NEW YORK FIXTURE TOM GATES PASSES AWAY AT AGE 72
REMEMBERING A FRIEND
Story By: James Edstrom
|Tom Gates With Friend Liz Derringer And Mitch Douglas|
I am very sad about the passing of Tom Gates, a New York legend and Icon.
Before I print the obit below, I just wanted to say something about this great person. When I first started in the business, it was not always easy. When I met Tom Gates the business was rough and hard. But in Tom, I found a friend right away. If I was at some boring event and the people were not so nice, when Tom walked in, the room lit up. Right away I knew a friend had arrived. Tom would walk in with his big smile, let you know you were his friend and look around the room and always had some funny comment on the party. He sized up the room right away.
I loved walking around a event with Tom Gates. He knew everyone, and had the best funny gossip on just about every person in the room. He loved turning to me and pointing out some crazy guest and always had a huge joke to go along with his comments. Tom would talk about his partner Mitch Douglas and had such love in his eyes when he did. He would talk about their getaway home In Pennsylvania and his trips across the world. He really loved NYC and Palm Beach.
I am really going to miss Tom Gates. His illness came so quick and he wanted to live. He tried experimental treatments for the Leukemia which had him sitting in a chair almost all day long. His partner Mitch was at his side day and night. I made daily calls to mutual friends asking how Tom was doing. I did not want to burden Tom or Mitch, so this is how I found out how he was doing. Tom put up a fight and I am sure he is in heaven society writing and doing what he loved best, talking, writing and making everyone laugh. Farewell my friend.
ABOUT TOM GATES
Tom Gates, a journal-photography who was a fixture at New York society and entertainment events for more than 25 years as author of “Tom Gates’ Manhattan” for Palm Beach Society Magazine in Palm Beach, Florida, died in New York at Calvary Hospice on February 17, the day after his 72nd birthday. The cause of death was leukemia, according to his agent and companion Mitch Douglas.
Gates was known for his lively writing style and quick wit. While interviewing Phyllis McGuire, Gates learned she once dated John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and quipped, “Well if you had played your cards right, you could have been Phyllis McGuire Kennedy Onassis!”
He was born in Astoria, New York on February 16, 1943, and as a teenager discovered “the land of Oz” his name for Manhattan. At the age of sixteen with his first camera, he captured images of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Princess Grace of Monaco, and Elizabeth Taylor. On meeting Taylor, he introduced himself by saying, “Excuse me. I just got my first camera. I wonder if you would mind if I practice on you?” A bond was formed when Gates refused to photograph Miss Taylor as she left her limousine in tears a several weeks later. A few minutes later, he was approached by Miss Taylor’s driver who said, “Miss Taylor wanted me to thank you for not taking her picture when you saw how upset she was. She also thinks it’s late for you to be out and wants me to take you home.” This began a fifty year friendship. Gates would meet Taylor at the garage exit of the Regency Hotel and they would roam New York disguised as a teenage couple, Gates joined Taylor, Richard Burton and Michael Caine at a screening of X, Y AND ZEE in Rome. When Taylor noticed Gates in the crowd at the fabled Malcolm Forbes party in Tangier, she shrieked, “What are you doing here?!” Gates replied, “Now I get paid to stalk you.” Many of Gates’ unpublished photographs were used in the best selling biography ELIZABETH by J. Randy Taraborrelli.
Gates became the New York editor and columnist for Palm Beach Society Magazine when owner/publisher James Sheeran, came to New York to get recommendations for the job. When three press agents in a row suggested Gates, Gates was offered the job. Later he would become Travel Editor as well roaming the world as author of “Tom Gates’ Travel”. His favorite destination was India which he visited more than ten times. He completed one of the last trips on his bucket list, a safari to South Africa, weeks before his leukemia diagnosis. He also contributed material to TravelSmart, The New York Times, Quest, Newsweek, the New York Post, and the New York Daily News.
He is survived by his companion of twenty-five years, Mitch Douglas of Mitch Douglas Literary and Theatrical. In lieu of flowers, Mr. Douglas requests that donations in Mr. Gates name be made to The Actors Fund, 729 Seventh Avenue, 10th floor, New York, NY 10019.