How ‘headless body in topless bar’ was fact-checked

NBC New York
Editors would have let the facts get in the way of the most famous tabloid headline in history, “Headless Body in Topless Bar.” Then-New York Post City Editor Dick Belsky explains how the paper confirmed the headless body was found in a topless bar.

I called the cops, but they didn’t know if the place was topless or not. I had someone try the bar, but there was no answer. We reached out for people who lived in the neighborhood, phone listings. Nothing. It was closing in on our deadline now. So I dispatched a young woman reporter named Maralyn Matlick to go to the bar and see first-hand if she could determine whether or not it was topless.

A few minutes before deadline, the reporter called in to say the bar was locked up tight. There were no signs, no advertisements about it being a topless place. I asked her if she could see inside. She said she’d try. She somehow was able to pull herself up and peek into a window of the bar. That’s when she saw it. A sign inside that said: “Topless Dancing.” Matlick was ecstatic. She called me to tell me the news, and just like that, New York City tabloid history was made.

The man guilty of the crime was denied parole this week and previously in 2010. Post Managing Editor Vincent Musetto, who came up with the headline, retired last summer. || Related: Post veterans debate who came up with the headline, how topless bar was verified (Capital New York)

Correction: The original version of this post erroneously added an extra word (“found”) to the famous headline.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • Anonymous

    Ah yes, a toast to the men and women who brought us a famous front page that to this day elicits many a chuckle and an attaboy for cleverness.

    But here’s what happened behind that headline:

    -Fueled by alcohol and cocaine, Charles Dingle, 23, shoots dead bartender Herbert Cummings, 51.
    -Dingle takes four hostages and rapes one.
    -Dingle forces another hostage to dig the bullet out of Cummings’ head.
    -Dingle then forces her to saw off Cummings’ head with a steak knife.

    Sorry, but I can’t imagine any of the hostages or Cummings’ family or the first responders looking back fondly to that time.

    Only editors in a faraway newsroom who dehumanized a horrible event.

  • Anonymous

    Ah yes, a toast to the men and women who brought us a famous front page that to this day elicits many a chuckle and an attaboy for cleverness.

    But here’s what happened behind that headline:

    -Fueled by alcohol and cocaine, Charles Dingle, 23, shoots dead bartender Herbert Cummings, 51.
    -Dingle takes four hostages and rapes one.
    -Dingle forces another hostage to dig the bullet out of Cummings’ head.
    -Dingle then forces her to saw off Cummings’ head with a steak knife.

    Sorry, but I can’t imagine any of the hostages or Cummings’ family or the first responders looking back fondly to that time.

    Only editors in a faraway newsroom who dehumanized a horrible event.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t “Ford to NYC: “Drop Dead” a far more famous tab head?