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.