NEW ORLEANS — The founding editor and publisher of Gambit, an alternative weekly newspaper in New Orleans, has died.
Clancy DuBos, a contributing writer for Gambit, confirmed Gary Esolen died Monday at East Jefferson General Hospital after a brief illness. He was 75.
Esolen came to New Orleans in 1978 from upstate New York and found work as a writer and editor at Figaro, a now-defunct weekly newspaper. Esolen and journalist Philip Carter formed Gambit in 1980 and when Figaro ceased publication in 1981, Gambit stepped into the void. The paper’s first issue ran in February 1981.
Errol Laborde, who was named editor in 1986, told WWL-TV (http://bit.ly/2dk3xbF) that Esolen helped set in place the nuts and bolts of the paper’s operation, from production schedules to sales operations and its journalistic product.
“Gary helped establish Gambit as an important local voice and news source at an important time for the city,” Laborde said.
Another early hire was DuBos, who came on board in 1982 to write a weekly political column. DuBos, who remains Gambit’s political editor and columnist as well as WWL-TV’s political analyst, would later become co-owner of the paper. His wife Margo, who joined the staff as a sales executive in its second year, became publisher in 1987. The couple purchased the newspaper in 1991.
Margo DuBos described Esolen as a “bold thinker who was able to communicate his ideas with passion and intelligence.”
“I was fortunate to work for him in the 1980s, when New Orleans needed an alternative voice,” she recalled. “His many civic discussions in Gambit and in the public arena on race, the economy, tourism and urban planning shaped so much of the positive progress we see in the city today.”
Esolen left Gambit in 1987 and took a position as co-chairman of the Greater New Orleans Marketing Committee, which was touted as the city’s first major effort to market itself as a leisure tourist destination. In 1991, Esolen was named executive vice president of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, which was formed that year. The public-private partnership between the city and tourism industry is tasked with promoting the city and leading tourism marketing efforts. Esolen worked there for a decade.
Esolen was a graduate of LeMoyne College in Syracuse, New York, where he earned a Master’s degree in English. He later became an assistant dean at Cornell University and then a writer and teacher in upstate New York before moving to New Orleans.
In addition to his work in journalism, Esolen was also an actor, playwright and poet.
Most recently, he worked as a consultant. His online biography for the firm PLACES Consulting, which he developed with his wife, Valeri LeBlanc, incorporates most of the traits he had honed here in New Orleans.
Esolen is survived by his wife, Valerie LeBlanc. Funeral arrangements are pending.