Legendary Headline Writer Passes Away
Few people would recognize the name Vincent Musetto, but his work is legendary in journalistic circles.
Mr. Musetto, who died Tuesday at the age of 74, was a retired editor at The New York Post. It was one headline in particular that he wrote for the April 15, 1983, edition of the paper that is widely praised as the most prolific in the annals of journalism: "Headless Body In Topless Bar."
The New York Times recounted the story behind the tabloid tale: Charles Dingle, while drinking in a Queens, New York, tavern, got into an argument with the bar's owner, Herbert Cummings, and shot him to death. Dingle then took several females hostage. He raped one of the women and inexplicably forced the other to cut off Cummings' head.
Dingle, caught the next day and later sentenced to 25 years to life, died in a prison near Buffalo in 2012. Mr. Musetto's subsequent headline lived on, even though the author himself did not cite it as his favorite. The Times reported that Mr. Musetto's favorite headline was "Granny Executed In Her Pink Pajamas."
As an aside, The Times' corresponding headline was the succinct yet prosaic "Owner of a Bar Shot to Death; Suspect Is Held." But "Headless Body…" garnered more than its 15 minutes of fame. The headline appeared on t-shirts and was used for the title of a film based quite loosely on the real-life events. "Headless Body…" is also used in the title of a best headlines book released in 2007, The Times wrote.
Although The New York Post was and is not known as a bastion of journalistic excellence, the newspaper took great pains to ensure that the headline was accurate and actually sent a reporter to Queens to verify that the bar was, in fact, topless.