Famous American Biographers

Find out more about the greatest American Biographers, including Washington Irving, David McCullough, Ida Tarbell, Robert Osborne and Garry Wills.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy
4
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: February 22, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 25, 2009

The brother of President John F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy played an important role in American politics during his term as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, a position which he served for almost 47 years. He was the fourth-longest-continuously-serving senator in the history of the United States. He was regarded as a major spokesman for American progressivism.

 2 Paul Feig

Paul Feig
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 17, 1962
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mount Clemens, Michigan, USA

Filmmaker and actor Paul Feig is known for creating films such as Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters. His comedy series Freaks and Geeks later achieved cult status. Known for his frequent collaborations with Melissa McCarthy, he, apparently, is always dressed in a suit and a tie when he directs.

 3 Patty Duke

Patty Duke
9
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: December 14, 1946
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Queens, New York City, New York, USA
Died: March 29, 2016

Best known for her Academy Award-winning portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, Patty Duke was born to a cashier mother and a cab driver father. As a child actor, she was abused by her talent managers. Suffering from bipolar disorder, she later became a mental-health advocate.

 4 Washington Irving

Washington Irving
4
Famous As: Author, Historian, Diplomat
Birthdate: April 3, 1783
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York
Died: November 28, 1859

Widely known as the first American man of letters, Washington Irving penned the legendary tales of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which are also called the first short stories by an American author. He had also had a brief stint as a lawyer.

 5 Karrine Steffans

Karrine Steffans
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 24, 1978
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Karrine Steffans soared to international fame with her Vixen series of books, including Confessions of a Video Vixen and The Vixen Diaries. A former hip-hop music video star, she has also dabbled in acting, with films such as A Man Apart. The mother of one now lives in southern California.

 6 Richard Donner

Richard Donner
4
Famous As: Director
Birthdate: April 24, 1930
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA

Director of blockbuster films like Superman, The Goonies, Scrooged, Lethal Weapon, Richard Donner initially wanted to become an actor. But encouraged by Martin Ritt, he soon moved behind the camera, eventually directing 22 films and 25 television productions, producing many more, yet finding time to collaborate on two comic books; Action Comics and Lost Son and also on his biography.

 7 Jennifer O'Neill

Jennifer O'Neill
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: February 20, 1948
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Born to an English mother and a Brazilian father, actor Jennifer O'Neill had begun modeling at 15. She later became part of films such as Summer of '42. She had attempted suicide at 14 and had later got married nine times to eight men. She was also a promising equestrienne.

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 8 Dorothy Bush Koch

Dorothy Bush Koch
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: August 18, 1959
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Harris County, Texas

The author of the New York Times bestseller My Father, My President, Dorothy Bush Koch is the sixth child of former U.S. president George H.W. Bush, and the sister of George W. Bush. A Eucharistic minister, she is also the founder of BB&R Wellness Consulting, centered on health and well-being.

 9 Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 8, 1951
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Des Moines, Iowa, United States
Best known for his books on travel, travel, languages, and science, Bill Bryson had been a journalist before he ventured into writing. Notes From a Small Island gained him the initial attention, while the award-winning and bestselling A Short History of Nearly Everything established him as a seasoned author.

 10 Ève Curie

Ève Curie
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 6, 1904
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 22, 2007

French and American writer, journalist, and pianist Ève Curie was one of the daughters of scientists Marie Curie and Pierre Curie. She was the only one in the Curie family who did not choose a career in science. She authored her mother’s biography and was actively involved with UNICEF, helping women and children in developing countries.

 11 Scott Hamilton

Scott Hamilton
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Famous As: Figure skater
Birthdate: August 28, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Toledo, Ohio, United States

Known for his innovative footwork sequences, Scott Hamilton is a retired figure skater, credited with imbibing an air of athleticism into men’s figure skating. Remembered for winning four consecutive U.S. championships and four World Championships between 1981 and 1984, topping his feat with a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics, he later co-founded Stars on Ice—a touring figure skating show—and authored three books.

 12 Robert Osborne

Robert Osborne
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Famous As: Actor, Television actor, Biographer, Film actor, Historian, Journalist, Screenwriter, Cinematographer, Film producer
Birthdate: May 3, 1932
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Colfax
Died: March 6, 2017

Best known for his over two-decade-long stint as a Turner Classic Movies host, Robert Osborne also gained fame for his penning The Official History of the Academy Awards and the National Film Book Award-winning 50 Golden Years of Oscar. A qualified journalist, he also wrote columns for The Hollywood Reporter.

