Steve Dunleavy: A Remembrance by William O’Shaughnessy

Steve Dunleavy was a newspaper guy and he did some television via A Current Affair.

But, little known was his ill-fated foray into Radio.

It happened like this. I idolized one Richard Neal Travis, the diminutive boulevardier who was one of the founders of Page Six. He was very good to me and mine and our Westchester radio stations.  And I learned early on that when he was not cavorting or swanning about the Hamptons, Neal Travis was often to be found with another legendary print journalist Stephen Francis Patrick Aloysius Dunleavy a/k/a Steve Dunleavy.  They often kept company with each other at Langan’s saloon on West 49th Street, about a half a block from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp empire and his beloved holding the influential New York Post.

One day I approached Travis and Dunleavy who were drinking their lunch at the far end of the bar.  When I introduced myself, Dunleavy, with eyes sparkling, looked up and said: “Oh, you’re Neal’s ‘Westchester Bureau Chief’!” It was an appellation and commissioning I’ve worn proudly for these many years.

A few drinks later Dunleavy said, “Why the hell don’t you put us on Radio?” Although I professed to know very little about national syndication, it occurred to me that the chairman of our Broadcasters Foundation of America Edward McLaughlin, former President of ABC Radio (Paul Harvey) and discoverer of the great Rush Hudson Limbaugh III, might be helpful. As chairman of the Foundation’s Guardian Fund, I was often exposed to McLaughlin’s perceptive genius at raising money while serving with him on the Board of our profession’s national charity.

We set up a “luncheon,” this time with food, at a real table at Langan’s with Travis, Dunleavy and McLaughlin. I watched with great satisfaction and considerable approval as the three took a great liking to each other. But as the drinks piled up and the afternoon wore on, I excused myself as the sun was now setting over Manhattan. And, clearly out of my league, I took my leave as my brilliant pronouncements began … I think … uh … slurring. I later learned that the three-way high council and “lemon squeeze” turned into an “early dinner” … all of which can be confirmed by Langan’s proprietor of the day Des O’Brien.

And so, next thing I know, McLaughlin had arranged for a “three-week” tryout for the dauntless duo on WABC. Their first radio guest was Liza Minnelli who was delightful.  But it became clear that Radio was not gonna work for Rupert’s guys. It was “bloody” this … “bloody” that … and about a hundred “Maties.” Although Travis was from New Zealand and Dunleavy, of course, hailed from Australia, the listener couldn’t discern who the hell was speaking at any given moment. There were more than a few “Don’t give up your day jobs” directed to them even after the first broadcast. (I’m afraid I was among the thumbs down crowd myself).

In recent years, Dunleavy toodled around in one of those red mobile scooters in the Florida Keys and at New York’s Island Park, colorful, spiffy and well-turned-out as always. And now he is gone.  And journalism loses another dazzling star, hard on the heels of the departure of James Earl Breslin of sainted memory.

And so this week as we sadly contemplate the loss of Dunleavy … I also think of his great pal Neal Travis. And I pulled up some pieces I did on him in my previous books (see attached). They were both wonderful.  And you have to put them together.

Dunleavy and Travis called Murdoch “The Boss.” And Rupert, who adored them both, called Steve “one of the greatest reporters of all time.”

Last word to Murdoch.

 

Steve Dunleavy from Previous Books

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