Dorothy died of acute ethanol and barbiturate intoxication, circumstances undetermined. She was 52.
She was officially found dead at least twice, at two separate times by two different people. There are questions about the toxicological results of her autopsy – the amount of pills she ingested is unknown and 5O cubic centimeters of unidentified pink fluid was found in her stomach. The fluid was never officially analyzed or, if it was, the results were never reported.
Information was withheld – from the press, from Dorothy’s family and throughout the Medical Examiner’s office. The whole picture never seemed to come together and still, 45 years after her death, there are a multitude of questions about Dorothy’s involvement in it.
In order to develop a picture of Dorothy’s last months and to perhaps get a better grasp on the reason she died, it is important to understand the events prior to her passing. The following is a brief introduction into the last few years of her life.
Dorothy became quite interested in the Kennedy assassination. She had known of Jack and Marilyn Monroe’s relationship and had been a member of the coterie of press who kept it mum. Like other Americans, Kennedy’s death shocked and transfixed her. It is not known whether her interest in the subsequent assassination case was mainly personal or professional in nature.
Regardless, she made several trips to Dallas, Texas between February of 1964 and her death. During the first trip, Dorothy attended the trial of Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassin.
Dorothy, with Joe Tonahill and Melvin Belli (right).
There, she developed a professional relationship with Ruby defense attorney Joe Tonahill. It was he who gave her the information for her first Kennedy assassination exclusive. It was also he who introduced her to Jack Ruby. Later, Dorothy would petition Tonahill for a private interview with Ruby – something she ostensibly was granted yet published no information about.
Around the same time, Dorothy’s personal life was metamorphosing. The relationship she had with her husband, Richard was in a state of disintegration and the years-long, extra-marital affair she had with singer Johnnie Ray was beginning to phase out of her life.
In June of 1964, no longer a radio host and with free time to spare, she joined a press junket in progress. The Twentieth Century-Fox troupe traveled to Salzburg, Carrara, Rome and London to watch and promote several movies the studio was producing in Europe. It was there that she met Ron Pataky, a 29 year-old, relatively attractive columnist from Columbus, Ohio.
In her biography, Kilgallen, Lee Israel opted to not print Pataky’s name. To avoid legal trouble, she dubbed him the “Out-of-Towner.” It took nearly twenty years from the book’s publishing in 1979 for Pataky’s name to come to light and become common knowledge among those who know of Dorothy’s case.
“[We were in] Salzburg [Austria] on the set of ‘The Sound of Music,’” Ron told Larry Jordan, publisher of Midwest Today magazine. “And the bus had arrived at the set from the hotel, She walked up to the door of the bus and kind of tripped and I caught her by the elbow. She was on the outside of the bus. I looked at her and I said, ‘Well, hello!’ knowing instantly who it was. She said, ‘Thank you very much. And who are you?’ flirtatiously. She giggled a lot. She was giggling the first 30 seconds we ever talked and kind of charming. And I said ‘What are you doing after we get off the [bus]?’ And she said ‘Nothing.’ And we went and had drinks.”
Pataky’s story, told to Larry Jordan, is slightly different than the scenario Lee Israel played out in Kilgallen:
“She was standing by the bus, ready to board. ‘Who are you?’ Dorothy asked the Out-of-Towner. He told her his name. ‘And I know who you are,’ he said. ‘I’d know you anywhere. You’re Clare Boothe Luce.’ Dorothy giggled.”
It is impossible to know the true depth of their relationship. In 1979, over the course of several conversations with Lee Israel, Pataky denied “roundly and often that there was ever anything but a deep and platonic bond between him and Dorothy.”
“We’d kiss hello on the cheek if I was coming into town,” he explained to Larry Jordan. “But there was no goodnight kiss when I dropped her off, and I dropped her off a lot of times. Because it wasn’t that kind of relationship. Never. Not even close. I had my girlfriends. She knew about them.” Again, he stuck to the platonic nature of their relationship. Explaining their meetings, sometimes openly at hotels, Ron insisted that “we never, ever spent any time in a hotel room.”
In 2007, Ron explained their relationship as “a love affair, but not a physical love affair.” “I knew Dorothy better than anybody,” he said. “We talked daily. If we missed a day, we were aware we missed a day. Let’s put it that way, She was a sweet lady, my best friend in the whole world.”
To those who knew her, it became obvious that Pataky “had become very important” in Dorothy’s life. Pataky admitted that Dorothy allowed him to collaborate on articles about the assassination. In 1964, she picked up the pace, writing a series of “explosive exclusives” relating to the assassination and the interviews of the Warren Commission.
She frequently wrote letters to Pataky and they often exchanged phone calls up until the night of her death – a call which Ron claimed was nothing but “vanilla conversation.”
Even though Dorothy was interested in some capacity with Ron, she was still devoted to reporting on the Kennedy assassination. After publishing a copy of Ruby’s testimony to the Commission, Dorothy caught the eye of J. Edgar Hoover. Two FBI agents were dispatched to her home on August 21, 1964, looking to find her source for the previously un-published Commission Report findings. Hoover himself hand-annotated her FBI file, taking care to correct a copy of an article she had published about the assassination.
