he’s no Crocodile Dundee

Steve Dunleavy carved out a career for himself as a reporter for Rupert Murdoch. Here, Marc Fisher talks about The King of Sleaze.

image found here (Dunleavy on the right)

“He really turns my stomach,” says Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Shales of The Washington Post. “I suppose he should get credit for helping to popularize some atrocious techniques. But he’s no Crocodile Dundee. If there’s an Australian anti-defamation league, they might want to look into the situation.” And some years ago, when Dunleavy broke his foot, rival New York columnist Pete Hamill quipped, “I hope it’s his writing foot”.

image from an article about the “real” crocodile dundee found here

On his way home after a night spent chasing stories in a bar in Miami, Dunleavy kisses a couple of female prosecutors on the hand, then turns to the detectives he’d been buying drinks for. “Anything goes tonight, give us a ring; we’ll be there like a rat up a drainpipe.” The guy actually talks like that.

Rat up a Drainpipe Award found here

Dunleavy is a 52-year-old dandy with a jutting jaw that shouts tenacity and a two-inch-high graying pompadour that is a marvel of modern architecture. He chain-smokes Marlboro Lights, squinting with delight at every puff. He wears tinted bifocals and a gold bracelet dangles from his left wrist.

image found here

This is the persona Dunleavy has spent a lifetime cultivating. “He wants this image as a drinker and a character, someone around whom legends are built,” says Yvonne Dunleavy, his ex-wife and the co-author of The Happy Hooker and books about such sex-scandal figures as Fanne Fox and Elizabeth Ray. “It’s astonishing that Steve is still vertical.”

Fanne Fox and friend found here

Random entries from the legendary Dunleavy Green Book, his enviable list of home phone numbers: Sydney Biddle Barrows, Lauren Bacall, the “Amityville Horror” killer, Paul Laxalt, Peter Byrne (the guy who searches for Bigfoot), Dino De Laurentis, a couple of big-time hoods, a slew of big-time lawyers, Lyndon LaRouche, parents of the victims of Son of Sam. It’s a tabloid reporter’s dream book. 

Lauren Bacall and friends found here

Dunleavy delivers. Exclusives with Elvis’s bodyguards, the Chappaquiddick girls, alleged Mafia boss John Gotti, Fidel Castro (they got stinking drunk on mojitas after Castro kept Dunleavy waiting till 3 a.m. “I just couldn’t keep up,” Dunleavy says. “We had five in double-quick order”).

Castro and friend found here

You could say that blood and guts are in Dunleavy’s blood and guts. His father was a photographer on The Sydney Sun. Steve started as a Sun copyboy at 14 and left school soon after. He didn’t want anyone to think he was getting special treatment because of his father, so he moved over to the Daily Mirror, where he was on the night police beat by the time he was 16.

blood and guts dessert recipe found here

One evening, preparing to scoot over to a crime scene, Steve saw a car from The Sun and decided he didn’t need any competition following him to a good story. So he slashed the rival car’s tires. “I didn’t know it was my father’s” he protests meekly.

“slasher” cupcakes found here

Sometime later, when Steve and his father were on the trail of a mad slasher, the tables were turned. Both Dunleavys got a tip on a sighting. Once there, Steve scurried into a little shed behind a house, hoping to catch the perpetrator himself. “I heard a dead bolt behind me, and then all the cars racing away. Then I heard my father shouting ‘Remember?’” Dunleavy sat in the shed for more than two hours.

George Bernard Shaw’s rotating shed found here

Some of Dunleavy’s colleagues at the Post say he saved his most aggressive manner for the women he worked with. His rep as a hard-drinking Lothario has followed him for decades. “Steve went after half the newsroom,” says a former city desk assistant at the Post. “He always had an item on the side. He put the moves on everybody. No woman was exempt.”

One producer says she has seen him go five days without eating. He would move into the newsroom during a major story, occasionally napping on a cot or couch, taking time out only to stop at the Racing Club for “a few gargles.”

After a 55-year career, Dunleavy retired with a celebration on 1 October 2008 that was attended by 400 colleagues and friends. And just maybe an enemy or two.

Published in: on June 25, 2012 at 11:46 am  Comments (50)  
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  1. This is fantastic – absolutely fantastic. I can’t believe not many people seem to have read it! This is such a great read!!

    I love your pictures all the way through. That Marilyn shot, my gosh, she looked genuinely happy. And Baucall looked mature, didn’t she… ‘mature’.

    Excellent, excellent post – interesting GALORE! Dunleavy. The name rings a bell you know, but you sure put him into perspective.

    • you were the lucky first!

  2. Quite a distasteful man, isn’t he? I notice even Bogart’s gaze has wandered from his lovely bride, too.

    • Men and their gazing….

