NEW YORK - Steve Dunleavy, a reporter and columnist for the New York Post who helped define the tabloid's modern style, died. He was 81.
The Post reported that Dunleavy died at his home on Long Island on Monday night.
Steve Dunleavy was one of the greatest reporters of all time," Post owner Rupert Murdoch said. "His passing is the end of a great era."
Dunleavy was born in Sydney, Australia, and began his journalism career at The Sun, where his father worked as a photographer.
He did stints at a variety of newspapers, including the Daily Mirror and The South China Morning Post, before arriving in New York City in 1966 where he eventually joined the New York Post in 1977 shortly after Murdoch bought the tabloid.
Dunleavy also helped create the television newsmagazine program "A Current Affair" and was the model for actor Robert Downey Jr.'s character in Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers."
The epitome of a hard-charging, hard-drinking tabloid reporter, Dunleavy earned one of his better-known scoops by sneaking into a hospital dressed in clothes that looked like hospital scrubs to interview the family of one of "Son of Sam" serial killer David Berkowitz's victims.
Dunleavy, who retired in 2008, was known as a staunch defender of the city's police officers including the officers who were convicted in the 1997 sexual assault of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. He also wrote several columns championing Wayne Dumond, a decorated Vietnam-era veteran who had been convicted in Arkansas of raping a third cousin of then-Gov. Bill Clinton. Dumond was paroled and later convicted of murder.
Dunleavy spent so much time at a bar across the street from the Post's offices that the tavern, Langan's Bar & Restaurant, installed a shrine with a frosted-glass portrait of Dunleavy. The owner gave the portrait to the Post when the bar closed last year.