Lloyd Shearer, a Hollywood fixture whose Personality Parade column in Parade magazine reached as many as 50 million readers in its heyday, died on Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 84.
Mr. Shearer, who had been ill for several years with Parkinson's disease, died of a heart attack, his family said.
Personality Parade, which Mr. Shearer wrote under the name Walter Scott from 1958 to 1991, was best known for celebrity tidbits, written in question and answer form:
''Isn't it true that Jackie stole Aristotle from her kid sister?'' ''Does Raquel Welch have any talent as an actress?''
''For years Raquel Welch has been kind to her mother,'' replied Mr. Shearer, who was known for his reluctance to hurt people.
Mr. Shearer, whose nickname was Skip and who favored Hawaiian shirts and drove a turquoise 1955 Bel Air convertible, was also known for having a journalistic salon of sorts.
''What Skip ran was basically a kind of journalistic government in exile out in California,'' said the author Richard Reeves, who met Mr. Shearer in the 1960's while covering Robert F. Kennedy. ''If you were from New York or Washington or England, he would be your guide to the mysteries of California.''
Among the politicians and journalists at Mr. Shearer's home you might find a young couple with political ambitions named Bill and Hillary Clinton, college friends of his elder son, Derek. (Years later, after Mr. Clinton did rather well in politics, Derek Shearer was named ambassador to Finland; his sister, Brooke, became a senior adviser to the secretary of the interior; and a sign was erected over Lloyd Shearer's guest house: ''Bill Clinton slept here.'')
Or you might see Henry A. Kissinger at Mr. Shearer's house. Although Mr. Shearer was critical of the war in Vietnam and made President Richard M. Nixon's enemies list, he retained his friendship with Mr. Kissinger. Mr. Shearer particularly enjoyed sending tenderly (and fraudulently) inscribed photographs of starlets to Mr. Kissinger -- but only when he knew the White House staff would see them.
Mr. Shearer was born in New York City on Dec. 20, 1916. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, he was drafted into the Army in 1941 and spent the war years in New York and Los Angeles, first as a writer for the Army magazine Yank, then for Armed Forces Radio. He contributed light pieces on military life to The New York Times.
Mr. Shearer became Parade's West Coast correspondent in 1953. In 1958, prompted by the hundreds of questions from readers, he started Personality Parade. In 1980, Parade magazine, an insert in Sunday newspapers, had a circulation of 20 million and an estimated readership of 40 million to 50 million, its publisher, Walter Anderson, said. Mr. Shearer received an average of 5,000 letters weekly. Although it was known that Mr. Shearer wrote many of the questions, Derek Shearer insists they were composites.
Writing under his own name, Mr. Shearer also wrote profiles of a variety of subjects, including the young, unknown Elvis Presley and Ralph Nader. His contacts, Derek Shearer said, were exceptional.
''Somebody once said to him, 'You're so good on the phone; let's see how many calls it will take you to find that woman Eisenhower had an affair with,' '' Derek Shearer said. ''It took him two calls to find Kay Summersby.''
In addition to Derek Shearer, Mr. Shearer is survived by his wife, the former Marva Peterson, another son, Cody Shearer, and a daughter, Brooke Shearer, all of Washington; and four grandchildren.
He is also survived by Walter Scott's Personality Parade. Savvier than many writers, Mr. Shearer copyrighted the name of his most popular column. He sold it to the magazine when he stopped writing the column in 1991. Parade's publisher, less gossipy than Mr. Shearer, declined to reveal the sum.
· 1 decade ago