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On the Godfather of Tabloid…

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The Godfather of Tabloid:  Generoso Pope Jr. and the National Enquirer [Hardcover] by Jack Vitek
290 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8131-2503-9
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky
Lantana Library Call No: Fla 071 Vit

The Deeds of My Fathers [Hardcover] by Paul David Pope
396 pages, 2011
ISBN: 1442204869
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Lantana Library Call No: Fla 071 Pope

Read all about it, Lantana residents, news media history buffs, tabloid fans, and enquiring minds!

The Library has two new books about Generoso (Gene) Pope, Jr., the famous self-made billionaire, long-time area resident and recluse, and media tycoon of America’s best-known tabloid, the National Enquirer.  Remember when it was headquartered in our little town, just off Dixie Highway/East Coast Avenue, for nearly three decades?  As a young girl, I vaguely remember the high, beautifully-lit Christmas fir trees, as well as the enormous Enquirer sign along the road.

Vitek, an associate professor at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, extensively researched and interviewed numerous associates, detractors, and associates of Pope, Jr’s, as well as the rise of tabloid journalism in the U.S.  He claims, “Pope was not a visionary who theorized the National Enquirer into existence, but a central catalyst in the long and varied cultural dialogue that produced it.”

Readers may already know the Enquirer’s beginnings – that Pope, Jr. bought and sustained the paper with a $25,000 loan and subsequent infusions of cash from Mafia underworld boss Frank Costello.

What they may not know is that Pope, Jr. earned an MIT engineering degree and served briefly as a CIA officer in the early 1950’s.  Even so, he set his sights on publishing at a remarkably young age, which had also been the source of his wealthy, influential Italian-American family’s power and influence in New York.  Pope’s family, however, disinherited him. (Generoso Pope Sr. had made his millions in construction and gained power through ownership of Il Progresso, an Italian-American newspaper, and a New York radio station.)

After Pope, Jr. moved to Florida and relocated his newspaper in the early 1970s, he apparently distanced himself from the Mafia.

And the rest is history that Vitek vividly traces for us.  The Enquirer eventually became the most widely circulated paper in U.S. history (its issue of Elvis’s death in 1977 sold around seven million copies within hours), built with a seasoned corps of Fleet Street British and Australian tabloid reporters, a large supermarket readership, and stories based on a constantly tuned formula or mix of stories of Pope’s own making, ranging from 100% true to the fabulously unreal.    Moreover, Vitek sheds even more light on Pope’s cut-throat managerial style, possible sources for Pope’s legendary obsessiveness and social ineptness, and behind-the-scene accounts of some of the newspaper’s most famous breaking stories.

Paul David Pope’s well-researched inter-generational biography and  frank, personal memoir of his father, Gene Pope, Jr., and his grandfather, Generoso Pope, Snr., is poignantly and vividly written. Readers will learn some of the sadder, darker events surrounding Gene Pope’s earlier marriages and two wives, as well as with his son.  Readers will also gain a more complex perspective of the Italian immigrant experience in America, as well as learn more of American tabloid news industry and the stories that didn’t make it into the Enquirer.  David Pope, who unsuccessfully sought to buy the Enquirer and its sister paper, the Weekly World News (known for its famous columnist, Ed Anger), on his father’s death, eventually went on to found his own media/entertainment business and philanthropic organization.

Written by lantanalister1

June 26, 2011 at 4:22 am