April 22, 2004 by

Will Fowler

23 comments

Categories: Hollywood, Media, Writers/Editors

wfowler.jpgWilliam Randolph Fowler was the first reporter on the scene of the infamous Black Dahlia murder.

It was January 1947, and he was working for the Los Angeles Examiner. Fowler heard about the crime on a police radio. When he arrived at the vacant lot, he saw the body of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short. The unemployed cashier/waitress/actress was severed at the waist and drained of blood. Although the case was never solved, it inspired numerous books and movies.

Fowler covered crime at Los Angeles newspapers from the mid-1940s to the early 1950s. He included the Black Dahlia case in his 1991 autobiography, “Reporters: Memoirs of a Young Newspaperman.”
The son of author and journalist Gene Fowler, Will served in the Coast Guard during World War II before joining the Examiner staff as a cub reporter. When Gene died in 1960, Will published a biography of him (“The Young Man From Denver”). He later wrote of his experience following in his famous father’s footsteps in “The Second Handshake.”

Fowler never attended college, but he received his “Ph.D. in the city rooms and on the streets of L.A.” He withdrew as a cofounder of the Greater Los Angeles Press Club in 1947 when famed female city editor Agness Underwood was denied membership.

Fowler later managed the Southern California public relations campaign for Senator Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential run, wrote for “The Red Skelton Show” and worked in public relations. He died on April 14 of prostate cancer at the age of 81.

23 Responses to Will Fowler

  1. Desiree

    I am a good friend of the Fowler family – my best friend is Mr. Fowler’s grandaughter and today I attend his Irish wake. He was a very cool grandpa to have and always had the greatest stories to tell. He will always be missed and remembered.

  2. clarence donnelly

    I have never had the luck or great pleasure of meeting Mr. Fowler. I have however enjoyed his company as a reader of his father’s works and a couple of his own .Mr. Gene Fowler was unknown to me until I read Taylor’s work on W.C. Fields. Who was this man ?I now have everything I could get my hands on that was written by him or about him !Such a lusty life, filled with adventures and friends of a magnitude nearly unimaginable!A young Will sittting in on Bundy Drive as they relished their time together ,as friends and in the truest sense of the word, enjoyed each other’s company .The “vicious Circle” of the famous Algonquin Roundtable might have the name and fame, but for pure elation and the pleasure of their company, lend me a chair at Bundy Drive.Will dying, takes away the touch of history with the likes of John Barrymore, W.C. Fields,Dave Chasen , John Decker,Ben Hecht,Roland Young,Vincent Price,Errol Flynn,Jack Dempsey,etc. !!I always wanted to talk to Will about his motherand her place in it all .I would have loved to give him a hearty first handshakeand enjoyed the pleasure of his company .Sincerely and respectfully ,Clarence Donnelly

  3. Stephen Jordan

    My book “Bohemian Rogue: The Life of Hollywood Artist John Decker” is scheduled to come out soon. My research entailed speaking with colorful Will Fowler over the telephone numerous times over the past few years. I loved every minute of it. He became a great friend. As Will knew before he passed away, my book will be dedicated to him. He told me, “It is the greatest honor an author could ever be paid.” Stephen Jordan sjordan@thplaw.com

  4. tim cornett

    Long a fan of gene fowler’s, i stumbled into the print world of will fowler. i read the second handshake…and wrote to will fowler..a reply was very prompt…a few years later i read his bio of his dad..and and also reporters…i wrote to him again..and once again i received a very prompt thank you note…he seemed to to me to live in the shadow of gene fowler when it came to his books…but, after reading both, i think they are..or were… on the same level…

  5. Gene Kennedy

    I will always cherish the time I spent with Will in his California abode. We talked about the old days of being a reporter to the fascinating times in hollywood. His inspiration will hopefully help me to complete my book. I will miss him. I am glad to have will in my family. Rest in Peace, Will.

  6. Joe Lovell

    I had the pleasure of meeting Will on many occasions while living in the same building in Sherman Oaks, CA in the early 90’s. It was such a joy to share his company. On numerous occasions, Will would sit in our apartment and share amazing stories. I wouldn’t trade those times for anything.
    Rest in peace my friend.

  7. Robin Lane

    I grew up down the street from Will and Beverly Fowler and their three wild and crazy kids…Claudia was my best friend. My grandmother used to tell me to stay away from their house, as Will was the son of Gene who wrote that sensational book about John Barrymore. I was sure to get in trouble hanging out at their homestead where the goings on were sure to be over the top risque’… and she was right. I heard Redd Foxx at the Fowler’s, smoked ciggies at the Fowler’s and later lost track of Claudia. I came back to their Encino house after I’d moved to the east coast. Will and Beverly were raising Jenny and told me Claudia was in Oregon, I think. I’ve been trying to reconnect with Claudia for years. I hope she is still alive and if anyone knows anything can they tell her to email me…….I need to apologize to her from when we were teenagers and I was awful. The Fowler’s were indeed colorful. Much fun was had by the pool near the orange trees and in the front yard throwing water baloons at the passing cars.
    Goodbye Will Fowler father of Claudia who I need to see before were off this mortal coil.

