When he died in 1988, Jimmie Fidler was the last of the controversial genre of airwave gossips who once included Louella Parsons, Hedda Hopper and Walter Winchell.
A high school dropout who at his peak in 1950 earned more than $250,000 a year, Fidler probably was the most controversial of the Hollywood broadcasters who nightly or weekly filled the nation's living rooms with stories about stars and comments about movies.
Fidler was the most acerbic of those radio commentators and, despite that, was surpassed in audience only by Winchell. At one time 40 million people a week heard him over 486 stations while his gossip column was syndicated to 360 newspapers nationwide.
He delivered his critiques in a high-pitched, intense voice and prided himself on being the least popular of the Hollywood broadcasters in the Hollywood community. He often found more to dislike than like about films and film stars, regularly besting his competition with tidbits he obtained from a widespread network of studio spies.
"I had secretaries in studios all over town who would supply me with stories for bonuses of $25 to $100," he told The Times in 1983. Newspaper reporter friends also supplied tips, and Fidler gleefully recalled how studios would regularly phone in items critical of other studios.
His trademarks included a four-bell rating system for new films, four being best; "open letters" to movie stars in which he often blistered both their performances and their behavior; and "notes from the little black book."
The commentator who once was heard over all three radio networks was also famous for his nightly sign-off: "Good night to you . . . and you . . . and I do mean you!"