Musel Obit in London Telegraph



Here's how the London Telegraph reported the death of UPI legend Bob Musel in September 1999:

American journalist who reported from London for 50 years and told Churchill of Roosevelt's death

ROBERT MUSEL, who has died aged 90, was an American news agency journalist celebrated in his profession for the quality of his writing and the breadth of his experience.

Natural raconteur with an eye for telling detail: Musel at work in the newsroom

Over more than half a century with the United Press, Bob Musel reported for a worldwide readership on everything from the Lindbergh baby murder trial to the London Blitz, from the funeral of Princess Grace of Monaco to the tale of a Congo hippopotamus with a taste for alcohol.

He spent most of his career in London, where his dispatches set high standards for accuracy and evocative writing. On February 8 1952, reporting the accession of Queen Elizabeth II, he wrote: "Golden trumpets stilled the tumult of modern London today, and the world's largest city rolled back the centuries to hear Elizabeth II proclaimed Queen."

A natural raconteur, Musel liked to recall how, as a young cub reporter, he covered the inauguration of Franklin D Roosevelt as Governor of New York State. He had gone to the State Capitol to familiarise himself with the building before the ceremony. "There was an open door along a corridor," he recounted. "From it came the sound of a man apparently answering questions I could not hear.

"I poked my head in and there in his wheelchair sat the Governor-Elect, alone, pointing to a map of the state on the wall. 'What are you doing here?' he demanded. I explained. 'But what are you doing here, sir?' I asked. He smiled: 'Rehearsing a press conference. You see, son, it's my first time too.' And that's why, if anyone noticed, the Governor of New York State gave the UP correspondent at the inauguration a big wink."

Seventeen years later, it was Musel who telephoned Winston Churchill to inform him of Roosevelt's death following a stroke.

Musel was a frequent visitor to the home of the playwright George Bernard Shaw at Ayot St Lawrence, where he recalled having to conduct a "game-without-rules" in which "I had to pretend I had come to visit Shaw's housekeeper and Shaw would pretend that this was the only reason he suffered my presence". One year "when I did not appear around his birthday time I'm told he complained 'Where's that little American? I want to throw him off my property personally.' "

Musel had an eye for the telling detail. In 1958, on a visit to an American nuclear missile base in Britain, he discovered the American airmen handling the hydrogen bomb never referred to it by name. So Musel wrote an entire feature about "you-know-what", "it", "the thing", "the big one", never using the words "hydrogen bomb".

Musel was also a lyricist whose songs were among the most popular of their time - songs such as Pappa Piccolino and Band of Gold, which won a "million performances" award. He also coined the nicknames "Der Bingle" (for Bing Crosby) and "Elvis the Pelvis".

Robert Saul Musel was born in New York on August 13 1909. He joined United Press in 1927 as a copy boy, and within a year was a bureau manager. Later, he learned, all the contracts he signed were illegal because he was a minor.

UPI (as United Press became) grew into the world's second largest news agency. It circulated Musel's material to thousands of newspapers and radio stations around the world, and Musel stayed on as a senior editor long past normal retirement age.

He specialised in anything and everything: "Assign him to cover a wedding and you'll never want to assign anyone else," wrote one UPI executive in 1972.

"He covered Elizabeth's to Philip (as he bore Elizabeth down the aisle, Philip winked at him); Margaret's to Tony; Grace's to his friend Rainier; Baudouin's to Fabiola; Jackie Kennedy's to Bob's old acquaintance Ari Onassis.

"He covered a major funeral once, so was assigned to those of King George VI, Churchill, de Gaulle, the Duke of Windsor and many others. He covered a trial once, and instantly became our specialist for trials of mass murderers like Christie, Haig, Neville Heath and atom spies like Klaus Fuchs."

Musel came to London in 1943 as a UP war correspondent and remained in London for the rest of his life. He covered five Second World War campaigns, won a citation from General George Patton at the Battle of the Bulge, and added numerous hair's-breadth escapes to his limitless fund of anecdotes.

Stories about him were as numerous as those by him. Covering the Lindbergh baby kidnap and subsequent murder trial, for instance, he was consistently "beaten" by a rival agency. "But they've got Damon Runyon covering for them," he complained. "What am I supposed to do?" "Out-write him," came the reply.

Musel's career as a song writer began when he sold his first song lyric (for five dollars) at the age of 14; he was still penning lyrics in his eighties.

At the time of his death, he was senior European Consultant of Broadcast Music Inc, an American performing rights society.

In 1993, BMI established the annual Robert Musel Award for the year's most-performed song, recognising his contribution to the music industry. He also won a Gold Badge Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Musel had a spell as a Hollywood scriptwriter as well, and claimed to be the inspiration for a character in Ben Hecht's play The Front Page. Whether true or not, he lived up to the image of Hecht's newspapermen - fast-moving, wisecracking and intoxicated by words.

In his mid-eighties, Musel suffered a stroke which largely paralysed his right side and left him with impaired speech. He was cared for by his wife, the former Jill Carlyle, whom he married in 1962. She survives him.

______________________