      • Marilyn’s low cut dresses (and their contents) seem to have a visual gravity field of their own, drawing all sight in. It would have been hard to know where to look sitting between her and Bacall though, that’s a lot of spectacular femininity. I think Bogart had it right though, Ms. Bacall would have been nice to have around. As would G.B. Shaw’s shed- that is such a brilliant setup and I now want to know about the ‘passivhaus’ concept.

      • Oh yes, the shed is fantastic

  3. Is that Barry Manilow with Fanne Fox there?

    He sounds like the worst sort of journalist/person

    • Yes….friend indeed. That is Barry Manilow.

      • “friend” was tongue in cheek ;-)

  4. Father-son rivalry? Ha ha… He sounds like a terrible man, though (because I can’t stand skirt chasers)

    • He’s certainly not my cup of tea either

  5. I went through a brief phase where I tried to rock a pompadour…
    never could get the engineering worked out, though.

    • I think you need several weeks of training to get it right

  6. I just can’t get over the links (mainly the 5th one down with Bazza). As always Australia comes across well. Bottoms up!

    The King

    • Tom Sutpen’s blog always has lots of interesting stuff. you could spend an entire day in his archives.

  7. I love how you skewer people, nursemyra. Love it.

    • Well, it was Marc Fisher who did the skewering here. i just stumbled across the article.

      • Oops. I guess I failed to notice that part at the beginning of your post. Well, loved the skewering anyway.

      • Most of us skip over the links. you’re not alone there :-)

  8. Well, he did work for Murdoch… I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

    Love that shot of Marilyn, Bogie and Bacall.

    • He seems to have lost control of eye direction ;-)

  9. Boy, what a sleazebag. But it never fails to astonish me how many women find sleazeballs like that fascinating. Notoriety is quite an aphrodisiac for some people….

    • It’s a strange phenomenon

  10. Is Fanny Fox just giving a hand job to this guy?

    • haha…. I bet Barry would take one

  11. Ha, my kind of human.

  12. Why don’t women just refrain from copulating with sleazeballs like him and in a generation or two they would be out of the gene pool.

    • Easier, why don’t people stop buying such shitty newspapers like the ones Murdoch sells in millions? The man’s finally getting his come-uppance over here with the Guardian newspaper exposing some utterly vile conduct on the part of reporters like Dunleavy (but withough any of the glamour)–and, by the way, uncovering the close social links between our government and Murdoch’s circle.

      • I don’t think people will be buying newspapers much longer

  13. Sounds like such a nice person.

    • Binky, I can see your tongue in your cheek!

  14. Slight correction: New York Post columnist Pete Hamill. A favorite of mine.

    This Dunleavy bloke sounds like a character out of a Damon Runyon story (another favorite of mine).

    I’ll take David Byrne’s home phone number. Who cares about the guy looking for Bigfoot?

    What a libido! Never satisfied. So sad, if you ask me.

    • Thanks for the correction UB. It’s fixed now xx

  15. Not so much Crocodile Dundee as Bottom Feeder Dundee

    • That could be taken two ways….

  16. Always loved the pompadour look. Very rockabilly. One of the main reasons I listened to the Stray Cats way back when. All of them had pompadours and Brian Setzer rocked his. :)

  17. Pompadour was pretty hair-brained, if you ask me…

  18. The trashiest, most-sensationalistic publication outside the obvious tabloids is “Time” Magazine. It may not have been, at one time, but it is now. Did Dunleavy have anything to do with “Time”?

    • I don’t know. Never thought of Time as a trashy magazine before.

  19. I thought Fanne’s “friend” looked suspiciously like Barry Manilow. Those “slasher” cupcakes are pretty gruesome!

    • would you be tempted to eat one bluebee?

      • For sure (as long as they’re gluten-free :))

  20. I don’t like the picture of the rat in the drainpipe. My secret fear is that I’ll go to the bathroom, and look down and see a dead rat in the toilet who had climbed up a pipe. Not so secret now…

    • Yep. You’ve just let the cat out of the bag

  21. I remember this bloke on late night TV at one point. Yes, he is a super mega sleazeball of gigantic proportions but this was as always a refreshing walk down memory lane. Thank you. +)

  22. “He wants this image as a drinker and a character, someone around whom legends are built,” says Yvonne

    I was like this 40 years ago. Oh, it worked for a while but don’t think it was romantic or charming anymore. Mr. Party always on the invited lists. Wasted time.

  23. I need all of those snacks at my next Halloween party!

  24. […] here, by way of here.] Share this:FacebookStumbleUponTwitterMoreFacebookRedditDiggEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first […]

  25. I miss my nurse…


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