Sharp-tongued Hollywood columnist Nikki Finke dies at 68
NEW YORK (AP) — Nikki Finke, the veteran reporter who became one of Hollywood’s top reporters as the founder of entertainment commerce website Deadline.com and whose sharp-tongued tenacity made she, the most feared columnist in show business, has died. She was 68 years old.
Finke died Sunday in Boca Raton, Fla., after a long illness, according to Deadline.
A famously reclusive blogger, Finke began writing LA Weekly’s “Deadline Hollywood” column in 2002 and made it essential reading for gossip and business news. Four years later, she launched Deadline Hollywood Daily as a website.
While blogging at Deadline.com, Finke created a pugnacious media empire of scoops and gossip, renowned for his “live-snarking” award shows and story updates that sounded “TOLDJA!” when one of its previous exclusives turned out to be accurate.
Finke’s sharp style has earned him many enemies in Hollywood. But the Long Island native’s steady pace of exclusives has proven her considerable influence with executives, agents and publicists. In 2010, Forbes named her one of “the most powerful women in the world”. Finke was shameless, refusing to soften his approach to the most glamorous stars or the most powerful studio executives.
“I mean, they play hard,” Finke told the New York Times in 2015. “I also have to play hard.”
Finke did it all largely from the confines of his West Los Angeles apartment, not chatting at red carpet premieres or cocktail parties. But since her reclusive withdrawal, Finke could ruthlessly confuse executives whose decision-making she disapproved of. She once called Jeff Zucker, then president of NBC Universal, “one of the most incompetent to run an entertainment company.”
“I can not help myself !” Finke told The New Yorker in 2009. “It’s as if the wickedness is coming out of my fingers!”
In 2009, Deadline Hollywood was acquired by Jay Penske, whose company, Penske Media Corporation, would later also acquire Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. Finke has often argued with Penske, particularly after its purchase of Deadline’s rivals. She left the site in 2013 after months of public acrimony, but remained under contract as a consultant. “He tried to buy my silence,” Finke wrote at the time. “No sale.”
“At her best, Nikki Finke embodied the spirit of journalism and was never afraid to speak the hard truths with an incisive style and an enigmatic spark. She was brash and real,” Penske said in a statement Sunday. “It was never easy with Nikki, but she will always be one of the most memorable people in my life.
After her departure, Finke performed with various projects but never returned to entertainment journalism. Her deal with Penske would have barred her from reporting on Hollywood for 10 years, although she at one point threatened to go solo again with NikkiFinke.com. Instead, she debuted HollywoodDementia.com, featuring fictional showbiz stories instead of real ones.
Prior to his fame with Deadline, Finke had spent years as a reporter for the Associated Press, Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, New York Post and New York Observer. She inspired a 2011 HBO pilot starring Diane Keaton as journalist Tilda Watski.