Hollywood columnist Jill Jackson dies at 97

Wrote syndicated column that ran for decades

Jill Jackson, a pioneering New Orleans sportscaster who wrote a Hollywood gossip column that ran for decades, died Sept. 8 of natural causes at the Rehabilitation Center of Beverly Hills. She was 97.

Her column, "Jill Jackson's Hollywood," was syndicated and reached more than 1,700 newspapers at its peak. She continued writing until a few weeks ago.

An outstanding athlete in golf and tennis, Jackson became what some believe to be the first woman sportscaster when she did color commentary on golf tournaments with local legend Henry Dupre in the early 1940s and on baseball games with pitcher-turned-broadcaster Dizzy Dean.

Jackson soon had her own sports show on radio and then her own TV show in New Orleans, on which she interviewed celebrities who visited the city. She headed west in 1960.

An actress since her school days, Jackson starred in stage productions in New Orleans and appeared in "I'd Rather Be Rich" (1964) and "Madame X" (1966) -- two films produced by her friend, Ross Hunter and in a 1961 episode of "The Jack Benny Show."

Among others in Hollywood she also counted as friends were columnist Hedda Hopper, screenwriter Frances Marion, director Michael Curtiz and actors Edward G. Robinson, Joan Blondell and Joan Fontaine.

Jackson was president of the Hollywood Women's Press Club in the '70s and received its Life Achievement Award in 2004.

Survivors include nephew Michael Berenson and niece Jill Berenson, their children and grandchildren, and cousins Loraine Despres, Jane Johnston and Susie Schwarz, a talent agent at SDB Partners.

There will be no funeral service.
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