Weather Updates

Joe Finnigan, 88, Hollywood reporter covered Sinatra kidnapping

Actor John Wayne shares laugh with Frank SinatrSaturday receptibefore televisitaping an hour-long tribute Wayne scheduled air Nov. 26 1976 ABC.

Actor John Wayne shares a laugh with Frank Sinatra Saturday at a reception before the television taping of an hour-long tribute to Wayne scheduled to air Nov. 26, 1976, on ABC. Sinatra will host the special entitled, “An All-Star Tribute to John Wayne.”

storyidforme: 61855701
tmspicid: 22337202
fileheaderid: 10648590

Updated: March 11, 2014 6:28AM

LOS ANGELES — Joe Finnigan, a veteran Hollywood reporter who chronicled the comings and goings of stars such as John Wayne, Frank Sinatra and even Lassie during a decades-long career, has died at age 88, his family said Thursday.

Mr. Finnigan died of natural causes on Jan. 22 at a retirement home in the San Fernando Valley, his son David Finnigan told The Associated Press.

In the early days of his career, Joe Finnigan worked for United Press International in San Francisco, Phoenix and Seattle. He arrived at UPI’s Los Angeles bureau in 1958 and became an entertainment reporter.

Among the stories he covered was the release of Frank Sinatra’s son Frank Jr. by kidnappers in 1963.

He said he also witnessed a near fistfight between the volatile Frank Sinatra and Wayne when the two got into a dispute at a Hollywood party. It ended, Mr. Finnigan’s son said his father told him, when Sinatra yelled, “’Are you getting this, Joe?’” after the much bigger Wayne grabbed him.

From 1965 to 1983, Mr. Finnigan wrote the “TV Teletype” column for TV Guide.

One of the stories Mr. Finnigan said he most enjoyed doing was a report that Lassie had suffered a tail injury. He told his son it got play for weeks all over the country.

Mr. Finnigan, who retired in the late 1980s, occasionally appeared as an extra in television shows and films, usually playing a reporter.

He began his career as a copy boy for the San Francisco Examiner before moving to The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa and then UPI, where he covered the arrival of American prisoners of war from North Korea in the 1950s.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife, Shirley; daughters Anne and Mary; sons John, Mark and Matthew; brothers Tom and Raymond; and 11 grandchildren.


© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.