Saturday, August 23, 2014

No Trivial Pursuit: Whatever Happened To Dylanologist Tony Scaduto?

Whatever became of Anthony Scaduto? In 1972 the Chicago Tribune called him "heir apparent to the title of Dylanologist Number One." This accolade was based on the determined and detailed analysis he brought to his research while writing his book on Bob Dylan. Scaduto was the first Dylan biographer to approach the life of Dylan as a journalist and not a fan.

The reason I ask where he is today is that sometime about a month ago I received an interesting email from a woman in Chicago who knew him when he wrote the book on Bob Dylan. She contacted me because of my blog review of Scaduto's book.

The details of Scaduto's career are sketchy. For a brief period he seems to have been high profile, beginning with the Dylan bio (1972) and his 1974 investigation into the Bruno Richard Hauptmann case whom he believes was railroaded for the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. He also wrote bios of Mick Jagger, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy. But he cut his teeth as a reporter for the New York Post where he was known as an expert on crime and the mob.

According to Richie Unterberger of AllMusic, "The fact that he was, for that era, old for a rock critic (he was around 40 when he wrote the book) probably worked to his advantage. It was a time when young rock critics tended to idolize their subjects, an approach Scaduto never bought into. He also had a lot of reporting experience, not just about music, but also as a police reporter, sometimes covering organized crime. He knew the importance of investigative research, and digging for material that wasn't always going to be easy to find." **

Scaduto got the assignment to do a Dylan bio when it started to become apparent that writing about rock might be something profitable. Grosset & Dunlap called and asked if he might be interested in doing a book on Johnny Winter. Scaduto re-directed. Dylan was the only subject matter that really interested him.

What's a mystery is how a high profile writer with connections to the N.Y. publishing scene would go into hibernation and not leverage these contacts and advantages. According to Wikipedia, Scaduto also writes under the name Tony Sciacca but a quick Google search there only leads to the same books on Amazon, but under a different name.

Maybe it was his boldness in writing about Frank Sinatra's mafia connections that got him into hot water. Or his daring Who Killed Marilyn? with its suggestive subtitle "And Did the Kennedy's Know?"

Scaduto worked hard to develop his craft and it paid off. In the 70's he tackled some big stories. After his season in the sun, he's carried a decidedly lower profile. If Tony's still around, I know one fan who would still like to find him. If you have an information, drop me an email. ennyman [at] northlc [dot] com.

Meantime, life goes on all around you.

* Lynn Van Matre, Chicago Tribune, Sunday May 7, 1972
** http://www.allmusic.com/artist/anthony-scaduto-mn0001798249/biography

5 comments:

Bernie Dreasure said...

i would be very glad to hear someting about his later life up to now too!

Bernie Dreasure said...

Information about Anthony Scaduto from 88 until now are mostly welcomed!!!

Anonymous said...

I was briefly a reporter on the New York Post in 1960. At the time, Tony Scaduto was the Post Brooklyn Police beat reporter in the "police shack — a storefront in an old tenement and an office above it, on Bergen Street. At the time, the shack was shared by seven New York dailies — The Post, Daily Mirror, Journal American, Daily News, Herald-Tribunte, World-Telegram and Sun, and the Times.

All this is so long ago that I don't remember where I got it, but my impression is that Post management liked Scaduto's work and wanted to bring him back to the Post city room on West Street in Lower Manhattan for bigger things. However, Scaduto turned them down.

The reason, kept from Post management, was that Tony also had a full-time free lance job. Every time there was a crime worth paying attention to, Scaduto would not only call it into the Post, but also write it up for a magazine called The Police Gazette. Accepting a promotion at the Post would have seriously cut into his income.

Sorry to remain anonymous about this but hey, I keep a low profile.

Ed Newman said...

Thank you, Anon. Your account has the sound of veracity. I appreciate the inside scoop. He was ambitious and later went on to write a number of books with a similar aim. I once turned down a "beat reporter" job offer because of the unbelievably low pay and long hours. Writers are frequently underpaid for what they offer.

I just read an interesting quote from a book called The Speechwriter in which he says that a good writer will agonize over a paragraph for a very long time to get just the write words and flow to make it appear to have been written effortlessly.

Best to you
e.

RickW said...

I contacted him about 14 years ago while researching Lucky Luciano. Scaduto wrote "Luciano: The Man Who Modernized the American Mafia" (1975). In it, he said he interviewed Luciano's brother, so I was interested in that. Unfortunately, that's all we talked about and didn't get into the details of his life.