says THINGS HAVE TO GET BETTER.” And I told that to Roger, who was now speaking to me very quietly, like I’m something very fragile and if he touches me wrong I will break. And he says, “You know, darling, do you think possibly you could write that?”

I’d never written a news story before. And suddenly the enormity of what I was doing got to me. The next day, I’m on the front page and it says THE POST’S CINDY ADAMS. They didn’t pay me for the story. They sent me flowers. But right after that, they started asking me to write for them steadily, so I took the column in 1981. And that’s how I got on the Post.

Interviewed by Maer Roshan

30th Anniversary Issue / Cindy Adams: Gossip Queen