Feb 24, 2016
R. Scott Williams
New biography tells the story of writer who achieved great fame and fortune in the early decades of the 20th century.
WASHINGTON — 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. It will be available at select bookstores, on Amazon and through IngramSpark.
As the highest-paid and most-read columnist of his era, Odd McIntyre achieved great fame and fortune in the early twentieth century. Raised in Gallipolis, Ohio, eventually he moved to New York and became close friends with many of the leading personalities of the day, including writers Edna Ferber, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald; entertainers Fred Astaire, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., Billie Burke, and Will Rogers; composers George Gershwin and Meredith Willson; actors Rudolph Valentino and Charlie Chaplin. and many others.
In his daily column, “New York Day by Day,” and in national magazines like Cosmopolitan and Life, Odd captured 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.
“Odd documented 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 F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and others 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.”
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 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 his 1938 obituary, 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, obsessive compulsive disorder and severe depression that were likely brought on by undiagnosed pernicious anemia. Despite the extroverted “man-about- town” image he projected to the world, his disorder eventually drove him to a reclusive lifestyle. He left his home only at night, and observed New York’s nightlife from the window of his chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce.
A special launch event will take place on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre in Odd’s hometown of Gallipolis, Ohio where The Ohio Valley Symphony will perform Meredith Willson’s “O.O. McIntyre Suite.”
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. Every Friday, samples of Odd’s columns will also be shared in a weekly blog on the book’s website.
Williams noted, “Because Odd’s writing style frequently included short, cleverly written sentences, they still resonate remarkably well today.” Additional 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 and the book launch, 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 and through IngramSpark. 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.”
High-resolution photos available from the online pressroom at AnOddBook.com.
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