Funeral services will be held on Sunday at 2 p.m. for Gene “Gino” Stevens, the longtime publisher of Post Time USA, a Florida-based tabloid best known for covering horse racing's social scene but which also published an Eclipse Award-winning article in 2007.
Mr. Stevens, 84, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., died on Friday in Miami after a long illness.
According to an article in TracktimesToday.net by Bernie Dickman, Post Time USA was created in August 1973 by Mr. Stevens, Dickman and A. Robert Gaudio. The partnership dissolved in less than a year and Mr. Stevens became the sole owner, publishing Post Time USA until 2010. He was a flamboyant, hard-working businessman who was a regular at South Florida racetracks (he had previously written for a local newspaper in South Florida), at Saratoga in upstate New York, and at Triple Crown races and the Breeders' Cup. Post-Time USA was distributed for free, with Mr. Stevens relying on advertising for revenue, and each issue was usually packed with ads.
A typical issue of Post Time USA included hundreds of photographs taken at social events surrounding the races, at Thoroughbred auctions, and at the races themselves. Some readers delighted in counting the number of times Mr. Stevens himself was included in the photographs (and this was before the era of “selfies”). Dickman wrote that the late Newsweek columnist Pete Axthelm would set an “over-and-under” line for the number of photos of Mr. Stevens in an issue.
His methods were not universally embraced. A former Churchill Downs publicist testifying in a 1987 lawsuit brought by Stevens against the New York Racing Association – which had denied him the right to take pictures inside the paddock at its racetracks – said Mr. Stevens had been physically ejected from the press box on Kentucky Derby day on more than one occasion. The publicist went on to testify that Mr. Stevens angered Churchill Downs officials because he “stationed himself behind ABC's television presentation in the paddock.”
Earlier, Mr. Stevens had annoyed NYRA's press office because he “managed to get himself into the winner's circle picture taken by the New York Times” after the 1981 Gotham Stakes.
A former NYRA publicist testifying in the lawsuit said Mr. Stevens was denied press credentials because by putting himself in many of the photographs he was “making himself bigger than the event” he was covering.
Mr. Stevens prevailed in the lawsuit, receiving an injunction from a U.S. District Court judge permitting him to photograph and be photographed at NYRA tracks.
But Post Time USA had more than pictures of celebrities, owners and breeders, trainers, and industry players. Over the years, work from writers like Dickman, Bill Christine, the late Jim Bolus and Bill Mooney appeared in its pages. A mainstay of the publication was the “Breezin' With Gino,” column, written by Mr. Stevens. In a seemingly odd twist, the syndicated column of consumer advocate Ralph Nader also was a regular feature of Post Time USA, as was a scantily clad “model of the month.”
Mooney won a 2007 Eclipse Award for “Final Days for a Hall of Famer,” a story on the passing of Florida-bred champion Precisionist, which was published in Post Time USA. Mr. Stevens himself earned honorable mention in an Eclipse Awards writing category one year.
“Gene loved racing and he loved being with people who immersed themselves in the sport,” said Mooney. “His self-promotional efforts were aggravating to some, but that was Gene's personality – he was a showman, and behaved accordingly. Joe Hirsch (the late executive columnist for Daily Racing Form) enjoyed his company, and that certainly constituted a mark of approval. Gene could write, he could think and he expressed his views. He had a presence. He had a personality. One couldn't help noticing him.”
“Gene built up a unique persona,” his longtime friend, Bernie Dickman, wrote. “Most of the racing world no doubt never saw him when he wasn't impeccably dressed in an expensive suit, often of silk, and driving his Lincoln Town Car with the iron thoroughbred mounted on the hood.”
Mr. Stevens was a close companion of Carolyn Hine, widow of the late trainer Sonny Hine and introduced her when Carolyn Hine's Skip Away was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 2004. Ed Bowen, emcee of the induction ceremony, quipped that Mr. Stevens “overcame his natural reticence to be photographed” when agreeing to make the presentation of Skip Away's Hall of Fame plaque.
Mr. Stevens is survived by a son, Brad Stevens of Jupiter, Fla., and a grandson, Lukas Mar Stevens.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mt. Nebo Kendall Memorial Gardens, 5900 SW 77th Avenue in Miami, Fla. Riverside Gordon Memorial Chapels is handling the arrangements.
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