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Man Behind "Single Greatest" New York Post Headline Retires

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A FOND FAREWELL
DailyFeed


Vincent A. Musetto, author of what is arguably the most famous headline in tabloid history, is retiring after 40 years at the New York Post.



According to the Post's Page Six, "Musetto, who once ran the newsroom, was toasted by staff, who regaled him with a reading from Steve Cuozzo's 1996 book, 'It's Alive,' about the genesis of the 1983 headline. But Musetto revealed that his favorite of his own headlines was 'Granny Executed in Her Pink Pajamas.' And when the Times reprinted it as 'slain,' not 'executed,' he got the paper to run a correction."

Here's Musetto in a 1987 interview with People, talking about what New York Magazine called the Post's "single greatest headline of the past 35 years":

I wrote HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR, the most infamous headline in journalism. They have T-shirts with it on, and buttons. It's all right. It's not one of my favorite headlines. Nobody expected it to become a classic, the Night of the Living Dead of headlines. One afternoon I got a report that there had been a murder in a bar, and that one of the victims had had his or her head cut off. Someone said it might be a topless bar, but we weren't sure, and then the idea of the headline came around, so we were really questioning to make sure it was a topless bar. We sent the reporter, this girl, and she so determined that it was a topless bar. I just wrote it, and everyone said "ha ha," but I didn't think it would live in infamy.

Musetto also explained the difference between a headline and a New York Post headline:

Zap, zip, zonk, nix, those are good verbs. Short. Short and powerful. They've got to convey a sense of urgency. Nouns? Tots, kids, fire, you know -- SIX-ALARM FIRE. Blaze is good, but fire's shorter. Siege. Siege is good. Madman, maniac, fear. My favorite word is "coed." When you see coed, people want to buy the paper. I don't know why -- just some young, innocent girl getting into a lot of trouble. It's the dirty old man in people. It's a very sexy word.... Without the hyphen. Some people spell it with a hyphen, we spell it without the hyphen.

After the artistes in some of NYC's tonier literary precincts turned up their noses at "Headless Body," longtime Post columnist Steve Dunleavy couldn't help but weigh in:

How do you tell a sensational story other than sensationally? What should it say: 'Decapitated cerebellum in licensed premises, wherein ladies baring mammaries have been seen, to wit, performing acts counter to social mores?' I don't think so.
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