Writer Of Perhaps The Greatest Headline Of All Time Dies At 74

Image via the New York Post.
“Headless Body In Topless Bar” started trending nationwide on Twitter today — for a mix of reasons sad, tragic, and nostalgic. The hashtag came from a dark (but amazing) 1983 New York Post headline — and it's back in the news because the exalted wordsmith who penned it, Vincent “Vinnie” Musetto, has died. The retired news editor and film critic was 74.

Doctors diagnosed Musetto with pancreatic cancer just three weeks ago. His wife of 50 years, Claire, was with him in hospice care at Calvary Hospital where he died in his sleep. “He wasn’t in any pain,” his daughter, Carly VanTassell, tells The Post. “He was comfortable.”

Although Musetto wrote many remarkable headlines during his 40-year reign at The Post, “Headless Body In Topless Bar” remains the indisputable public favorite. It refers to a grisly encounter in a Jamaica, Queens bar on April 13, 1983. A patron named Charles Dingle fatally shot the owner, Herbert Cummings, during an argument. He held several women hostage, forcing them into violent acts, demanding one to completely remove Cummings’s head. Dingle was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He never received parole and died in 2012.

Apparently, though, this iconic headline almost never got laid in ink. A city editor challenged Musetto on the topless detail of the murder scene tavern. Musetto lept to his desk and bellowed, “It’s gotta be a topless bar! This is the greatest fucking headline of my career!” Charlie Carillo, who worked for The Post and was in the newsroom that fateful night, told The Huffington Post. A young reporter was sent to the locked-down bar and saw a neon light inside that confirmed it.

Musetto later said he changed his mind about “Headless” being his favorite of all the headlines he had written. Instead, he favored, “Granny Executed In Her Pink Pajamas.” It’s all preference, really. Some other rather choice titles he penned for The Post include: “I Slept With A Trumpet,” “500-Pound Sex Maniac Goes Free,” “Mayhem In The Street,” and “Khadafy Goes Daffy.”


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