Mike McAlary,41, the street-smart New York Daily News...

DEATHS ELSEWHERE

December 26, 1998

Mike McAlary,41, the street-smart New York Daily News columnist who broke a shocking story of alleged police brutality and won a Pulitzer Prize for it, died of colon cancer yesterday.

During the 1980s and '90s, the Brooklyn-born writer employed his two-fisted style at all three of New York's tabloids -- the Post, the Daily News and Newsday -- and bounced around so much that the News once obtained an injunction to block him from working for the Post in 1993.

Mr. McAlary was receiving chemotherapy in August 1997 when he got an anonymous tip that Abner Louima, a black Haitian immigrant, had been sodomized and beaten by white cops in a station house. The columnist went to Mr. Louima's hospital bedside and was the first reporter to talk to him.

"This is a tale straight from the police dungeon, an allegation of brutality at the hands of cops from Brooklyn's 70th Precinct that seems so impossible, so crudely medieval," he wrote in the Daily News.

That column and interviews with police officers who were later charged in the attack won him the Pulitzer for commentary.

"He was a hell of a journalist and even a better friend," said Village Voice editor Don Forst, who hired McAlary at the Boston Herald-American and New York Newsday. "He had great passion. He was on to Clinton early on. I believe the first column he wrote for the Post after Clinton was elected began: 'Impeach him now.' "

Jim Dwyer, Mr. McAlary's friend and colleague at Newsday and the Daily News, said his fellow columnist "had more impact on things in the city than pretty much any other journalist in the last 10 or 12 years. When he slowed down as a columnist, he won a Pulitzer Prize."

At Syracuse University, Mr. McAlary had boasted to classmates that he would be the next Jimmy Breslin. Their styles were similar: blunt, snappy columns with a close-to-the-streets feel for what's going on in New York.

Even Mr. Breslin was fair game for the combative Mr. McAlary. In 1991, at the height of New York's tabloid wars, Mr. McAlary wrote in the Post that Breslin, 20 years his senior, was "the third-largest self-important blowhard in the city," after Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and former Mayor Ed Koch.

Mr. Breslin said with typical bluster that he never read Mr. McAlary's column.

Mr. McAlary grew up in Goffstown, N.H., and at 14, was writing for a weekly there and for the Manchester Daily Union. After college he worked briefly for the Boston Globe and the Herald-American. But within a year, in 1980, he was back in his native New York, as a sports writer at the Daily News.

Mr. McAlary once boasted in a 1993 interview: "I don't think anybody has the combination of writing skills and reporting skills that I have today. That's why I'm successful."

Despite his elation upon winning the Pulitzer, Mr. McAlary lamented that he really wasn't a writer since he had not written a novel -- only three nonfiction books on New York cops ("Buddy Boys," "Cop Shot" and "Good Cop, Bad Cop") and a novelization of the movie "Copland."

But this past fall, his novel, "Sore Loser" was published.

He was sued for libel in 1996 by a rape victim after he wrote a series of columns questioning whether she was really attacked or made up the story to promote a feminist agenda. The lawsuit was thrown out in 1997.

His funeral was scheduled for Tuesday at the Mary Immaculate Church in Bellport.

Mr. McAlary is survived by his wife, Alice; four children; his parents; and several brothers and sisters.

Michelle Thomas,29, who had television roles in "The Young & The Restless," "The Cosby Show" and "Family Matters," died Tuesday of cancer.

Miss Thomas appeared on the CBS soap opera "The Young & The Restless" as Callie; on "The Cosby Show" as Justine, who was the girlfriend of Theo, played by Malcolm Jamal Warner; and on "Family Matters" as Myra, girlfriend of Steve Urkel, played by Jaleel White.

She had guest appearances in a number of other TV shows, including "Roseanne," and also performed in music videos, Los Angeles theater productions and several movies, including "Hangin' with the Homeboys."

She had recently received an NAACP Image Award nomination for outstanding actress in a daytime drama series.

Her father, Dennis Thomas, was a member of the 1970s funk band Kool & the Gang.

William R. Perl,92, the founder of the Washington, D.C., branch of the Jewish Defense League, who organized the smuggling of thousands of Jews out of Nazi-occupied Europe in the late 1930s and '40s, died Thursday. He had Parkinson's disease.

Mr. Perl also was a retired Army lieutenant colonel, a psychologist, a Holocaust survivor and a champion of the right of Russian Jews to emigrate.

In addition to receiving citations from President Ronald Reagan and Congress and a number of humanitarian awards, he was honored in Israel in 1990 during the 50th reunion of passengers of a ship he chartered that carried 2,175 Jews from Romania to Palestine.

He began organizing voyages to Palestine in the 1930s after watching Hitler's rise to power.

Merton Utgaard,84, International Music Camp founder who took a love of music and used it to create understanding among the youth of the world, died Dec. 19.

In 1956, Mr. Utgaard founded the music camp at the International Peace Garden on the Canadian border north of Dunseith, N.D. He served as director for 28 years.

He was an active member of the National Band Association, the American Bandmasters Association, the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles and the Music Educators National Conference.

In 1984, Mr. Utgaard was awarded the A. Austin Harding Award from the American School Band Directors Association for his service to the school bands of America.

By the end of 1998, more than 90,000 students from more than 60 countries had attended the summer camp.

Pub Date: 12/26/98

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