Jill Jackson with Zsa Zsa Gabor

Jill Jackson with Zsa Zsa Gabor

By Tony Rizzo
HOLLYWOOD — Dear loyal readers of Jill Jackson’s Hollywood, I was greatly saddened to learn, as you have, that our wonderful, adorable Jill has joined her many friends and loved ones in Hollywood heaven. Right now she’s probably having drinks with some of her famous friends like Errol Flynn, Ronald Reagan, Mario Lanza, Harpo Marx of the Marx Brothers, Marlon Brando, Rosemary Clooney and hundreds of others who adored her.

I have known Jill for 40 years and worked closely with her for the past three years. She often fascinated me with stories of her native New Orleans at Tulane University and her early days in broadcasting that led her to being the first female sportscaster in the U.S.

In the 1940s and ’50s, she first had a radio show, and then added a television show as well. As one of the most famous ladies in New Orleans, she interviewed every major entertainer who came to town — wining and dining them. Word soon got around Hollywood that you had to party with Jill if you went to New Orleans. They did, including celebrities such as Gene Kelly, Robert Mitchum and even a hip-swinging singer by the name of Elvis Presley. (She had the pictures to prove it!).

Jill eventually moved to Hollywood and lived at the swank Chateau Marmont for $250 a month. Today, that wouldn’t be enough for even one night. Stars like Leonardo DiCaprio now keep rooms there to be close to where it’s all happening on the famed Sunset Strip.

When Jill went to premieres, parties or movie screenings, she was treated like Hollywood royalty, and it was funny to watch some of the newer personalities falling all over her as they jockeyed for position. Our Jill wouldn’t have any of it — as far as she was concerned, she was just plain folk!

It was one of Jill’s last requests that I continue her column and not disappoint loyal readers who have been following her for decades. I’ve written for many movie magazines, among them the immortal Photoplay Magazine, and edited and wrote for my own publication, The Soap Set. It will be a difficult task to fill the shoes of a true pioneer such as Jill Jackson, but I will try to carry on the excellence of her reporting with the class she brought to it.

I welcome your input and suggestions about who you would like to read about, and maybe together we can make this transition an easy one.
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BITS ‘N’ PIECES: Jill’s friends toasted her at a get-together, showing how revered and loved she was. … In the last three years, Jill stayed close to home, keeping in touch with her best friends Joan Fontaine (of “Rebecca” fame) and Gloria Henry (mother to the titular mischief maker on the “Dennis the Menace” TV show). … Jill would laugh at all the hoopla now being made over her. I can just hear her say, “Stop making such a fuss. I’m just a simple Southern girl!”

© 2010 King Features Synd., Inc.