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TV and film columnist George Maksian, who worked at the Daily News for 44 years, dies at 94

TV and film columnist George Maksian, who worked at the Daily News for 44 years, dies at 94

 


Unionized columnist George Maksian, who wrote about movies, television and celebrities for 44 years at the Daily News, has died. He was 94 years old.

From his perch in the iconic News Building on E. 42nd St., Maksian, who died May 23, covered just about every luminary of stage and screen whose name was always in bold.

The list included Ed Sullivan, Howard Stern, Johnny Carson, Danny Aiello, Barbara Walters, David Letterman and Bette Midler.

Among Maksian's favorites was TV star Mike Connors, who played a private detective in the long-running CBS drama “Mannix.”

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George Maksian.

Connors, like Maksian, was born to parents who escaped the Armenian genocide. Armenian culture and causes were as important to Maksian as movie premieres and red carpet appearances.

“He generously went out of his way to support arts and culture within the Armenian community,” said Maksian’s nephew, Daniel Gadarian. “He did a lot for the Church.

“He worked tirelessly to champion this cause. It was very important to him.

Gadarian remembers childhood summers traveling from Florida to New York to visit his Uncle George.

He remembered all the gifts Maksian received from stars and publicists hoping for a good word in the newspaper. Gadarian said Maksian fired most of them, but there was one well-known TV presenter whose trinkets he never destroyed – Barbara Walters.

“He made an exception for her,” Gadarian said. “She sent the best gift baskets.”

George Maksian (far right) presents the Man of the Year award to Garo Yepremian (center) of the Miami Dolphins at St. Vartan's Cathedral in 1972. (John Pedin / New York Daily News)
George Maksian (far right) presents the Man of the Year award to Garo Yepremian (center) of the Miami Dolphins at St. Vartan's Cathedral in 1972. (John Pedin/New York Daily News)

But not everyone was a fan. Maksian said sportscaster Howard Cosell tried to get him fired after catching Cosell lying on his boxing coverage.

Maksian said Cosell complained that he was forced by his ABC bosses to continue covering boxing despite his concerns about the brutality of the sport. But Maksian learned that Cosell's contract allowed him to refuse any assignment.

Maksian printed it, and Cosell sent a furious four-page letter to the scribe's editors.

Maksian, born in 1929, was one of four children raised by his determined parents in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen after his mother and father immigrated to the United States in the years after World War I.

Maksian helped in his parents' grocery store and sang in the choir at the Armenian Cathedral of Saint Illuminator.

After graduating from the High School of Commerce in Manhattan, Maksian got a job as a copier at the Daily News for $18 a week. At the same time, he studied at City College and New York University.

From there, he rose through the ranks to become a senior reporter and then columnist for what was at the time the most widely distributed daily newspaper in the country.

George Maksian is pictured in an undated photo.  (Courtesy of the family)
George Maksian is pictured in an undated photo. (Courtesy of the family)

“I was the token Armenian in the editorial office,” he told an interviewer years later. “But today, it’s diverse, with all nationalities. I don't know why they accepted me. Maybe they just needed a copier, and it was the right time and place.

When an opening appeared in the radio and television department, Maksian took center stage. His column became syndicated and appeared in newspapers across the country.

“People like Johnny Carson and Howard Stern gave me so much material to write about,” Maksian said in the interview. “Carson would sneeze and my story would go to page one.”

Maksian's funeral will be held June 6 at 10 a.m. at St. Thomas Armenian Church in Tenafly, New Jersey.

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