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James Bacon, 96

James Bacon, AP reporter and chronicler of Hollywood stars, dies at 96

James Bacon
James Bacon (AP)
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By Christopher Weber
Monday, September 20, 2010

James Bacon, who began his career at the Associated Press in the 1940s and spent six decades chronicling Hollywood's biggest stars as a reporter, author and syndicated columnist, died Sept. 18 of congestive heart failure at his home in Northridge, Calif. He was 96.

As a reporter for the AP for 23 years and later as a columnist for the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Mr. Bacon had a knack for befriending A-list celebrities. He palled around with John Wayne, shared whiskey with Frank Sinatra, was a confidant of Marilyn Monroe and met eight U.S. presidents.

Mr. Bacon accompanied Elizabeth Taylor's physician to her home to break the news of the death of her third husband, Mike Todd, in a plane crash. After filing his story with the AP, Mr. Bacon, the only reporter in the house, briefed the reporters outside.

Once posing as a coroner, Mr. Bacon made his way past a police barricade to get Lana Turner's firsthand account of the fatal stabbing of her lover Johnny Stompanato by her daughter Cheryl Crane.

Operating in an era when media agents posed few restrictions, Mr. Bacon often found himself drinking with his subjects.

After a St. Patrick's Day lunch with Wayne went into the night, the pair hired a taxi to take them from Los Angeles to Mission San Juan Capistrano, where they hoped see the swallows that return each year from their wintering grounds. After arriving at the Southern California mission in the morning, a priest told them they were a week early. They took the taxi back to Los Angeles.

Years later, Mr. Bacon broke the story of Wayne's cancer.

Mr. Bacon spent 18 years at the Herald Examiner and went on to write books. Most recently, he wrote a weekly column about Hollywood's golden years for the magazine Beverly Hills 213, which carried his last piece in June.

Born James Richard Hughes Bacon on May 12, 1914, in Buffalo, he was inspired to become a journalist by his father, Thomas Bacon, who worked for William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer.

Mr. Bacon joined the AP in Albany, N.Y., as a general assignment reporter in 1942 before serving in the Navy in World War II. He rejoined the AP in Chicago in 1946 and moved to the Los Angeles bureau two years later.

Survivors include his wife of 44 years, the former Doris Klein; their three children, James B. Bacon of Granada Hills, Calif., Thomas C. Bacon of Manhattan Beach, Calif., and Margaret Bacon Smith of Los Angeles; two children from his first marriage, Roger Bacon and Kathleen Brooks, both of Ventura, Calif.; a sister; 15 grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren.

-- Associated Press

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