 13 Monica Crowley

Monica Crowley
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Famous As: Radio personality, Biographer, Journalist
Birthdate: September 19, 1968
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Arizona

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Public Affairs, Monica Crowley is also known as a Fox News political analyst. She has penned two bestsellers about her experience of working with Richard Nixon and has also contributed to the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

 14 Dave Pelzer

Dave Pelzer
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Famous As: Autobiographer
Birthdate: December 29, 1960
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Daly City, California, United States

Best known for his 1995 memoir, A Child Called "It", David James Pelzer is an American author of four autobiographical work and three self-help books. Raised by abusing parents until the age of twelve, he has described his childhood, adolescence and adulthood in the first three books. Also a motivational speaker, his message is all about triumph of human spirit.

 15 Ron Chernow

Ron Chernow
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Famous As: Writer, Historian, Journalist, Biographer
Birthdate: March 3, 1949
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, United States

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow is best known for his books Washington: A Life and The House of Morgan. Educated at Yale and Cambridge, he started his career as a freelance journalist and later turned into a master biographer. He also reviews books and is a radio/TV commentator.

 16 Frank Zane

Frank Zane
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Famous As: Bodybuilder
Birthdate: June 28, 1942
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kingston, Pennsylvania, USA

Three-time Mr. Olympia winner Frank Zane had begun gaining attention with the Mr. Pennsylvania title in 1961.Though inspired to take up bodybuilding after reading Muscle magazine in his teens, he initially taught math and chemistry and also earned advanced degrees in psychology, thus earning the nickname The Chemist.

 17 James Meredith

James Meredith
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 25, 1933
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kosciusko, Mississippi, United States

James Meredith created history by becoming the first Black student at the University of Mississippi. A civil rights activist and an author, he had also been part of the U.S. Air Force. He was shot at while on his March Against Fear from Memphis to Jackson, but survived.

 18 Christopher Lawford

Christopher Lawford
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 29, 1955
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, USA
Died: September 4, 2018

Born to actor Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy Lawford, President John F. Kennedy's sister, Christopher Lawford grew up to be an actor and an activist. He was also a qualified lawyer. He related his struggle with addiction in his book Symptoms of Withdrawal and also taught psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

 19 Lacey Sturm

Lacey Sturm
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: September 4, 1981
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Homestead, Florida, United States

Former lead singer of the hard-rock band Flyleaf, Lacey Sturm is known for her trademark screams and her tracks such as I'm So Sick and All Around Me. Her album Life Screams made her the first solo female performer to top the hard-rock album charts. She has also penned a memoir.

 20 Ann Rule

Ann Rule
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 22, 1931
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Lowell, Michigan, USA
Died: July 26, 2015

True crime author Ann Rule had initially been a policewoman and was also well-versed in criminology and psychology. She first gained attention with her book The Stranger Beside Me, which relates her experiences of working with Ted Bundy, a volunteer at a suicide hotline, who later murdered several women.

 21 John Eisenhower

John Eisenhower
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Famous As: Diplomat, Military historian, Author, Writer, Biographer
Birthdate: August 3, 1922
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Denver
Died: December 21, 2013

U.S. Army officer John Eisenhower was the son of military-general-turned-president Dwight D. Eisenhower. He had donned many hats, from teaching English to serving on his father's White House staff. He also assisted his father in writing his memoirs and had been the American ambassador to Belgium, too.

 22 David McCullough

David McCullough
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Famous As: Author, Historian
Birthdate: July 7, 1933
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.

David McCullough is an American popular historian, author, narrator, and lecturer. Over the course of his illustrious career, McCullough has received two National Book Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, and two Francis Parkman Prizes among other prestigious awards. In 2006, he was honored with America's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has also received over 40 honorary degrees.

 23 Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg
3
Famous As: Writer & Editor
Birthdate: January 6, 1878
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Galesburg, Illinois, United States
Died: July 22, 1967

Carl Sandburg had begun working since age 11 and been employed in various odd jobs, such as a truck driver, a harvester, and a brickyard hand, before being part of the Illinois Infantry. The two-time Pulitzer-winning poet and biographer late also won a Grammy for his recording of Lincoln Portrait.

 24 Rachel Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 12, 1977
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Lincoln County, Montana, U.S

While she claimed she was a transracial Black woman, former NAACP branch president Rachel Dolezal was revealed to be a white woman passing off as Black when her parents spoke to the media. Following the mass protests after the revelation, she was fired from Eastern Washington University, her workplace.

