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Lisa Howard (reporter)

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Lisa Howard (reporter)

Lisa Howard (April 24, 1930-July 4, 1965) was a pioneering female journalist and television news anchor who previously had a career as an off-Broadway theater and TV soap opera actress.

Early life and career

Born Dorothy Jean Guggenheim in Cambridge, Ohio,[1] Howard moved to Los Angeles at age eighteen and joined the Pasadena Playhouse. From there she pursued a film and television career. In 1953, the entertainment magazine People Today featured her on its front page, calling her "TV's First Lady of Sin". She also had a regular stint on As the World Turns for CBS Television in the 1950s. After moving to New York City, Howard starred in the off-Broadway show, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. Howard was married to movie director Felix E. Feist (1910-1965) and to Walter Lowendahl.

Journalism career

In the late 1950s, Howard decided to make a major career change. She began working as a stringer for the Mutual Radio Network. She covered the 1960 Democratic National Convention and became the first American reporter to interview Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Due to the widespread attention generated by that interview, in 1961 she was hired by ABC News as their first female correspondent to cover the Vienna summit between Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy.

In 1963, ABC promoted her to be the first female anchor of a news broadcast called Purex Presents Lisa Howard and News with a Woman's Touch. As part of the broadcast, she interviewed famous and influential world personalities, among them the Shah of Iran, Eleanor Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater, and Nelson Rockefeller.

In April 1963, she traveled to Cuba to make an ABC special on Cuban leader Fidel Castro. During his filmed interview, as well as in private conversation with Howard, Castro made it clear that Cuba was interested in improved relations with Washington. On her return to the United States, she was debriefed by CIA deputy director, Richard Helms. In a secret memorandum of conversation sent to President Kennedy, Helms reported: "Lisa Howard definitely wants to impress the U.S. Government with two facts: Castro is ready to discuss rapprochement and she herself is ready to discuss it with him if asked to do so by the U.S. Government."[2] Subsequently Howard used her Upper East Side apartment for the first meeting between a U.S. and Cuban diplomat, and for phone communications between Castro and the Kennedy administration.

According to her daughter, Fritzi Lareau, Howard became smitten with Castro and viewed herself as a grand player on the stage of history. In order to continue the reconciliation agenda, she set up a meeting between UN diplomat William Attwood and Cuba's UN representative Carlos Lechuga on September 23, 1963, at her Upper East side New York apartment, under the cover of a cocktail party. With Howard's support, the Kennedy White House was organizing a secret meeting with an emissary of Fidel Castro in November 1963 at the United Nations—a plan that was aborted when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

The new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, objected to normalizing relations with Cuba as he feared this would make him appear soft on Communism. Howard continued to work toward better relations, returning to Cuba to do another ABC special in February 1964 and pushing for back-channel communications between Washington and Havana. When Guevara came to New York in December 1964, she hosted a cocktail party for him and arranged a meeting between Guevara and U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy.

In September 1964, Howard helped form a political group called "Democrats for Keating"—a group of liberal Democrats that included Gore Vidal, who opposed Robert Kennedy's bid to become a U.S. senator representing the state of New York. ABC News warned her that her public partisan politics would lead to her dismissal. Howard nevertheless continued to work openly in support of Kennedy's Republican opponent, Kenneth Keating. In the fall of 1964, ABC cancelled her news show and fired Howard.

Miscarriage and death

Devastated by the loss of her career, Howard suffered a miscarriage in early 1965 and was hospitalized with depression. On July 4, 1965, while on an Independence Day vacation in the Hamptons with her family, she took an overdose of barbiturates and died.

In popular culture

Howard is played by Julia Ormond in the Steven Soderbergh film Che (2008).


  • Lisa Howard page at

External links

  • (March 24, 1964)
  • Lisa Howard (1930-1965) at IMDB

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