L.A. Times Staffer Susan King Winds Down a Storied Run

She started at the paper just ahead of Driving Miss Daisy claiming four Oscars.

A lot has changed in Hollywood (and at print newspapers) since Susan King (pictured) first started covering entertainment for the Los Angeles Times in January 1990. Known for her interviews and features about classic film and television, King is hanging it up as a full-timer Friday March 4.

For one of her final pieces, King caught up with veteran Tinseltown publicist Dick Guttman. Guttman, now 82 and still at the head of his own firm, learned the celebrity PR ropes at Rogers & Cowan. Heading into Academy Awards weekend, we couldn’t think of a better way to pay tribute to King than to share the hilarious story Guttman recalled about one of his Oscar-winning clients.

Actor Maximilian Schell, after winning the Best Actor trophy for 1961’s Judgment at Nuremberg, decamped to Germany and Austria to do theater. Not exactly a guaranteed way to stay in the headlines. So… Guttman did the next best and – in those days – completely acceptable thing. He made something up:

“I put out this story that Vienna is agog with the beautiful woman who is behind the curtains of the royal box and that Max receives a dozen roses at every performance. And then it turns out, she’s a countess and we don’t know if the countess is married to the count.”

Schell, said Guttman, would complain about the stories. “I said, ‘Your name is in the paper. It always says ‘Oscar winner.'”

From there, King’s article jumps to a press conference Schell held at Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills, some years later, for the 1969 film Krakatoa, East of Java. During which he was asked about the countess, and whether he and she were still “hot and heavy.”

The actor’s answer is a wonderful way to:

1) Punctuate a time when Hollywood did not need to worry about hashtags;
2) Put a bow on King’s 26-year run;
3) Pay tribute to a Trader Vic’s location that opened in style (per the image below) in 1955 and closed with slightly less panache in 2007.

King has indicated that she intends to continue freelancing. Schell, who would go on to land back-to-back Oscar nominations in the mid-1970s for The Man in the Glass Booth and Julia, passed away Feb. 1, 2014.