  8. Patty Butler Spiers

    I recently ran across the wonderful book, “Goodnight Sweet Prince” by Gene Fowler. It took me to a time and place that was, and will never be again. I sort of BECAME John Barrymore and Gene Fowler, Decker, Vincent Price, Errol Flynn….then I found “The Young Man from Denver” which is about Gene Fowler, b y his son. Then I began a search to find Will and tell him what a wonderful service his father did by sharing those days in Hollywood and opening my mind to the early stage years of the Barrymores. Is there anyone who is from the family that represents the writings of Gene and Will Fowler. If so, please send me an address, I am full of great thoughts about these wonderful men. I am so sorry to find that Gene has passed. What a great tribute Will wrote of his father. My next search, “The Second Handshake”. Would love to hear from a Fowler family member.
    Patty Butler Spiers
    Historian

  9. gene fowler books

    I have Authors copy of “goodnight sweet prince,signed by Gene fowler giving book to Ed sullivan.Also two 5 3/4 X 12 1/2 they are called short galleys on leather bound package,also of goodnight sweet prince. book has two drawings done by John Barrymore. I also have first copy first edition, of Beau James by Gene Fowler, in leather bound box. There is a letter from Gene Fowler to ED sullivan, from the Savoy Hotel in London dated july 11,1951, and several newspaper articles about Gene Fowler. And one last thing a cancelled check signed by John Barrymore dated june 1934.Thank You Judy Reedy Grants pass, Oregon.

  10. mark passero

    Just finished second handshake,and had to go back and read reporters once more,,what a writer,saddens me to think the talent well has gone dry with wills passing!

  11. Randy Johnson

    I met Will Fowler several times in the late ’60’s after his son, Will Fowler Jr returned from Vietnam. Will Fowler Jr and I were very close friends, working at a swim school in Redondo Beach. Will Jr was a fledgling journalist in those days, trying to make his way into the LA Times and other newspapers. I have lost track of Will Fowler Jr and I want to reconnect with him. If anybody knows how I can get in touch with him, please let me know. I can be reached at surfmavk@yahoo.com

  12. Susie Duncan Williams

    Well,
    Small universe. Robin Lane? Hi I’m Susie Duncan 4810 Woodley Ave. I remember the Fowler’s too. Claudia was a wild and crazy girl and lots of fun!!! I particularly remember one day, playing in our living room. I had a carved ivory fan laying on the sofa… she and I were taking turns throwing ourselves onto the sofa and completely forgot about the fragile fan. It was broken that day… but I remember the giggling. Robin, would be awesome to hear from you (and Claudia!)
    Susie Williams,,,, phoenix

  13. JOHN T HUMPHREYS

    HELLO………. JOHN T HERE… HOST OF GOSPELS GLORY ROAD…….. HEARD ON kohoradio.com SUNDAY MORNS AT 6AM WEST COAST TIME… MY GRANDFATHER WAS CHEIF OF POLICE IN WENATCHEE WASHINGTON IN 1933-1934 AND GOOD FRIENDS WITH GENE FOWLER.. THE DENVER POST NEWSPAPER BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER.. AS PRINTERS DEVILS…. MACK SWAIN AND FORD STERLING WERE FOREVER TRYING TO GET HIM TO JOIN THE KEYSTONE COPS DOWN IN HOLLYWOOD… NO GO HE WOULD TELL THEM……. I MET WILL FOWLER IN 1970… HE INVITED ME TO MEET HIM FOR LUNCH AT 2OTH CENTURY FOX TO TALK OVER MY WC FIELDS COLLECTION…… CALOTTA MONTI. A FRIEND OF MINE INTRODUCED US…… THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME TO REMINISS A BIT HERE…… GOD BLESS AND MERRY CHRISTMAS JOHN T

  14. Mary Lyn

    What a small world. I lived next to the Fowlers in Encino, on Morrison St. I remember Claudia, Will and the baby, Jenny. I was reading about the Black Dahlia tonight, and remembered when Will and I snuck into her father’s desk and saw that photo. All these years, I never forgot it, but until tonight I didn’t realize that is what I was looking at.
    Robin and Susie – where were you two? I don’t remember you, sorry.

