2018-03-06 03:57:28 UTC
Mike Walker — A Tribute To The National ENQUIRER Legend
Tabloid columnist dished the dirt right to the very end!
By Barry Levine
Feb 21, 2018 @ 14:12PM
“The Hemingway of Gossip” — that’s how Howard Stern once described Mike Walker.
To Geraldo Rivera, the longtime columnist for The National ENQUIRER was the “Guru of Gossip — the Dean of Celebrity News and a first-rate TV personality.” And Ryan Seacrest may have put it best when he asked: “Has Mike Walker ever missed a beat? Nope! Not to my knowledge. That guy impresses me — he always nails it!”
Before his death in February, Mike Walker nailed it in the pages of The ENQUIRER for five decades — gaining legions of fans and becoming as famous as the celebrities he covered. And in a true testament to his love for ENQUIRER readers, Walker — who bravely battled a long illness with courage and humor — carried on writing items for his “Gossip: Coast to Coast” column right up to the end.
No greater tribute could have come than from one of his longtime rivals. Before her death in 2017, at age 94, New York gossip queen Liz Smith, nicknamed “the Grand Dame of Dish,” said: “I always assume Mike Walker has probably scooped anything I write…He’s amazingly rational, down-to-earth, intelligent, and ‘with-it.’”
Walker himself said, “I knew I wanted to be a journalist by the time I was 12 or 13 years old.” Leaving his family’s home in Boston at age 16, the future “Gossip King” joined the U.S. Air Force. During a four-year stint, he taught himself how to be a working journalist by freelancing features to daily newspapers.
After the Air Force, Walker remained in the Far East and became the youngest-ever foreign correspondent for International News Service and honed his reporting skills on a top newspaper in Tokyo, Japan. He also flirted with showbiz, briefly forming a band called “Samurai,” created a comedy act and took a job on the set of a James Bond film.
But remembering that time, Walker said: “What intervened then was a wife and two small children, and because I wanted to give them American roots, I decided that I had to give up the show business thing and go back to the States.”
In 1970, Walker landed in The ENQUIRER’s newsroom, then based in Lantana, Fla. “Mike was hired as ‘Chief Writer,’ and he was a perfectionist,” recalled veteran reporter Tony Brenna. “He was usually the first guy to arrive in the morning and the last guy to go home at night. He loved The ENQUIRER, how colorful it was and its great spirit.”
Walker’s larger-than-life personality also showed through in his creative story assignments. “When the ‘Roots’ mini-series was the biggest thing on TV, Mike sent a team of reporters to Africa to track down the legend of its fictional character Kunta Kinte,” said David Wright, another colleague. “But Mike was a walking encyclopedia of gossip, and soon was made the star gossip columnist.
“In doing so, he became the face of The ENQUIRER — appearing on ‘Geraldo,’ ‘Larry King,’ ‘Nancy Grace,’ ‘Sally Jessy Raphael,’ ‘Joan Rivers,’ ‘Nightline,’ ‘Charlie Rose,’ ‘A Current Affair’ and a host of other shows.”
On “Geraldo,” Walker held the distinction of making more guest appearances than anyone — a record 264 guest turns. And from 1999 to 2001, the tabloid hero hosted the MGM-produced newsmagazine, “National Enquirer TV.”
Walker also became a radio star when shock jock Howard Stern put him on the air in 1996. For 16 straight years, every Friday, Walker presented “The Gossip Game” and tried to stump Howard and his wacky on-air crew — by asking them to pick out which of four celebrity items was phony. The hilarious once-a-week segment was adored by millions.
Following Walker’s death, Howard’s longtime producer and on-air crew member Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate told The ENQUIRER: “I produced all of Mike’s segments and I loved him. He was truly a character.”
For years, Walker also hosted a nationally-syndicated radio show on the Westwood One Network (CBS). In 1994, he co-authored a bombshell book on the O.J. Simpson case that shot to the #1 spot on the New York Times’ “Best Sellers non-fiction list.” Titled “Nicole Brown Simpson: The Private Diary Of A Life Interrupted,” Walker worked with Nicole’s close pal Faye Resnick to detail for the first time the domestic abuse Nicole suffered before she was murdered with Ron Goldman.
Walker later boasted how his book “stopped ‘The Trial of the Century’” — at least, for a few days. At the time, prosecutor Marcia Clark angrily charged that the book’s publication would taint her jury pool — and trial judge Lance Ito suspended jury selection for two days.
Walker went on to write other books, including “Rather Dumb, A Top Tabloid Reporter Tells CBS How To Do News” (2005). While Walker was praised as a “one-man media conglomerate,” it was the simple pleasure of penning his ENQUIRER column week in and week out that gave him joy.
Deb Hughes, who helped edit his column, said, “The reason Mike was so successful was that people really enjoyed talking to him and telling him their secrets. He had charisma and charm — but he was also fearless.”
In addition to breaking scoops, Walker’s other great love was his wife of 52 years. Mike and Tomi raised their children Justin and Wendy in both Palm Beach, Fla., and Los Angeles.
After his death,Justin and Wendy told The ENQUIRER: “Our father was an amazing person who lived life to its fullest. Not a day passed that he did not work, and he loved his work at The National ENQUIRER. Eager to write, radio host, appear on television, and mentor other writers, he always represented The ENQUIRER.
“Most of all, he truly enjoyed hearing from his many fans, who loyally read his gossip column and his books. Keeping them informed and entertained was his overriding goal each and every day.”
Walker was also a proud grandfather — and, his children added, “We will miss this self-described Irishman who spoke Japanese fluently. He was multi-talented and loved sailing, spending lazy days with his horses, riding his Harley and BMW motorcycles, and loved listening to bebop and at a good jazz club.”
In lieu of flowers, Walker’s family has asked mourners to consider a donation to the Wounded Warriors Family Support in Omaha, Nebraska, or to the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C.