Arthur Gelb, a longtime New York Times editor who served as Managing Editor from 1986-1989, died Tuesday, the Times said. He was 90.
Gelb, who became president of the New York Times Co. Foundation after his mandatory retirement at age 65, joined the paper as a copy boy in 1944. Born Feb. 3, 1924 in East Harlem, he had a passion for theater and wrote articles that jump-started the careers of Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand, Lenny Bruce and Jason Robards. Along with his wife, Barbara, Gelb penned a biography of Nobel-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill in 1962.
Gelb served as Metropolitan Editor from 1967-1978, where he was known for sniffing out big stories. The paper’s obit recounts a story from Times metro reporter Ralph Blumenthal prompted by Gelb asking him about taxis out of the blue:
“‘What about taxis?’ I asked,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “He seemed surprised at the question. ‘Taxis,’ he said. ‘There’s a good story there.’ I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I made some calls. After about three weeks I came up with a great scandal about payoffs to inspectors in Queens. How did he know?”
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Gelb then moved on to the Deputy Managing Editor position in 1977 and ascended to Managing Editor in 1986, where he served until he retired in 1989.
Gelb is survived by his two sons, including Peter, who is the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.