In 1952, the movie industry was in a sharp decline.
"Nobody knew what to do," says journalist Henry Scott. "Revenues had fallen sharply, Americans were watching TV and going bowling — so that alarmed execs. And the specter of anti-communist investigations ... hadn't gone away."
The same year, "girlie magazine" publisher Robert Harrison decided to launch a gossip rag all about Hollywood celebrities called Confidential. The subhead of Confidential — "names the names" — is exactly what the magazine did: It called out celebrities who were in the closet, in rehab or having marital problems.
"They were sleazy and accurate," says Scott, who details the ups and downs of Confidential in his new book, Shocking True Story. "They also printed a little less than they knew — they might not choose to mention that the woman [in an affair] was 14. If the man said, 'We'll sue,' they said, 'We'll mention she was a minor.' "
Confidential specialized in spreading gossip about huge Hollywood stars — and making sure the facts were right. When Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball were on the cover of Life magazine, for example, Confidential ran a cover story saying Arnaz had an affair with a prostitute. (Which was true, but it had happened years earlier.)