‘Headless Body in Topless Bar’

Michael Klein, writing for The Philadelphia Inquirer:

This month marks the 40th anniversary of a watershed moment in journalism: the publication of the “Headless Body in Topless Bar” headline on the front page of the New York Post. [...]

Vincent A. Musetto, one of the Post’s managing editors, gets the credit for “Headless Body in Topless Bar.” In a madcap newsroom run largely by owner Rupert Murdoch’s Fleet Street-hardened crew of Brits, Aussies, and Kiwis, Musetto was a real-deal, prototypical New Yorker: brash, zany, unafraid to drop-kick a trash can during a debate.

From that day, I wanted to work for Vinnie. Two years later, as a pun-loving 25-year-old copy editor at a South Jersey paper, I tried out as a Post sub-editor, designing pages and writing headlines. On the first day of my tryout, the editors sent me a goofy filler story about male dogs being electrocuted by a poorly grounded lamppost. The headline I submitted: “Piss of death.” It ran in exactly one edition before someone pointed out that such a four-letter word in 18-point type might be too much, even for the New York Post, which five years before had paid a morgue worker to unzip John Lennon’s body bag and take a photo of the slain Beatle in repose.

Musetto slapped my back, shot me a grin, and offered me a job.

The best detail: the Post got two sources to confirm that the bar did indeed feature topless dancing.

Monday, 17 April 2023