by Nat Hentoff
One of the most strikingly independent and lively reporters in Voice history, Stephanie Harrington, died of cancer on November 8.
As Paul Berman, a Voice alumnus, told Wayne Barrett, “She was lucid and cheerful until the last few days.” And her son, Alec, adds that “she kept up her alertness long enough to know, and be happy, that Obama won. She was always cheerful and political.”
Born Stephanie Gervis in the Bronx on March 31, 1937, she began writing for the Mount Vernon Daily Argus after graduating from Cornell University, and then was among the first combination reporter-columnists hired by Voice editor and co-founder Dan Wolf. Her beats included the arts, television (she founded the Voice‘s television section), and poverty.
That was an issue another Voice writer, Michael Harrington, whom Stephanie married in 1963, made into a national alarm. His book The Other America helped fuel the issue in the Kennedy administration and Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” which poverty continues to win.
Stephanie was an insistent defender of free expression, covering the obscenity trial of the Living Theater and Lenny Bruce. Having testified for Lenny at his trial, I know he appreciated her skillful knowledgeability.
One of her haunts in the Village — also favored by Dylan Thomas, Michael Harrington (whom she met there), and this writer — was the White Horse Tavern, where you could get an invigorating political argument as soon as you reached the bar.
I always looked for Stephanie’s byline in the paper, and liked talking with and looking at her. Paul Berman recalls Leonard Bernstein’s description of Stephanie: “a biblical Renaissance beauty.”
After leaving the Voice in the early ’70s, Stephanie freelanced, writing cover stories for the New York Times, Cosmopolitan and, of course, Ms. magazine, because women’s issues were one of her ardent specialties.
She is survived by her sons, Alexander and Ted, and — she would insist on this — her dog, Shamus. She was passionate about animal rights, especially those of dogs.
During her years at the Voice, there were several civil wars among the staff and including editors, but Stephanie was admired by all of us.