Gary Stevens, Long-time Celebrity Publicist, Is Dead at 88

Obituaries   Gary Stevens, Long-time Celebrity Publicist, Is Dead at 88
Gary Stevens, one of the last surviving show business publicists to have operated in the years before and after World War II, when Times Square was the epicenter of American culture, died at his Manhattan home on May 17, Variety reported. The cause was a heart attack. He was 88.

Though not active as a publicist in recent years, the ever-industrious Mr. Stevens kept his hand in the business by penning a syndicated entertainment column, which he claimed was carried by more than 80 newspapers. He also hosted a radio program on WVOX in New York, reported Variety.

Over his long career, Mr. Stevens represented the likes of Jimmy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton, Johnny Carson, Julie Andrews and ABC Radio. Always active in television and radio, he founded and was general manager of the television division of Warner Brothers in the 1950s. There, he produced "King's Row," "Casablanca" and "Cheyenne."

Among the other shows he produced were "Twenty Questions," on radio and TV; the radio interview program "Luncheon at Sardi's"; and the television program "The Stork Club," which was set in the famous Manhattan night spot, with owner Sherman Billingsley as host.

During his days as a publicist, he had to deal with such powerful columnists at Walter Winchell, Dorothy Kilgallen and Ed Sullivan. In Neal Gabler's 1994 biography of Winchell, Mr. Stevens told of being lectured and then blackballed by Winchell after he inadvertently fed the newspaperman wrong information. "Walter himself phoned," wrote Gabler, "spewing expletives and demanding that Stevens meet him at the Stork Club that afternoon. When Stevens arrived at the club, it was empty except for the waiters and Walter, who was eating. Walter ordered him to sit and began lecturing him, almost paternally at first as Stevens remembered it, about the responsibility to check facts. Then he turned angry." Mr. Stevens was banned from Winchell's column for a year, his submissions always returned to him with the note, "Don't send these to anyone else."

Mr. Stevens was married to Naura Hayden from 1969 to 1974. He owned a wirehaired terrier, which he walked every day.

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