Hollywood Reporting Legend Jill Jackson Dies

Jill Jackson with actress Vivian Leigh

Jill Jackson in her heyday.

We’re saddened to announce that Jill Jackson recently passed away as the result of complications from a fall. Her column, “Jill Jackson’s Hollywood,” was one of King Features Weekly Service’s longest-running features, appearing every week since the 1980s.

All of us here at King loved Jill. She was such a character, loved her work so, loved Hollywood, loved a good naughty joke and loved her hometown of New Orleans. Her humor and vast knowledge of Hollywood present and past will be greatly missed.

Jill had an illustrious career in show business before coming to King Features. Born and raised in New Orleans, she traded on her success as a college athlete in golf and tennis to become one of the first women sportscasters on radio. In the 1940s and ’50s she hosted television and radio shows in New Orleans, and it was then that she began writing “Jill Jackson’s Hollywood” for the local New Orleans Times-Picayune.

After moving to Los Angeles, Jill became president of the Hollywood Women’s Press Club in the 1970s and received that organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.

An actress since her school days, Jill had bit parts in films and television ranging from “Airport” and “Madame X” to “The Jack Benny Show.”

Jill’s memoir, “Whaaat! And Leave Show Business?” is published online at Tulane University.

One anecdote from the memoir is about her friendship with Hollywood gossip-columnist Hedda Hopper, who was one of the most influential — and feared — syndicated columnists of her day. Jill’s style was very different; she knew a lot of dirt, but resolutely refused to name names.

Jill writes about Hopper, “We talked a lot. Not about Hollywood gossip, but about life. And believe me, I came to know her well.

“Not as Hedda Hopper, glamorous, powerful, syndicated to many papers, feared and hated by many, but as Elda Furry from Altoona, Pa., a person I loved and admired. Beneath all the hats, and the jewelry, and the finery and the haughtiness, and biting articles, she was a kind, caring and generous friend. …

“During our many conversations, Hedda talked about the hats that were as famous as her columns. She really didn’t care about all that frou-frou, it just saved her from having to have her hair done all the time.

“Over Mai Tais at Trader Vic’s, I asked her how she could write all that nasty stuff about people. She looked at me and then said. ‘You went to the best schools. You had a nice life. Try being a butcher’s daughter from Altoona, Pa., who had to fight and scratch her way to the top.’

“I had no answer.”

Jill left no children, and there was no formal memorial.
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The good news for all of you who enjoyed reading Jill’s column is that Tony Rizzo, a close friend of hers, will be continuing the column under the title “Hollywood.” Tony is a veteran Hollywood reporter, photographer and author whose credits range from Photoplay and Soap Opera Digest to movie appearances and a new children’s book that is being made into a musical. Tony’s first contribution will appear next week, and will feature his memories of Jill.

© 2010 King Features Synd. Inc.