04/30/13 5:00pm

PETER BOODY PHOTO I Gary Paul Gates in a favorite spot, at his desk, still at work on various projects.

Who would think this guy with the boyish shock of hair has had a career in the news business that stretches from the glory days of big city dailies through the golden age of TV news and on to the internet?

In his half a century in the trenches, Gary Paul Gates, 77, has covered Martin Luther King,  the  Vietnam War, Watergate, Monica Lewinsky and the crazy presidential election of 2000.

A top writer and producer at CBS, the former wire service rewrite man is the collaborating author of four bestsellers, including a blockbuster he wrote with Dan Rather called “The Palace Guard.” Nowadays Mr. Gates is at work in the study of his home on Midway Road on another book even as he delves ever deeper into life on Shelter Island, where he and his wife Phyllis moved full-time in 2001.

Since he gave up his last job with a regular paycheck, he’s been able to get more involved locally, hosting programs for the Shelter Island Library and the League of Women Voters, including candidate forums at the school. He recently joined Goat Hill, where he “plays at” golf with Randy Silvani and Louis the Clip.

He agrees with his golfing pals that Shelter Island will be extinct if it ever becomes nothing more than “a haven for rich people.”

“We vitally need the working class folks who live here and, if it gets to the point where they’re priced out of existence, it means the Island will have been destroyed,” he said.

Phyllis, Mr. Gates’ wife of 25 years, is well known for her work with the League of Women Voters and the Shelter Island Public Library. Both Gary and Phyllis were previously married to theatre people who were colleagues and good friends. Phyllis was godmother to Mr. Gates’s son Chris, who now lives in Portland working for theatre and concert productions.

“Just remember Dad. I knew her before you did,” Chris told Gary when they married.

Mr. Gates said it’s too soon to talk about his book project but he held nothing back when pestered about his long career.

Born in Duluth, the only child of a teacher who remarried when Gary was 10 and moved to Dearborn, he took journalism courses at Notre Dame, eventually landing a job as a UPI rewrite man in Minneapolis. He liked it. He even liked Bismarck, North Dakota, his next assignment.

Drafted into the Army in 1958, he wrote for his division newspaper in Germany, then returned to UPI with his first wife in tow — a special services lieutenant he’d met in Germany — to cover big league sports in Detroit.

In 1961, he used “a white lie,” he said, to put himself at the head of the long line of guys hoping for a job in New York, telling his UPI boss that his wife hated Detroit and had landed a job on Long Island teaching Spanish, so he was quitting.

Soon ensconced in the Daily News building, where UPI had its Manhattan offices, he started as an overnight rewrite man, writing leads like the one about Webster’s new Third International edition: “You may have been taught it’s wrong to say ain’t. But it ain’t.”

With the focus on irreverence and fun, “It was a wonderful writing shift but it was a killer because you never got enough sleep,” he said.

After two years, he was shifted to the night desk, where he had to get serious because his stories ran on the front pages of big city dailies all across the country. He worked there until 1966, leavening the serious stuff with celebrity profiles and features on the side, which opened the door for him to begin writing long pieces for high-brow Holiday magazine.

That heady experienced convinced him to try freelancing, which proved to be “the hardest three years of my life” because it required so much hustling. At the same time, he had remarried — a young actress who would go on to a career as a theatrical speech and voice teacher — and he had his son to support.

So in 1969, he followed many UPI friends to CBS News, where he wrote scripts for the major news programs including, eventually, the evening news with Walter Cronkite.

“I was slow to the game,” he said of broadcast news. “I hadn’t been paying that much attention. I was there during the golden age of television journalism,” when Charles Collingswood, Eric Sevareid and Morley Safer were regulars along with Dan Rather, Mike Wallace and Cronkite. “It was the high water mark of network journalism, particularly at CBS. I took it pretty much for granted. I thought that’s the way it was supposed to be.”

Drinking at P.J. Moriarity’s after work one night, Mr. Gates told Dan Rather that his stories about two characters in Nixon’s White House named Erlichman and Haldeman — too complicated and subtle for the nightly news — could make a long magazine article or a book.

Rather, who had no time to write books, called him a few days later and asked if he had been serious.

“I used to think it was all me,” he joked of his success as co-author of “The Palace Guard,” a huge bestseller in the weeks after Nixon resigned in 1974. It made enough money to equal his salary for five to seven years.

Harper & Row asked Mr. Gates to write a history of CBS News called “Air Time” (1978), another bestseller. In 1979, Roone Arledge recruited him to write for ABC News, which Mr. Gates did for a year before he gave in to Mike Wallace’s “badgering” for him to collaborate on a book.

“Close Encounters,” yet another bestseller, came out in 1984, by which time Mr. Gates was back at CBS as a sports writer. He later became executive editor of the network’s “NFL Today.”

His book about the Reagan presidency, written with CBS correspondent Bob Scheiffer, appeared in 1989. Through the 1990s, he worked for CBS Productions, which created programming for cable channels, including “20th Century” with Mike Wallace, with whom he collaborated on a second book in 2006, “Between You and Me.”

Besides stints writing specials for ESPN, his next and final full-time gig was writing for CBSNews.com from 1997 to 2001. The Internet was a whole new experience that allowed for longer pieces but “a lot of the time we felt like we were sending stuff out into the void,” he said.

It was Bob Lypsite, the New York Times sportswriter, who convinced Phyllis and Gary to investigate Shelter Island when they decided it was time for a country home in 1998. His CBS colleague Janet Roach, another Island resident, endorsed the recommendation.

“You could feel the decompression as soon as we got off the ferry,” he remembered.