Dorothy began corresponding with Mark Lane. Lane, who had been requested by Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother, represented her son to the Warren Commission. Dorothy was strong in her belief that there was more to the story and Lane agreed with her dubiousness. “They’ve killed the president, the government is not prepared to tell us the truth, and I’m going to do everything in my power to find out what really happened,” she said to Lane during one of their meetings after he broached the subject of possible danger if she dug too deeply.
The two worked together as Dorothy attempted to “break the [assassination] case.”  He furnished her with a copy of his secret testimony to the Commission and she published an article revolving around the findings he had presented. Her “EXCLUSIVE–TALE OF “RICH OIL MAN” AT RUBY CLUB” is one of the last articles in her file provided by the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act.
Dorothy continued to question the Warren Commission Report’s findings and did not let up in her publishing of articles revolving around what she uncovered. To friends, she boldly stated her disbelief toward the official story. “This has to be a conspiracy!” she said, calling the Warren Commission Report “laughable” and announcing that she was “going to break the real story and have the biggest scoop of the century.”
In addition to managing her home-life, her television appearances and her growing file on the assassination, Dorothy found time to junket again with Ron, again visiting the places in Europe where they first met. It was after this trip that she began attempting to promote his burgeoning career as a songwriter.
It was 1965 and Dorothy’s health was not in top form. In March, she fractured her shoulder. Following that, she was detoxed from alcohol and barbiturates – two things she had become heavily addicted to.
Dorothy’s last book, 1967.
Unfinished because of her death, the project was completed by writer
Allan Ullman who edited her old newspaper articles.
She began writing “Murder One,” a book about the major trials she had covered in her career and again, she planned a trip to Dallas to follow up on information about Kennedy.
Dorothy’s last article about the assassination ran September 3, 1965. In it, “she challenged the authenticity of the famous Life magazine cover of Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly holding a rifle.”  At the end, she asserted that “this story isn’t going to die as long as there’s a real reporter alive– and there are a lot of them.”
She wrote Pataky on “lavender paper she had purchased in Switzerland,” asking him to make a trip to New York City “in late October or early November” to see her “for conferences and all of that jazz.” She signed the letter “kisses, d.”
A “cloak and daggerish” trip was planned for her to visit New Orleans, to receive information about the assassination. According to her make-up artist and friend, Carmen Gebbia, she was “all excited” and told him that “if it was the last thing I do, I’m going to break this case.”
The last month of Dorothy’s life took an interesting turn. Still heavily involved in researching the Kennedy assassination, Dorothy confided in Marc Sinclare, her hairdresser. According to him, on November 6th, 1965 – two days before her death – Dorothy had told him that her life had been threatened.
“The only new person in your life is Beau Pataky,” Marc explained to Dorothy. “Why don’t you ask him if all this information that is slipping out about you is coming from him?” In an interview for Midwest Today, he explained that “I call him ‘Beau’ because that’s what she called him.”
Ron Pataky claims none of that happened. That said, he admitted “that the Fall of 1965 ‘was a funny period in retrospect because I was quick to realize after these things began to come out that there’s a lot that Dorothy didn’t tell me. […] She danced around problems. She did not want to tell me, for example, that she’d had death threats. She said she had some weird calls. ”
On November 7, 1965, Dorothy appeared on “What’s My Line?” as she had nearly every Sunday night for the last fifteen years of her life. She chatted amiably with co-panelists and did fairly well at guessing guests’ occupations on the show.
Dorothy, on her last “What’s My Line?” episode.
November 7, 1965
At 11:OO that night, she went for drinks with friend Bob Bach. They sat at P.J. Clarke’s and she sipped a vodka tonic, her favorite. After midnight, Bach walked Dorothy to her car and was under the assumption she was off to meet Pataky.
Around 1:OO in the morning, Dorothy entered the Regency Hotel cocktail lounge and greeted Harvey Daniels who noticed she was in a good mood but “a little high.”
One of the last contestants on that night’s episode of “What’s My Line?” saw Dorothy at the Regency, as well. Invited for drinks by the show’s staff, Katherine Stone recalled seeing Dorothy and “this man sitting right next to [her]…and I mean close, because they were talking.”
She went on to say that “whether they didn’t want anybody else to hear, I don’t know […] I could see they both had a drink. There wasn’t any laughter. Back in the corner where Dorothy was, was sort of a curved [banquette]. They wanted privacy. In other words, you wouldn’t have felt like going up there. I knew they were talking serious business of some kind. I had that feeling.”
Harvey Daniels, who had been seated near the entrance door and was greeted by Dorothy as she entered, left the bar at 1:3O. He had not seen Dorothy leave.
Sometime Monday morning, November 8, 1965, Dorothy was discovered dead.
She was found in her third-story master bedroom, one she seldom used. Instead, Dorothy had grown accustomed to repairing to her fifth-floor “Cloop,” a room all to herself. On Monday morning however, she was found dead in the master bed, with a book open, beside her.
Her time of death is estimated between 2:OO and 4:OO in the morning however, that night she called Western Union at 2:2O am and “sounded normal.”
What happened to Dorothy between the hours of 1:3O am and approximately 12:OO noon is unknown. Likewise, while the cause of her death is obvious, whyshe overdosed on barbiturates is a mystery yet to be solved.
Her death could have been accidental. It could have been a suicide. It could have been murder.