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The Boston Globe

Obituaries

Lawrence Durocher; mixed business guile, zany touch

 Mr. Durocher, with his family.

Mr. Durocher, with his family.

When a multiunion strike temporarily shut down The New York Times in 1978, former Rolling Stone publisher Lawrence A. Durocher Jr. joined with other editors and writers to publish a parody newspaper called “Not The New York Times.”

The Living Section became The Having Section, with a story on how to insulate your home with pate. “Pope Dies Yet Again,” a front-page headline reported, accompanied by a photo of the new pope, “John Paul John Paul.”

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Mr. Durocher, who grew up in the Belmont area, was a college dropout who became a marketing and publishing expert. He went on to publish a string of other newspaper parodies, including “Not The Boston Globe” in 1981 and “Off The Wall Street Journal” in 1982.

“He was just a brilliant guy who made a good living on the strength of his ideas,” said Joe Bretagna, who worked with Mr. Durocher on the Globe parody. “I feel bad for anyone who never had the pleasure or privilege of being in a room when he was holding court.”

Mr. Durocher, who also raised thoroughbred racehorses, died of cancer May 29 at his home in New London, N.H. He was 73.

Lawrence Durocher published several faux newspapers.

Lawrence Durocher published several faux newspapers.

“Not The Boston Globe” looked so much like the Globe that newsstand customers plunked down a quarter for the $2 parody and walked away, Bretagna said.

The top headline was “Reagan still asleep,” which went on: “‘No danger,’ say doctors as President enters fourth day.” There also was a “Spotlite” investigation revealing a cache of stolen ice cream sprinkles, or Jimmies, washed up on Carson Beach.

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In the edition, Mr. Durocher killed off his friend, Globe cartoonist Paul Szep. The story reported that Szep was found floating in a 55-gallon drum of fabric softener in a Brighton laundromat. Robbery was ruled out as a motive because Szep had 11 quarters in his pockets. “He had apparently softened to death,” the story said.

Mr. Durocher had an innate sense of business and a generous spirit, said Szep, who played golf with him in Florida a month before his death.

“He was just a dear friend,” Szep said. “If you needed something, he was there.”

Mr. Durocher’s career in publishing began in 1968 when he worked on the arts publication Boston After Dark, which became The Boston Phoenix.

Rock critic Jon Landau recommended him as a source of advice for the struggling Rolling Stone, according to Robert Draper’s 1990 book, “Rolling Stone Magazine: The Uncensored History.”

The book credits Mr. Durocher, who was publisher from 1972 to October 1974, with putting a financially unstable magazine on firm financial ground, setting the stage for its rise as the voice of a generation. Mr. Durocher used his “gift of gab” to wiggle the magazine out of a bad contract with its distributor. He also changed the format to allow for more ad pages.

He eventually left Rolling Stone after a falling out with founder Jann Wenner, according to his friends.

“He was larger than life,” said longtime friend Thomas Baker of Reno, who had become the magazine’s business manager in 1973. “He had a big personality, a big voice, strong opinions, did not suffer fools easily, and he could be intimidating, but he was always kind and he cared for the little guy. He was interested in talking to the people in the mailroom, as well as the editorial staff.”

Mr. Durocher became a publishing consultant based in New London, where his home became a gathering place for journalists, jockeys, and political figures, his family said.

“Larry didn’t ever promote himself, and yet there was always a line around the block,” said his friend Tom Stites, a former New York Times night national editor who recently launched the Banyan Project, a nonprofit cooperative promoting community journalism.

“This guy was a publishing and marketing genius, and I don’t use the word lightly,” Stites said. “Everything I know that makes it possible for me to be not just an editor, but someone who could do the Banyan Project, is because of Larry.”

Stites, who was trying to launch a jazz magazine when he met Mr. Durocher, said his friend has “been like a personal coach and teacher since I wandered into his life . . . I’ve just been in constant learning mode from him.”

“Not The New York Times,” edited by satirist Tony Hendra and former Random House editor Christopher Cerf, set “the modern standard for fake news,” Times columnist Jim Dwyer noted in 2008.

Of the parody publications that followed, Mr. Durocher’s only flop was a 1983 spoof of the National Inquirer called the “Irrational Inquirer.” Many grocery store customers could not tell the difference and wanted refunds. Headlines included “Why Celebrities Hate You,” and “The Pope Can Cure Cancer.”

Stores sent back hundreds of copies.

“It’s hard to parody a supermarket tabloid,” Stites said. “The people who do read them don’t understand parody of that nature. It was a bad call, the only one I think I ever saw him make.”

In a 1983 Globe interview, even Mr. Durocher noted that “a lot of people thought it simply couldn’t be done, because you’re trying to parody something which is really a parody already.”

Mr. Durocher was married for 39 years to Lorellie Stubbs, a graphic artist. She died of cancer in 2007. They met in the 1960s in her native Vermont.

“He had a fantastic sense of humor,” said his son, Angus of San Francisco. “He had an enormous heart.”

Even when Mr. Durocher was being critical, Angus said, “you always knew he cared a lot about you.”

Mr. Durocher’s words at the birth of his daughter, Kate Durocher-Pyun of New London, inspired her to write a tribute published in the collection “Shoebox Letters: Daughters to Dads.”

“I will love you unconditionally for the rest of your life and the Red Sox will always break your heart,” Mr. Durocher said to her in the delivery room.

In addition to his daughter and son, Mr. Durocher leaves his fiancée, Dr. Ellen Bifano of Syracuse, N.Y., and a granddaughter.

A funeral Mass will be said at 1 p.m. June 29 in Our Lady of Fatima Church in New London.

In the last decade of his life, Mr. Durocher advised Naif al-Mutawa, creator of a popular comic series of superheroes based on Islamic culture. The series is called THE 99, a reference to the 99 attributes of Allah.

Mutawa said in an e-mail that Mr. Durocher imparted wisdom about life, as well as about media.

“Larry had great business advice when it came to THE 99 but like any prophet with a holy book, Larry had stories that he repeated over and over to me, sometimes knowingly and sometimes by reflex, and it was up to me to extract the wisdom of what he said,” Mutawa wrote. “These magical gifts included notions like ‘remember to never have too big an ego to not take out the garbage,’ to ‘remind yourself of how lucky you are to be with the woman you married every night before going to bed.’”

J.M. Lawrence can be reached at jmlawrence@mac.com.

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