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Neal Travis, 62; Journalist, N.Y. Gossip Columnist

August 16, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

Neal Travis, a journalist best known for his stints as a gossip and entertainment columnist for the New York Post, died Wednesday of cancer. He was 62.

Travis was the original editor of the Post's widely read "Page Six" gossip column.

Born in Otago, New Zealand, he dropped out of high school to work for newspapers, first in his own country and then in Australia.

Travis landed in New York in 1966 as a correspondent for the Sydney Daily Mirror, the first of several Rupert Murdoch-owned papers he would work for.

He would eventually become known as one of "Rupert's Raiders," a loyal group of columnists who followed the Australian media baron from paper to paper.

In 1977, Murdoch summoned him to the Post, where he proposed a gossip column. "Page Six" became one of Manhattan's best-read features, titillating readers with tidbits about Hollywood moguls and other players.

Travis unabashedly printed unsubstantiated rumors, once sighing to a would-be critic: "Dear man, I'm writing a gossip column."

Former Post publisher Ken Chandler said in that paper's obituary that Travis "combined old-fashioned reporting, some commentary and an occasional dose of speculation to make his column indispensable."

Before coming to New York, Travis was editor of three Murdoch-owned newspapers in Sydney. After leaving the Post in 1977, he become editor of New York magazine's "Intelligencer" column.

He served briefly as editor of the now-defunct California magazine, leaving in 1991 to become an associate to the executive producer of the syndicated tabloid news show "Hard Copy." He also wrote several novels.

In 1993, he returned to the Post and launched the column named after him, "Neal Travis' New York." It ran opposite "Page Six" and offered such scoops as socialite Nina Griscom's romance with sugar baron Pepe Fanjul, while taking potshots at Lizzie Grubman, the publicist charged with backing her Mercedes into a crowd of partygoers in the Hamptons.

His last column appeared July 29.

Travis is survived by his wife, Tolly; her three children, Sarah, Anna and James; and a brother, Murray.

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