Dateline, 1956: on election night in the U.S., on the Mutual Radio Show, the popular columnist Walter Winchell told his audience, "A vote for Adlai Stevenson is a vote for Christine Jorgensen."
For those of you who maybe fell asleep in history class, Adlai Stevenson was the intellectually driven governor of Illinois -- he earned a law degree from Northwestern while working at his family's newspaper -- who became the Democratic candidate for American president, twice. That sterling judge of character, Richard Nixon, once called him an "egghead". He was a divorcee.
Christine Jorgensen was one of the first recipients of gender reassignment surgery -- male to female, in her case -- known to the American general public.
As the humorist Chris Sims once put it, "Yes, at this point, anything resembling 'subtext' has been thrown out the window and replaced with some kind of supertext, a rare substance known for its sheer overtness."
Walter Winchell's reputation hasn't aged well. And at this late date, it's hard to tell how much he was believed. But his authority gave people an excuse to act as if they believed what he said -- the 1950s were also a decade of personal integrity -- and Winchell had a lot of fun doing it.