Press Club of Dallas

Gene Cuny, Jr. Dies at 97

Gene Cuny, Jr.

By JOE SIMNACHER

The Dallas Morning News

Staff Writer

jsimnacher@dallasnews.com

Published: 20 February 2013 10:15 PM

Eugene S. “Gene” Cuny Jr. had a zest for life and a collection of experiences to show for it.

He performed on Broadway, once tried to restrain Winston Churchill at Radio City Music Hall and played a key role with the Press Club of Dallas’ annual Gridiron Show during its heyday.

Cuny, 97, died Feb. 13 of natural causes at his home in Heath.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church in Rockwall, where he was a member.

“He had a passion for life and this vitality about him,” said his son Chris Cuny of Heath. “He was always kind. He always made people feel welcome.”

A fifth-generation Texan, Cuny was born in Houston, where he was an Eagle Scout. He received his bachelor’s degree from  the University of Houston, graduating with honors.

He then studied theater at Colorado State University on a scholarship.

Cuny married Charlotte Walser and moved to New York, where he was in the Broadway production of The Pirate with Lynn Fontanne in 1942.

He was stage manager at Radio City Music Hall, when he tried to block Churchill after a show.

“No one had told Dad he [the British prime minister] was going to be in the audience,” Chris Cuny said. “At the end of the show, Winston Churchill kind of made his way up to the stage to meet the actors. There was this big wave of people coming up to the stage, so Dad got up there to basically push him back.”

As Cuny was about to restrain Churchill, security personnel grabbed him and asked, “Do you have any idea who this is?” Chris Cuny said.

Cuny later became a Rockefeller Foundation fellow to study drama at Yale University. He taught speech and English at New Haven Junior College in Connecticut during his Ivy League days.

He returned to Houston, where he worked for an advertising agency and wrote copy for radio commercials and soap operas.

One day, while on an agency call to Hughes Tool Co. in Houston, he was asked to stand in for a portrait of Howard Hughes.

“They were trying to do a portrait of Howard Hughes, and they were never able to make him to stand still enough,” his son said. Cuny, who was the correct height, was asked to stand as a model for Hughes from the neck down.

Cuny was general manager for radio stations in Louisiana before moving to Dallas in 1951.

In Dallas, he worked for 35 years at KRLD-TV, now KDFW-TV (Channel 4), where he was a program director, national sales manager and director of community affairs. He retired from the station in 1986.

Cuny produced the press club’s Gridiron Show — a spoof of news events — for many years, beginning in the mid-1950s. He was a 32nd-degree Knight Commander of Court of Honour Mason and a Dallas leader of the Scottish Rite. He was a press club board member, a leader of the Dallas Advertising League and was president of the Downtown Dallas Exchange Club in 1963.

He also was a Rotarian and volunteered as a court-appointed special advocate for neglected or abused children. He delivered Meals on Wheels well into his 90s, his son said.

In retirement, Cuny did international relief work for CARE, with his son Fred Cuny.

Gene Cuny raised his grandson Craig Cuny of San Antonio as a son, after Fred Cuny became deeply involved in international relief work. Fred Cuny was executed while on a 1995 relief mission in Chechnya.

In addition to his wife, son and grandson, Cuny is survived by two other sons, Eugene Cuny III of Austin and Phillip Cuny of Dallas; seven other grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Press Club of Dallas