Skip to main content

The Untold Story: My 20 Years Running the National Enquirer


The Untold Story: My 20 Years Running the National Enquirer

The National Enquirer has a bad reputation that can never be
overcome, and the magazine is proud of it. No one working for the
Enquirer will ever win the Pulitzer Prize, whether he or she
deserves it or not. The rag's rep is based on gore and gossip and
ever more shall be.

That's from the horse's mouth. Iain Calder, a Scotsman who left
school at 16 and was a millionaire by the time he got his pink slip
from the Enquirer, spent twenty years in the traces,
sniffing out some of the best stories the paper handled. His
breeze-easy journalistic style makes this book a fun read, and the
stories he turns over like moss-covered rocks will keep you
giggling, even if you don't approve of the Enquirer's

Largely the brainchild of Generoso Pope, Jr., who was rumored to be
seriously mobbed up, the Enquirer's flame burned brightest
during his regime. Pope lived up to his name by his love of
hard-luck stories and his personal generosity to many of the causes
the paper championed. In those days the Enquirer was purple
but personal, with small features including rags-to-riches sagas as
well as tales of those who had made it big and were getting away
from the rat race. Sick kids needing medical treatment was another
favorite theme. All had perennial appeal to the housewives of
America, and getting the paper on the racks at supermarkets was one
of the biggest strategic breaks of Pope's dynamic career.

The Enquirer, while noted for its nasty photos of beheaded
animals, ghastly human follies and bloody death, scooped more than
poop. It was often the first with an important story (Jesse
Jackson's love-child, Clinton's pardon of an errant brother-in-law
and subsequent $200,000 kick-back) and its rivals never seemed
ready for the rag's rough-and-tumble determination to be fustest
with the mostest. When Princess Grace died in a tragic car crash,
the Enquirer staff "bought" the gardener in whose yard the
wreckage landed and held him hostage in his own home to keep him
from talking to other papers. After a week the poor man got so
stir-crazy that he took a rifle and shot a hole through his cottage
roof. To be fair, they had offered him what they often handed out
to other sources --- a holiday. The man was just too dumb to take

But then we have the seaman on board Aristotle Onassis's yacht who
was easily bribed and blabbed about everything going on with Ari
and Jackie. He even took photos and was sent back to Greece where
his fiancée awaited, all on the Enquirer's tab. And the
distant relative of Elvis who was paid surprisingly little money to
take flash photos of the corpse as it lay in state at Graceland.
There was an absolute ban on photos, but whatever the
Enquirer wanted, it usually got.

The book is chock full of such stories, but Calder manages to keep
his sources safe from detection, even now. The one major exception
is Tom Arnold, who actually ratted on his bride-to-be, the famously
profane comedienne Roseanne Barr, who had threatened to sue the
paper for its outrageous stories of her and Tom. When an
Enquirer staffer held up the canceled check signed by her
inamorata on Geraldo Rivera's TV show, Roseanne was furious --- not
so much at Arnold (whom she married anyway) but at the
Enquirer operative, who was later sent a punch in the
schnozz and a bouquet of flowers, compliments of the unsinkable Ms.

Calder praises, rather than buries, the Enquirer, so those
expecting the worst may be disappointed. But even when only mellow
yellow, the paper's scurrilous tactics and its staff's plucky
antics make for a great read.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on January 24, 2011

The Untold Story: My 20 Years Running the National Enquirer
by Iain Calder

  • Publication Date: July 28, 2004
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Miramax
  • ISBN-10: 0786869410
  • ISBN-13: 9780786869411