 25 Jensen Karp

Jensen Karp
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 8, 1979
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: America

Earlier known as Hot Karl, author, producer, and rapper Jensen Karp is a multi-dimensional personality who has hosted radio shows and owns art galleries too. He gained fame as the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Shrimp Tails Guy, after tweeting a picture of shrimp tails he found in his Cinnamon Toast bowl.

 26 Barbara Barrie

Barbara Barrie
3
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 23, 1931
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA
While she soared to fame with her Cannes Award-winning role in One Potato, Two Potato, Barbara Barrie later also earned an Academy Award nomination for Breaking Away. She was typecast as plain Janes and bespectacled women. She later defeated rectal cancer and penned a book on her struggle with disease.

 27 Rachel Corrie

Rachel Corrie
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: April 10, 1979
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Olympia, Washington, United States
Died: March 16, 2003

Crushed to death in Gaza by an Israeli armored bulldozer, peace activist Rachel Corrie was also a member of pro-Palestine International Solidarity Movement. Born and raised in USA, she had gone there as part of her college assignment and met her death while trying to stop the demolition of Palestinian houses by Israeli forces, causing international furore.

 28 Sumner Redstone

Sumner Redstone
4
Famous As: Businessman
Birthdate: May 27, 1923
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 11, 2020

Media tycoon Sumner Redstone is known for his historic acquisitions of companies such as Viacom and CBS. The Harvard alumnus and lawyer later transformed his family business, National Amusements, Inc., into one of the biggest film theater chains in the U.S. He had also served the army during World War II.

 29 Essie Mae Washington-Williams

Essie Mae Washington-Williams
3
Famous As: Teacher
Birthdate: October 12, 1925
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Aiken, South Carolina, USA
Died: February 4, 2013

In 2003, Essie Mae Washington-Williams made headlines when she announced that she was the illegitimate, bi-racial child of senator Strom Thurmond and his Black maid. It is believed Essie’s mother was 16 when she had her, and that Thurmond didn’t accept her, as he was politically pro-segregation.

 30 Dominique Jackson

Dominique Jackson
0
Famous As: For her leading role of Elektra Abundance on the FX television series Pose
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Scarborough, Trinidad and Tobago

 31 Carl Bernstein

Carl Bernstein
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Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: February 14, 1944
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Washington, District of Columbia, USA

Investigative journalist Carl Bernstein is best known for his reporting on what later came to be known as the Watergate Scandal and led to U.S. president Richard Nixon’s resignation. During the COVID-19 crisis, he termed President Donald Trump a “war criminal.” He is also known for co-authoring All the President's Men.

 32 Julie Adams

Julie Adams
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 17, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Waterloo, Iowa, USA

Born to a cotton buyer, Betty May Adams, or Julie Adams, grew up to be a popular actor, best known for her classic horror film Creature from the Black Lagoon. She had also been part of series such as Murder, She Wrote and had co-written a book with her son.

 33 David Wilkerson

David Wilkerson
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Famous As: Evangelist
Birthdate: May 19, 1931
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Hammond, Indiana, USA
Died: April 27, 2011

David Wilkerson was an American evangelist who founded Teen Challenge, an addiction recovery program that aims at providing rehabilitation services to people around the world. He is also credited with founding the non-denominational Times Square Church. David Wilkerson is also remembered for his biographical book The Cross and the Switchblade.

 34 Jim Carroll

Jim Carroll
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 1, 1949
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Died: September 11, 2009

Punk musician and author Jim Carroll is best remembered for his autobiographical depiction of his struggle with drugs in his teenage years, The Basketball Diaries, which was later turned into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Part of The Jim Carroll Band, he was known for the single People Who Died.

 35 Pema Chodron

Pema Chodron
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 14, 1936
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York City, New York (state) New York, United States

Pema Chodron is an American Tibetan Buddhist and an ordained nun. Born as Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in New York, she began studying with Tibetan Buddhist Lama Chime Rinpoche as a young woman. She eventually became a fully ordained nun or bhikṣuṇī. She is the author of several dozen books and audiobooks. She is the principal teacher at Gampo Abbey. 

 36 Jon Meacham

Jon Meacham
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Famous As: Writer, Reviewer, Historian and Presidential Biographer
Birthdate: May 20, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States

Jon Meacham is an American historian, writer, reviewer, and presidential biographer. Over the years Meacham has contributed to popular publications like The New York Times, Time, and Newsweek. In 2009, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his work American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. He has also received honorary doctorates from many universities including the University of Tennessee.

