Dec. 15, 2016
R. Scott Williams
“An Odd Book” Explores Life and Career of First Modern Pop Culture Reporter
New biography tells the story of Odd McIntyre who achieved great fame and fortune in New York and Hollywood in the early decades of the 20th century.
Washington, D.C. — On April 1, 2017, R. Scott Williams will release “An Odd Book: How the First Modern Pop Culture Reporter Conquered New York,” a biography of the life of Oscar Odd McIntyre, the first modern pop culture and entertainment reporter.
In his daily column, “New York Day by Day,” and in national magazines like Cosmopolitan and Life, Odd recorded a time and place undergoing great transition and innovation in communication, politics, art and entertainment. As the country shifted from the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era and through the Great Depression, new technologies and methods of communication were being quickly adopted around the world, as were new ideas regarding journalism and the role of media in American politics and society. Odd, living and writing in New York, was at the epicenter of this new modern age.
“While writing about New York, Odd recorded the stories of what was happening backstage and behind the scenes with popular culture around the world,” said Williams, who is the chief operating officer of the Newseum in Washington, D.C. “Odd was there as the telegraph changed the news business, and then as radio changed everything. He covered live entertainment as it shifted from vaudeville to something new and exciting on Broadway, and he had a literal front-row seat as moving pictures evolved first to nickelodeons, then to silent films, and finally to talkies.”
As a young journalist and editor in Ohio, Odd was one of the very first reporters to interview the Wright brothers in Dayton, and he worked side by side with early muckrakers to fight government corruption in Cincinnati. After moving to New York and working briefly as an assistant editor for Hampton’s Magazine, he got a job as a Park Row newspaper reporter. One of his first assignments was interviewing Titanic survivors as they stepped onto the pier in New York. Later, McIntyre began working for music publisher Leo Feist on Tin Pan Alley, promoting songwriters, vaudeville and Broadway performers, musicians, and “song pluggers.”
His success there led to many years as the press agent for Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., where he got to know many of the most popular performers of the day. In Paris, he became friends with a group of authors that included F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, who came to be known as the “Lost Generation,” while back in New York, he had a long-time feud with members of the group known as the “Algonquin Round Table.” Odd’s friends included some of the leading celebrities of the day, including humorists Irvin Cobb and Will Rogers, actors Rudolph Valentino, Sophie Tucker and Charlie Chaplin, publishers Roy W. Howard and William Randolph Hearst and many others.
His experience and connections in New York allowed him and his biggest champion, his wife Maybelle McIntyre, to start a daily column that they mailed from their small New York City apartment to newspapers around the country. Eventually, Odd’s column grew to reach more than seven million readers each day, making him a media superstar.
In 1938, a reporter for The New York Times wrote, “His greatest stock-in-trade was his incarnate rapture at the glories of a New York recognizable to none but himself. To him the towers of Manhattan were studded with minarets and the neon lights of Broadway flickered like jewels.”
Only Odd’s wife and closest friends knew his biggest secret. Throughout adulthood, he struggled with social anxiety and severe depression that were likely brought on by undiagnosed pernicious anemia. Despite the extroverted “man-about-town” image he projected to the world, eventually his illness drove him into a reclusive lifestyle, in which he ventured out only at night in his chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce.
In anticipation of the book, Williams has also launched several social media initiatives to help the public learn more about Odd McIntyre and his work. Photos of the people, places and pop culture icons that Odd covered in his daily column will be featured on Instagram, and short excerpts from Odd’s articles will be shared on Twitter. Williams noted, “Because Odd’s writing style frequently included short, cleverly written sentences, they still resonate remarkably well today in the 140-character Twitter format.” Additionally, other content about Odd McIntyre and “An Odd Book” will be shared on YouTube and Facebook.
Links to these social network accounts, along with much more information about Odd McIntyre, can be found at AnOddBook.com.
About R. Scott Williams
R. Scott Williams is the author of “An Odd Book, How the First Modern Pop Culture Reporter Conquered New York,” available April 1 on Amazon.com. Williams is the chief operating officer and senior vice president of sales and marketing at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Williams earned his degree in journalism from the University of Memphis. He then held positions at several advertising agencies and organizations, including Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.
He currently serves on the board of the D.C. chapter of the American Advertising Federation and on the board of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
He lives with his wife and daughters in historic Arlington, Va. Passionate about discovering and sharing forgotten stories from the past, in his spare time he explores the history of the American south, especially around his home in West Tennessee.
His first book was “The Forgotten Adventures of Richard Halliburton: from Tennessee to Timbuktu.”
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