updated 03/14/2014 AT 8:00 AM ET
•originally published 03/14/2014 AT 9:15 AM ET
Bob Thomas, the tireless, longtime Associated Press reporter who kept the world informed on the comings and goings of Hollywood’s biggest stars, from Clark Gable to Tom Cruise, died Friday. He was 92.
Thomas died of age-related illnesses at his Encino, Calif., home, his daughter Janet Thomas said.
A room filled with his interview subjects would have made for the most glittering of ceremonies: Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Groucho Marx and Marlon Brando, Walt Disney and Fred Astaire. He interviewed rising stars (James Dean), middle-aged legends (Humphrey Bogart, Jack Nicholson) and elder institutions (Bob Hope).
Thomas’s career began in 1944, when Hollywood was still a small, centralized community, tightly controlled by a handful of studios, and continued well into the 21st century. During his nearly seven decades writing for the AP, Thomas reviewed hundreds of films and television shows, compiled hundreds of celebrity obituaries and wrote numerous retrospective pieces on Hollywood and how it had changed.
He was the author of nearly three dozen books, including biographies of Disney, Brando and Crawford and an acclaimed portrait of studio mogul Harry Cohn, King Cohn.
He wrote, produced and appeared in a handful of television specials on the Academy Awards and was a guest on numerous television programs including The Tonight Show, Good Morning America and Nightline. His biographies of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes and the comedy team of Abbott and Costello were made into television movies.
He is listed twice in Guinness World Records, for most consecutive Academy Awards shows covered by an entertainment reporter and for longest career as an entertainment reporter (1944-2010).
In 1988, he became the first reporter-author awarded a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
But one of his biggest stories had nothing to do with entertainment.
Helping out during the 1968 presidential election, Thomas had been assigned to cover Sen. Kennedy on the night the New York Democrat won the California primary. Minutes after declaring victory, Kennedy was shot to death in the kitchen of Los Angeles’s Ambassador Hotel.
“I was waiting in the press room for Kennedy to arrive when I heard what sounded like the popping of balloons in the hotel kitchen,” Thomas would recount years later.
“I rushed into the kitchen where men were screaming and women sobbing,” he recalled. “I jumped onto a pile of kitchen trays and saw Kennedy lying on the floor, his head bloody.”
He ran to a phone and delivered the bulletin to the Associated Press.