 37 Stephen Humphrey Bogart

Stephen Humphrey Bogart
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Famous As: Writer, Television news producer
Birthdate: January 6, 1949
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

 38 Stephen E. Ambrose

Stephen E. Ambrose
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: January 10, 1936
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Decatur, Illinois, United States
Died: October 13, 2002

Stephen Edward Ambrose was an American biographer and historian. A respected figure, Ambrose was honored with several prestigious awards during his lifetime. In 1998, he was honored with the National Humanities Medal. The same year, he also won the Golden Plate Award as well as the Samuel Eliot Morison Prize. In 2001, he received the Theodore Roosevelt Medal.

 39 Robert Caro

Robert Caro
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Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: October 30, 1935
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: New York City, U.S.

Known for his extensive research, Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Caro began his career as journalist. Fascinated by the vast power enjoyed by Robert Moses, he published a biography on him, concurrently dealing in prevalent political practices. Taking up Lyndon B. Johnson as his next subject, he has already published four volumes on him and is currently working on the fifth.   

 40 Michael Chaplin

Michael Chaplin
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 7, 1946
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, United States

Michael Chaplin is an American actor best known as Charlie Chaplin's eldest son from his fourth marriage to actress Oona O'Neill. Michael Chaplin is also known for his book I Couldn't Smoke The Grass On My Father's Lawn, a memoir of drugs and rebellion against Charlie Chaplin.

 41 Cathy O'Brien

Cathy O'Brien
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: December 4, 1957
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Muskegon, Michigan, United States

Cathy O'Brien is an American author and conspiracy theorist. She gained national attention when she claimed that the US government is running a secret program called Project Monarch which is designed to control people's minds. She also claimed that she has been a victim of the program and that Project Monarch was part of the Central Intelligence Agency's Project MKUltra.

 42 Michael Eric Dyson

Michael Eric Dyson
4
Famous As: Historian, Biographer
Birthdate: October 23, 1958
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Detroit

Michael Eric Dyson is an American author, academic, radio host, and ordained minister. He is currently serving as a professor at Vanderbilt University and in the College of Arts and Science. Over the course of his illustrious career, Dyson has received a couple of NAACP Image Awards as well as an American Book Award for his skills as a writer.

 43 Henry Adams

Henry Adams
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: February 16, 1838
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts
Died: March 27, 1918

Historian Henry Adams was part of the famous Adams political family of the U.S and a typical Boston Brahmin elite. His best-known work remains his posthumously published autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams, which won a Pulitzer Prize. He also taught medieval history at Harvard.

 44 Deborah Feldman

Deborah Feldman
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Famous As: Writer,
Birthdate: August 17, 1986
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States

 45 Walter Isaacson

Walter Isaacson
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 20, 1952
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana,

Once an inspiring journalist, Walter Isaacson now teaches history at the Tulane University. Educated at Harvard and Oxford, he has been the chair of CNN, the CEO of Aspen Institute, and an editor at Time. He has also penned biographies of personalities such as Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci.

 46 Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty
3
Famous As: Mortician
Birthdate: August 19, 1984
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Oʻahu, Hawaii, United States

Caitlin Doughty is an American author, mortician, YouTube personality, and blogger. Doughty has been advocating death acceptance through her web series Ask a Mortician and bestselling books Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, From Here to Eternity, and Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Caitlin Doughty is credited with founding a death acceptance organization called The Order of the Good Death.

 47 Lee Israel

Lee Israel
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: December 3, 1939
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
Died: December 24, 2014

Starting as a freelance writer, Lee Israel later penned bestselling biographies of personalities such as Tallulah Bankhead and Estée Lauder. She made headlines when she admitted to forging works of deceased authors and actors to make money. Her memoir, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, was later turned into a film.

 48 Ruth Benedict

Ruth Benedict
3
Famous As: Anthropologist, Folklorist, University teacher, Poet, Sociologist, Biographer
Birthdate: June 5, 1887
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City
Died: September 17, 1948

Ruth Benedict was an American folklorist and anthropologist. Benedict, who played an important role in the American Folklore Society, also served as the American Anthropological Association's president; the association gives away an annual prize named after Ruth Benedict. In 2005, she was made an inductee of the National Women's Hall of Fame.

 49 Karine Jean-Pierre

Karine Jean-Pierre
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Famous As: White House Deputy Press Secretary
Birthdate: August 13, 1977
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Martinique, France

 50 Susan Berman

Susan Berman
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Famous As: Memoirist of Easy Street, detailed her life as a mobster's daughter
Birthdate: May 18, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
Died: December 23, 2000