William Richard "Billy" Wilkerson (September 29, 1890 – September 2, 1962) was the founder of The Hollywood Reporter, the Flamingo Hotel and owner of such nightclubs as Ciro's. He was also responsible for discovering actress Lana Turner across the street from Hollywood High School. In 1946 he began a series of columns in The Hollywood Reporter, listing suspected Communist sympathizers; "Billy's List" provided the foundation for what became the Hollywood blacklist.
Wilkerson was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 29, 1890. He began to study medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but when his father died leaving extensive gambling debts, Wilkerson quit school to support himself and his mother. He became a compulsive gambler himself, but quit when his son was born in October 1951.
Wilkerson was in relatively poor health throughout the latter half of the 1950s due to decades of excessive smoking. He continued to head The Hollywood Reporter and write his daily Tradeviews column until his death. Wilkerson died of a heart attack on September 2, 1962, at his Bel-Air home, one day before the The Hollywood Reporter′s 32nd anniversary. He is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.
Wilkerson was married six times. His wives were:
Helen Durkin - probably around 1913 or 1914 - probably New York or Fort Lee, New Jersey - Durkin died in the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918.
Edith Gwynn Goldenhorn - June 22, 1927 - Los Angeles, CA - August 7, 1935 - Cd. Juárez, Mexico
Rita Ann Seward - September 30, 1935 - Las Vegas - May 9, 1938 - Los Angeles, CA
Estelle Jackson Brown - December 12, 1939 - Las Vegas, NV - August 13, 1942 - Reno, NV
Vivian DuBois - May 9, 1946 - Las Vegas, NV - March 14, 1950 - Los Angeles, CA
Beatrice Ruby Noble - February 23, 1951 - Phoenix, AZ - His death
When a friend won a Fort Lee, New Jersey movie theater in a bet, Wilkerson agreed to manage it in exchange for half the profits. Expanding his work in the movie industry, he became district manager at Universal Pictures under Carl Laemmle.
The Hollywood Reporter
Wilkerson published the first issue of the The Hollywood Reporter on September 3, 1930. He began each issue with a self-penned editorial entitled "Tradeviews," which proved highly influential. It was in these columns that he helped to initiate the "red scare" that led to the Hollywood blacklist.
Los Angeles and Las Vegas
Partial payment to Margret Folsom for the Flamingo land signed by William R Wilkerson, March 5, 1945 Wilkerson opened a series of social nightspots on Los Angeles' Sunset Strip. Seeing opportunities in Las Vegas, he made key investments there as well.
Restaurants, nightclubs and hotels that Wilkerson started:
Vendome Wine and Spirits Co. (1933)
Cafe Trocadero (1934)
Sunset House (1936) (haberdashery and barbershop)
The Arrowhead Springs Hotel (1939)
LaRue (of Hollywood) (1943?)
The Flamingo Hotel (1945) Wilkerson was eventually forced to sell all of his stakes in the Flamingo to Bugsy Siegel under the threat of death, and went into hiding in Paris for a time.
LaRue (of Las Vegas) (1950)
1. "The Hollywood Reporter". Archived from the original on October 4, 2007.
3. Biographical Information
4. Baum, Gary; Miller, Daniel (November 30, 2012). "Blacklist: THR Addresses Role After 65 Years". Hollywood Reporter.
5. "Paper". Archived from the original on October 9, 2007.
6. Wilkerson III, The Man Who Invented Las Vegas. (2000). p. 98
The Man Who Invented Las Vegas by W.R. Wilkerson III (Ciro's Books Publishing, 2000 ISBN 0-9676643-0-6)