Stephen K. Gavin, 68, News American columnist

September 09, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Stephen K. Gavin, who wrote the "Man About Town" column for the old News American before editing at newspapers in San Francisco and Cherry Hill, N.J., died of a heart attack Monday at his home in Burlington, N.J. The former Mount Vernon resident was 68.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Parkville, Mr. Gavin was a 1955 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School and earned his bachelor's degree in English at Loyola College.

After working at The Catholic Review, he became a sports reporter on what was then The Baltimore News-Post. He was moved to its rewrite desk and, at age 24, began a five-day-a-week column in 1962.

Headed by a caricature sketch of its author, the column ran on the left side of the Hearst afternoon newspaper's city page and earned Mr. Gavin a wide readership.

"Steve had the soul of a poet and the instincts of a deadline reporter," said Sun columnist Michael Olesker, who worked alongside him there years ago. "When he wrote his column for the News American, he gave us Walter Winchell's old three-dot journalism without the cynical edge. He was the last man to chronicle the old downtown Baltimore night life, when it meant hanging out on The Block with Blaze Starr all night long, or at Cy Bloom's Place in the Alley.

"He was an aficionado of life, of everything from Broadway shows to baseball. In his time, he was by far the most widely read feature in any of the three daily newspapers in town."

Mr. Gavin's beat was the restaurant, night spot and celebrity scene. He interviewed performers at the old Ford's and Morris A. Mechanic theaters and Center Stage, often while sipping his signature drink, a Manhattan cocktail.

"He would sit at a stool in a niche at the bar of the Prime Rib," recalled Orem Wahl, a friend. "It was his office. Everybody in the place would stop by and bring him a story or an item. He then chose discriminately."

Mr. Gavin employed the phrases "deadline dash," "this merry land," "Tuesday Welding," "smatterofak," and to end the column, "Now look away, look away" or "Thasall."

In 1969, he left Baltimore and joined the San Francisco Chronicle as a city editor. He returned to the News American briefly in 1977 and stayed less than a year.

He then became city editor, columnist and editorial writer at the Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, N.J., where he retired in 2003.

No funeral is planned.

Survivors include his partner of 30 years, Ichan Ando; a brother, Gerald Gavin of Parkville; and two sisters, Patricia Gavin of Bel Air and Valerie Vogt of Lancaster, Pa.

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