  15. Cladia Fowler

    Yes, it is a small world. Claudia Fowler here. a Thank you everyone for the wonderful and entertaining words.
    My Father was a great story teller and writer I will miss him dearly. After POP died MOM followed 10 mos. later with lung cancer. I rememeber the day POP passed, he was in the hospital and MOM in her wheel chair beside his bed, as Will, Mike, Jenny and I were standing by POP reached over as far as he could to meat MOM’s lips, as they both reached each other they kissed, it was a moment I will never forget. There love for each other was beautifully passionate.
    Love to both MOM and POP, I will miss you.
    My e-mail address is
    myspirit007@yahoo.com
    Would love to hear from you, Robin Lane, Mary Lyn Lee and Suzie Duncan.
    Claudia Fowler

  16. Paulette Peterson Roof

    I met Claudia when we went to Montclair in Aquroa.
    I have wonderful memories of weekends at her home in Encino. Then we would take Claudia water skiing with my family at Lake Nacimiento. Trust me, we had much more fun and her house. I have “The Young Man From Denver” that Will gave me and signed on June 22, 1963. It doesn’t seem that long ago. I’m sorry to hear about Will and Beverly they will be truly missed.

  17. Robin Lane

    I am paying tribute to Will Fowler again. Mainly because he was the father of my once upon a time best friend Claudia. Claudia if you come back to this site please email me. robin@awomansvoice.net
    I’ve been searching for you for years and now your here but perhaps you have spam block. I’m not spam.
    Looking forward to hearing from you. Will and Beverly rocked. The orange trees in their backyard rocked. Their pool rocked. The big brown leather chair rocked. Everything about that household was unusual and artistic, not like any other household in the neighborhood. There was no opportunity for rest at the Fowler’s.

  18. will fowler jr.

    when i was born my grandfather gene looked at me in the hospital and said,”good night sweet prince — say that would be a good name for my book.” thus we were brought into this world.

  19. Cindy Collins

    I am trying to find out which man was my Godfather–Gene or Will Fowler. My grandmother, Evelyn Harris, lived on Wellworth Ave in LA and, I think, worked on the Barry Goldwater campaign.She also had The Betsy Ross Book Store. Mr Fowler sent me a copy of Skyline, autographed, so I am assuming that Gene Fowler was my godfather. If there is anyone who knows of this, I would love to know.
    thanks–Cindy Collins North Myrtle Beach SC

  20. ada (dolly) parkman

    TODAY IS MAY 15th, 2009, AND I AM WRITING THIS ON BEHALF OF MY SISTER, ANNETTE GURLEY, WHO WORKED WITH JENNY FOWLER, DAUGHTER (OR GRAND-DAUGHTER)? OF WILL FOWLER AT ONE OF THE HOLLYWOOD MOVIE STUDIOS. AT THAT TIME I HAD (AND STILL HAVE) WILL FOWLER’S BOOK ” REPORTERS – MEMOIRS OF A YOUNG NEWSPAPERMAN” AND I ASKED ANNETTE THEN IF SHE WOULD ASK HER FATHER, WILL FOWLER, TO AUTOGRAPH MY BOOK. HE DID – IN GREEN INK – I HAVE THE BOOK IN FRONT OF ME NOW AND THE INSCRIPTION HE WROTE. (IN GREEN INK) READS: “TO ANNETTE GURLEY – WITH MY BEST REGARDS – WILL FOWLER – 1993”. JENNY IF YOU READ THIS, COULD YOU PLEASE WRITE TO MY E-MAIL: dolly.parkman@att.net – ANNETTE DOES NOT HAVE A COMPUTER BUT I WILL SHOW THESE TRIBUTES TO HER. SHE HAS OFTEN SPOKEN OF YOU WHEN YOU WORKED TOGETHER AND SHE HAS LOST TRACK OF YOU. WE ARE BOTH SUCH FANS OF GENE FOWLER, WILL FOWLER AND ALSO THE GREAT H.ALLEN SMITH. I SENT AN EARLIER LETTER TO YOU, BUT SOMEHOW IT DID NOT GO THRU ALL THE WAY – I HOPE THIS ONE DOES. SINCERELY AND RESPECTFULLY – ADA (DOLLY) PARKMAN

  21. Rod

    Will Fowler was a kind and generous man. He instilled in me my great interest in his friend John Barrymore, who I became fascinated with. Will was the last eyewitness to great personalities such as WC Fields, John Decker, and Barrymore.
    I miss him and regret we were not in touch during his last years.
    Rod Gregg

  22. robin lane

    Hi Claudia
    I don’t have that email anymore this is the new one up top. I think we spoke or emailed. My brain isn’t as good as it used to be but I’d still like to see you or at least hear more about your life, your children. You and your whole family were big influences on me when I was young and foolish but needing feedback. Will and Beverly gave it as did you Love Robin Lane….

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