04/30/13 5:00pm

PETER BOODY PHOTO I Gary Paul Gates in a favorite spot, at his desk, still at work on various projects.

Who would think this guy with the boyish shock of hair has had a career in the news business that stretches from the glory days of big city dailies through the golden age of TV news and on to the internet?

In his half a century in the trenches, Gary Paul Gates, 77, has covered Martin Luther King,  the  Vietnam War, Watergate, Monica Lewinsky and the crazy presidential election of 2000.

A top writer and producer at CBS, the former wire service rewrite man is the collaborating author of four bestsellers, including a blockbuster he wrote with Dan Rather called “The Palace Guard.” Nowadays Mr. Gates is at work in the study of his home on Midway Road on another book even as he delves ever deeper into life on Shelter Island, where he and his wife Phyllis moved full-time in 2001.

Since he gave up his last job with a regular paycheck, he’s been able to get more involved locally, hosting programs for the Shelter Island Library and the League of Women Voters, including candidate forums at the school. He recently joined Goat Hill, where he “plays at” golf with Randy Silvani and Louis the Clip.

He agrees with his golfing pals that Shelter Island will be extinct if it ever becomes nothing more than “a haven for rich people.”

“We vitally need the working class folks who live here and, if it gets to the point where they’re priced out of existence, it means the Island will have been destroyed,” he said.

Phyllis, Mr. Gates’ wife of 25 years, is well known for her work with the League of Women Voters and the Shelter Island Public Library. Both Gary and Phyllis were previously married to theatre people who were colleagues and good friends. Phyllis was godmother to Mr. Gates’s son Chris, who now lives in Portland working for theatre and concert productions.

“Just remember Dad. I knew her before you did,” Chris told Gary when they married.

Mr. Gates said it’s too soon to talk about his book project but he held nothing back when pestered about his long career.

Born in Duluth, the only child of a teacher who remarried when Gary was 10 and moved to Dearborn, he took journalism courses at Notre Dame, eventually landing a job as a UPI rewrite man in Minneapolis. He liked it. He even liked Bismarck, North Dakota, his next assignment.

Drafted into the Army in 1958, he wrote for his division newspaper in Germany, then returned to UPI with his first wife in tow — a special services lieutenant he’d met in Germany — to cover big league sports in Detroit.

In 1961, he used “a white lie,” he said, to put himself at the head of the long line of guys hoping for a job in New York, telling his UPI boss that his wife hated Detroit and had landed a job on Long Island teaching Spanish, so he was quitting.

Soon ensconced in the Daily News building, where UPI had its Manhattan offices, he started as an overnight rewrite man, writing leads like the one about Webster’s new Third International edition: “You may have been taught it’s wrong to say ain’t. But it ain’t.”

With the focus on irreverence and fun, “It was a wonderful writing shift but it was a killer because you never got enough sleep,” he said.

After two years, he was shifted to the night desk, where he had to get serious because his stories ran on the front pages of big city dailies all across the country. He worked there until 1966, leavening the serious stuff with celebrity profiles and features on the side, which opened the door for him to begin writing long pieces for high-brow Holiday magazine.

That heady experienced convinced him to try freelancing, which proved to be “the hardest three years of my life” because it required so much hustling. At the same time, he had remarried — a young actress who would go on to a career as a theatrical speech and voice teacher — and he had his son to support.

So in 1969, he followed many UPI friends to CBS News, where he wrote scripts for the major news programs including, eventually, the evening news with Walter Cronkite.

“I was slow to the game,” he said of broadcast news. “I hadn’t been paying that much attention. I was there during the golden age of television journalism,” when Charles Collingswood, Eric Sevareid and Morley Safer were regulars along with Dan Rather, Mike Wallace and Cronkite. “It was the high water mark of network journalism, particularly at CBS. I took it pretty much for granted. I thought that’s the way it was supposed to be.”

Drinking at P.J. Moriarity’s after work one night, Mr. Gates told Dan Rather that his stories about two characters in Nixon’s White House named Erlichman and Haldeman — too complicated and subtle for the nightly news — could make a long magazine article or a book.

Rather, who had no time to write books, called him a few days later and asked if he had been serious.

“I used to think it was all me,” he joked of his success as co-author of “The Palace Guard,” a huge bestseller in the weeks after Nixon resigned in 1974. It made enough money to equal his salary for five to seven years.

Harper & Row asked Mr. Gates to write a history of CBS News called “Air Time” (1978), another bestseller. In 1979, Roone Arledge recruited him to write for ABC News, which Mr. Gates did for a year before he gave in to Mike Wallace’s “badgering” for him to collaborate on a book.

“Close Encounters,” yet another bestseller, came out in 1984, by which time Mr. Gates was back at CBS as a sports writer. He later became executive editor of the network’s “NFL Today.”

His book about the Reagan presidency, written with CBS correspondent Bob Scheiffer, appeared in 1989. Through the 1990s, he worked for CBS Productions, which created programming for cable channels, including “20th Century” with Mike Wallace, with whom he collaborated on a second book in 2006, “Between You and Me.”

Besides stints writing specials for ESPN, his next and final full-time gig was writing for CBSNews.com from 1997 to 2001. The Internet was a whole new experience that allowed for longer pieces but “a lot of the time we felt like we were sending stuff out into the void,” he said.

It was Bob Lypsite, the New York Times sportswriter, who convinced Phyllis and Gary to investigate Shelter Island when they decided it was time for a country home in 1998. His CBS colleague Janet Roach, another Island resident, endorsed the recommendation.

“You could feel the decompression as soon as we got off the ferry,” he remembered.