Remembering Alt-Weekly Founding Editor Gary Esolen

Upstate New York transplant was 75.

When Gary Esolen penned a 25th anniversary piece for New Orleans alt-weekly Gambit in 2006, he harked back to how the name of the outlet was chosen.


Back in those days, it had nothing to do with whether or not a URL was already registered:

We had typesetting equipment on the way, and a space to work in provided on spec by Joe Bernstein, upstairs at his old Spaghetti Factory restaurant. I was living in a loft in the Quarter, and one Saturday we assembled there, knowing it was time to name the baby.

Julia Nead, our first art director, had been playing with logo designs, and since we did not have a name for our newspaper yet, she used different words to illustrate the style she had in mind, which was a convergence of classical and modern typography. One of the words she used to illustrate her idea was “gambit,” picked up from the title of a Nero Wolfe novel by Rex Stout. When I asked her why she chose Gambit, she said “Look at it. A big round letter, the G. A peaked letter, the A. A wide letter, the M. A thin letter, the I. And the T with its hat on. It has everything.”

Esolen, a one-time assistant dean at Cornell University who moved to New Orleans from upstate New York in 1978, passed away in September at age 75 after a brief illness. Upon his arrival in The Big Easy, he first started writing for another weekly newspaper, Figaro. When that paper ceased publishing in 1981, he moved over fully to Gambit, which he had launched a year earlier with Philip Carter.

Dominic Massa, executive producer of special projects for New Orleans CBS-TV affiliate WWL-TV, put together a warm tribute at the time of Esolen’s death. It’s rich, long and full of reminders of the long-lasting local contributions made by the New York transplant.

The name Gambit was also personally appropriate. Esolen decided to move to New Orleans on essentially a whim, having visited the city only once briefly beforehand. RIP.

Photo via: Facebook

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.