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Gary Stevens, 88; Publicist, Producer of Radio and TV Shows

June 15, 2004|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Gary Stevens, 88, who rose from radio scriptwriter to publicist and producer of such radio and television shows as "Twenty Questions," died of a heart ailment May 17 at his New York home.

A native of Lake Forest, Ill., Stevens began working for radio in New York as a teenager. He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and speech at the University of Chicago and a master's degree from New York University.

As a publicist, he excelled at getting celebrity clients such as Jimmy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton, Mitzi Gaynor and Johnny Carson mentioned in newspaper gossip and entertainment columns, including that of Walter Winchell. Later, Stevens, who had done a radio show talking about celebrities, wrote his own syndicated column.

In April 1955, Stevens became founding general manager of the television division of Warner Bros., a position he held for two years. He produced numerous shows, including the game show "Twenty Questions," first on radio and later on television, and the celebrity interview show "Luncheon at Sardi's."

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