Journal staffers 'devasted and shocked'

Tom King, the Hollywood columnist for the Wall Street Journal, died suddenly over the weekend. He was 39.

On Sunday evening, Journal staffers received a memo from managing editor Paul Steiger relaying the news: “I report to you with sadness that Tom King died suddenly this morning while visiting friends on Long Island He was in apparently excellent health and fine spirits.”

The note continued: “Tom was one of the stalwarts of the Journal, both as a reporter and as a friend and colleague. His splendid work on both coasts, his wit and good humor, and his irrepressible spirit all energized our lives and made the paper a better place. We will miss him.”

King’s death left Journal staffers “devastated and shocked,” said Joanne Lipman, a deputy managing editor. “He was in perfect physical health. He was always very boyish,” she said. “Even though he was young, he looked even younger.”

Before moving to Los Angeles in 1991 to cover the entertainment biz, King had covered advertising for the Journal, where he began working as a news assistant in 1986.

In 2000 he published “The Operator,” a book about David Geffen; that same year he began penning “Hollywood Journal.”

Despite King’s studio savvy, he always thought of himself as a “kid from Iowa,” friends say. King was a Cedar Rapids native and a University of Iowa alum.

“From the beginning he always had so much enthusiasm,” Lipman said. “He never lost it. He’d come back and say, ‘I sat next to Jack Nicholson at lunch today.’ “

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