Headless Body in Topless Bar! That’s a headline from the New York Post – renowned for its, bold, sassy and sometimes witty front pages – that will be long remembered.
But there have been plenty of others, perhaps not all as off-beat. For collectors of newspaper memorabilia there is a new book out , a collection of the NY Post’s more striking, sometime outrageous, Page One headlines. It’s title? Headless Body in Topless Bar, of course.
The NY Post is actually one of America’s oldest continuously published newspapers. Started by Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers, back in 1801, it was like most regular newspaper, with conventional but mundane headlines, until Rupert Murdoch came along in 1976.
With him he brought a boatload of unconventional journalists, some from Australia and New Zealand, and of course London,. Most of them with a Fleet Street background. Among them Steve Dunleavy, Roger Wood and Neil Travis, who created the now famous gossip column known as Page Six which has lately grown into a full-colour spin-off magazine.
But it’s the headlines for which The Post is most notorious, of which editor Col Allan says: “We are delighted when the headlines entertain.” To which copy-chief Barry Gross adds: “We’re a brash, kick-ass tabloid and the heads reflect that”.
A sampling: “No Nudes is Good Nudes” (when the Supreme Court banned topless bars),”Chillary” (at the time when the Clinton marriage was strained during the Monica Lewinsky scandal), “Wacko Jacko Backo” (about a Michael Jackson comeback) and “Lust in Space” (about the sexcapades at NASA).
As for that Headless Body headline, which New York Magazine called the single greatest headline of the past 35 years, Steve Dunleavy commented: “How do you tell a sensational story other than sensationally. What should it say: ‘Decapitated cerebellum in licensed premises, wherein ladies baring mammaries have been seen performing acts counter to social mores’ ? I don’t think so.”
Is there any headline the Post has considered running, but didn’t dare? No-one is saying..