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Passing of Bob Thomas ends the era of classic showbiz reporting

Bob Thomas with Lucille Ball in 1950
AP news photo

Back in the 1940s, associated press reporter Bob Thomas measured Betty Grable's waistline after she had a baby, and reported on it in his column. It was this type of stunt that not only endeared him to his readers, but also to celebrities.

Bob Thomas died on March 14, 2014 at the age of 92, after having remained active as writer for over 60 years and achieving the Publicist Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award as recently as 2009.

Beginning his journalism career in 1944, Thomas soon developed a following for his interesting ideas that brought out the personalities of the stars beyond merely promoting their latest venture. Top level brass became so comfortable with Thomas that he got closer to moguls like David O. Selznick and Harry Cohn than other writers, to the point where he was able to pen biographies of both men. While engaged in reporting on show business, Thomas wrote several such biographies, covering subjects as diverse as Debbie Reynolds, Joan Crawford, Walter Winchell, Howard Hughes, and Abbott and Costello.

For his Abbott and Costello book, Thomas relied most on information provided by their longtime agent, much to the chagrin of either comedian's family. A made-for-TV movie was produced based on the book, featuring Harvey Korman and Buddy Hackett in the Abbott and Costello roles. The Costello family in particular was displeased with how Lou was presented.

Thomas did much better by comedian Bob Hope, collaborating on the book "The Road To Hollywood," which celebrated Hope's work in movies.

Along with his biographies, Thomas also dabbled briefly in fiction, and penned a children's book on Walt Disney. And along with his extensive work in show business, Thomas also covered the 1968 presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy, and was one of the reporters present when Kennedy was assassinated.

Thomas received actual fan mail from Shirley Temple and Jimmy Durante upon publication of his stories on them, but some stars, like Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, and Marlon Brando, refused to speak to him after what he'd written. Thomas never lost his enthusiasm, however, and in 1988 he was the first reporter to receive a star on Hollywood's walk of fame.

Thomas is survived by his wife of 67 years, his children and grandchildren.

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