William Hegner, who got his start in writing on the Sandusky Register sports desk and found fame as an author of steamy, sexy novels about the entertainment industry, died Dec. 22 in South Carolina. He was 81.
Hegner, born in Sandusky to Edward and Ada Hegner, worked on the sports desk at the Register during his high school years in the 1940s, an experience he later said "addicted me to seeing my name in print." And it was the help of another former Register writer, syndicated columnist Earl Wilson, who got Hegner started on his career in the entertainment industry.
He became a press agent for the likes of Grace Kelly, Errol Flynn, Hugh O'Brien, Nat King Cole and Kim Novak, among others.
Restless in that line of work, he was also a road manager and song writer with the George Shearing Quintet, during which time he began seriously preparing for a life of writing, with a stint as a writer for Merv Griffin and a couple of biographical projects that didn't pan out.
After a couple "nostalgia-inspired" manuscripts were rejected, according to his sister, Trudi Busey of Uncasville, Conn., "he was told the magic ingredient needed to sell books was sex."
And he never looked back. As Mel Harmon, who was Register city editor from 1945-1961, wrote of him in 1973, "he writes primarily about the show business life he knows well, and rarely are his books vague when sex is involved."
Among his more than 40 titles are "The Scandal Goddess," "The Drum Beaters," "Three Loose Women" and "The Idolators," all published by Simon & Schuster.
Hegner credited a Sandusky High School teacher, Paul Lanning, with encouraging him toward writing, and he collaborated with high school friend Jack Canning with the song "Tell Him I said Hello," recorded by Linda Ronstadt. Canning was the composer and Hegner wrote the lyrics.
He was also a manager of the Cedar Point Ballroom during the "Big Band" era, according to his sister, Busey.
According to Busey and his obituary on the Web site of the Island Packet newspaper of South Carolina, Hegner is survived by his son, Rob (Peggy Gibson) Hegner of Ridgeland, S.C., two sisters, Wanda (Dick) Hansler of Pepper Pike, Ohio and Trudi (Hugh) Busey of Uncasville, Conn.; two stepdaughters, Linda Cummings and Katie Ginis, of New Jersey; and one stepson Joe Chnapko Jr., also of N.J.
Services were Saturday in South Carolina. Donations can be made to the Cancer Awareness Foundation "Off Island Thrift Store."