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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