Richard Johnson spent a quarter century turning the New York Post's Page Six column into America's premier tabloid gossip column. Three years ago, he left for a big money gig on the West Coast. Now, he is returning home. Welcome back, you sleazeball!
Last night, Joe Pompeo reported that after nearly three years in LA, Johnson is "returning to New York to begin a new chapter" at the Post. Specifics of his new role are unclear, but it's a safe bet that it will involve gossip-trafficking with that special Richard Johnson flair. For those unfamiliar with the man and his legend, we offer a quick refresher:
-Favor trading was the standard operating procedure of Johnson's Page Six. He cultivated favors like a mob boss. He might withhold embarrassing information about particular people in exchange for promises of tips from them in the future. If you fail to see the difference between this and blackmail, well, you said it, not us. These methods were widely accepted and happily admitted to by Johnson himself. The good thing about P6's friend-and-foe tactics: it opened the door for sites like Gawker, and others, who just run whatever about whoever.
-Perhaps the most famous scandal under Johnson's watch was the Jared Paul Stern "Payola Six" incident: in 2006, Stern, a P6 writer, was caught trying to extort billionaire Ron Burkle for hundreds of thousands of dollars in return for keeping damaging gossip about Burkle out of P6. It was the biggest media scandal of the year, and it effectively ended Stern's career. But not Richard Johnson's!
-One year later, the payola culture at Page Six reared its head again— this time, concerning Johnson himself. In 2007, Johnson got into trouble for taking a $1,000 bribe from a restaurateur who frequently received favorable coverage in P6. Johnson admitted to taking the money; for that, he was "reprimanded," but not fired. Three years later, News Corp gave him a promotion and sent him out to L.A., and now he's back at the Post. This incident is a good indicator of how seriously the concept of "ethics" is taken in the Richard Johnson gossip world.
-A side effect of this was that P6 was used as a political weapon at the whim of Rupert Murdoch.
-Johnson once got upset about reporting by Vanessa Grigoriadis and ran a P6 item threatening to rape her.
-Johnson's attempt to bring Page Six into the internet era with a splashy standalone website was a spectacular failure.
We're sure things will be different this time. There's plenty of gossip to go around for everyone.