Remembering Distinguished UPI Career of Aline Mosby
(NOTE: This account of Aline Mosby's career is from United Press International, the Associated Press, The New York Times, the book "UNIPRESS" by Richard Harnett and Billy Ferguson, and first-hand accounts of some of her colleagues.)
Aline Mosby didn't attain the fame that Helen Thomas did as White House correspondent for United Press International, but her varied career with UPI carried her first from a glamorous Hollywood reporter for the news agency to an even more drama-filled stint as a globe-trotting foreign correspondent.
The daughter of an electrician, Mosby was born in Missoula, Mont., on July 27, 1922.
After obtaining a journalism degree from the University of Montana in 1943, she started her career with a couple of magazines, Mademoiselle, then Time, in New York. But she was soon off to to adventure with United Press in the midst of World War II, starting in Seattle in 1943. After three years, UPI transferred her to Los Angeles, where she began reporting on the film industry.
Mosby was the first journalist to report on Marilyn Monroe's then-shocking calendar of nude photos of herself. In fact, Mosby was credited by many with kick-starting Monroe's career.
It happened when Mosby was writing a Hollywood column for UP, and someone tipped her that a young starlet had posed for one of those machine shop calendars that took things a few steps beyond the normal "pin-up" calendars of that day.
Mosby interviewed Monroe about the calendar and wrote a column that was later credited with moving Monroe's career into high gear. Even The New York Times, in writing her obit, observed that, "Her Hollywood column was credited with helping to propel Marilyn Monroe to stardom." The actress later thanked Mosby for helping her give her movie career an major assist.
Mosby Interviews Monroe
Beyond Marilyn Monroe, Mosby had a very interesting stay during her Hollywood reporting days.
One of her assignments was to cover a nudist convention in Southern California. When the organizers told her she couldn't wear clothes, she went ahead and took hers off. She later said, "I sort of held my notebook in front of me as I wandered around taking notes."
Mosby was reputed to some in Hollywood to be the "woman in black" at the funeral of young actor James Dean.
She was also famously involved in the Confidential magazine scandal in Los Angeles in 1957.
She was covering the trial at which several Hollywood stars, including Frank Sinatra, were suing Confidential for libel.
(See Wikipedia's account of Confidential magazine scandal here.
Attorneys for Confidential said they wanted to call as witnesses Hollywood reporters, including Mosby, who were said to be the magazine's informants. Mosby's name never came up in open court, but in a conference between the lawyers and the judge it was determined that she had freelanced up to two dozen stories for the magazine.
UP quickly pulled her off the story and out of the Los Angeles bureau. Six months later her foreign career coverage began when she surfaced at UP's Paris bureau.
She later told a colleague in Paris that the scoop she gave Confidential came from a trip she made from Los Angeles to Palm Springs where she parked outside Sinatra's home and slept in her car for the weekend. During the weekend she said she observed three young starlets go into Sinatra's house and not come out.
Based on Mosby's reporting, a Confidential story said Sinatra took turns with the women, boosting his energy with Wheaties in between bedroom sessions.
Mosby eventually moved from Paris to UPI's London bureau. In 1958 she visited the Brussels Trade Exhibition, and while there she met with Russian trade representatives who encouraged her to visit the Soviet Union. Soon afterwards, Tom Curran, the UPI division manager, asked her in 1959 transfer to Moscow.
There is some dispute over whether Mosby was the first woman to work for UP in Moscow.
Collette Blackmoore was hired by longtime Moscow bureau manager Henry Shapiro in September 1956, though Blackmoore originally went to Moscow as principal of the Anglo school.
Mosby claimed to be the "first woman foreign correspondent" in Moscow, and Editor & Publisher magazine called her the "first permanent woman correspondent" in Moscow. Mosby replaced Blackmoore, but she could be viewed as the first woman "sent" to Moscow as a correspondent, or the first one considered "permanent."
In any event, Curran told Mosby: "Don't worry too much about writing about politics. What we want to find out about is what the people are like, what the people eat for breakfast, and how they live and so forth."
Citizen Band (CB) radio became available for news coverage in New York in 1960 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev attended a U.N. General Assembly meeting. UPI borrow new CB radios from a supplier to cover Khrushchev, but the units required batteries that were very bulky.
Mosby, who had been brought in from Moscow to help cover the Soviet leader, carried her CB in a baby carriage.
Mosby, who spoke Russian, was able to dictate running copy to the New York UPI bureau when Khrushchev made an unscheduled appearance on the balcony of the Soviet embassy and engaged in a raucous shouting exchange with reporters, as well as during his unpredictable tirades and comments when he entered and left the building.
Said Bill Sexton, who was in charge of the New York desk, "We had copy on the wire before many of the reporters were able to get to a telephone."
Mosby was part of an all-star UPI staff that covered that U.N. meeting with Khrushchev and Fidel Castro in the city. In addition to Mosby, the staff included Moscow bureau manager Henry Shapiro, Bruce Munn, chief U.N. correspondent, former Havana bureau manager Francis McCarthy, UPI diplomatic reporter Stewart Hensley and three dozen other reporters.
While in Moscow, the KGB once enticed her to a restaurant and put a Mickey in her cognac. She reportedly stumbled out on the street into the gutter where the KGB was there to take photographs to use to blackmail her. But veteran UPI Moscow bureau manager Henry Shapiro was able to use his influence to prevent her expulsion.
On Nov. 13, 1959, Mosby interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald after he had defected to the Soviet Union. She also interviewed Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot who was downed over the Soviet Union in 1960.
Mosby later told a fellow journalist of Oswald, "He struck me as being a rather mixed-up young man of not great intellectual capacity or training, and somebody that the Soviet Union wouldn't certainly be much interested in."
Mosby returned to the Paris bureau in 1961.
Click here for Mosby's comments in the Paris bureau about Oswald after JFK's assassination in 1963.
After leaving Moscow she wrote a charming memoir about her experiences in the Soviet Union entitled, "The View From No. 13 Peoples Street." (The book is still available on Amazon.)
In 1964, the Ford Foundation Scholarship Fund arranged for Mosby to study the Chinese language, but after learning the language the Chinese government refused her a visa and she remained with UPI.
After leaving Paris she worked for UPI in New York (1964-65), Moscow (1964-66), New York (1967-68), Vienna (1968-70) and Paris (1970-78). She also had stops in Vienna, Bucharest, Prague and Berlin and Bejing.
In January 1979, China decided UPI, AP and The New York Times could open bureaus in Bejing. UPI sent Robert Crabbe andMosby to open the company's new bureau, making Mosby the first permanent foreign women correspondents in the Chinese capital. But when the AP learned UPI was sending a woman, it changed its staff in Bejing and decided to include a woman, Victoria Graham.
Mosby at Bejing Assignment
After retiring from UPI in 1984, Mosby did freelance work for the The New York Times and several slick magazines from her Paris apartment.
She maintained a house in Montana and a home in southern France.
In February 1998, Mosby returned to California to be near her sister. She told friends she couldn't live alone any longer in Paris because she was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. She never married.
Mosby was 76 when she died in August, 1998, in Escondido, Calif.