Crafter of 'Headless Body in Topless Bar' dies at 74

Vincent Musetto, a retired editor at the New York Post, died on Tuesday in the Bronx at age 74. He "wrote the most anatomically evocative headline in the history of American journalism," the New York Times obituary says.


Mr. Musetto was widely credited as the creator of this title, blazoned across The Post’s front page on April 15, 1983.

The crime behind the headline was lurid even by tabloid standards. On April 13, 1983, Charles Dingle, drinking in a tavern in the Jamaica section of Queens, argued with the owner, Herbert Cummings, and shot him to death. He then took several women hostage, raping one and forcing another, in an apparent bid to confound the police, to cut off Mr. Cummings’s head.

Apprehended the next day, Mr. Dingle was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life. Denied parole several times, he died in the Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo, N.Y., in 2012.

But what endured in public memory far longer than the crime was the headline, with its verbless audacity, arresting parallel adjectives and forceful trochaic slams. (The corresponding headline in The New York Times that day proclaimed, genteelly, “Owner of a Bar Shot to Death; Suspect Is Held.” Headlessness was not mentioned until the third paragraph; toplessness not at all.)

Capital New York has more background on the man and the headline.

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent Kudos stories on LA Observed:
Romenesko steps away from the laptop a bit
Crafter of 'Headless Body in Topless Bar' dies at 74
Ben E. King tribute by 'Rhapsody in Black' (videos)