OBITUARY : Dan Wolf

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The Independent Online
Dan Wolf was one of the three founders of New York's Village Voice newspaper, and for many years its editor.

Set up in 1955, to rally against the existing press and to provide a voice for the young and radical for whom there was no means of expression, the paper came to reflect the cultural changes and political dis- content that simmered beneath the Communist witch-hunts of the time, providing a seed-bed for young writers and extending an influence far beyond the borders of Greenwich Village.

In 1962 Wolf said that the Village Voice was created "when the vulgarities of McCarthyism had withered the possibilities of a true dialogue between people. The best minds in America - radical and conservative - were repeating themselves."

Often editorially chaotic, the paper came to support the civil rights and feminist movements, to oppose the war in Vietnam and to publish a blend of advocacy and personal journalism that could swing between articles on the Black Panthers or gay rights to erotic Christmas ornaments and psychedelic shopping centres.

Daniel Wolf was born on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and as a young man aspired to write novels, but during the Second World War he was drafted into the Army where he served in aerial intelligence in the Far East. After the war he studied psychology, and earned money writing articles on philosophy for the Columbia Encyclopedia and working for the Turkish embassy before establishing the Village Voice. His co-founders were Edwin Fancher, a psychologist he had met while registering at the New School for Social Research in 1946, and Norman Mailer.

Wolf was an attentive editor who encouraged young writers including, of course, Mailer. Many believed his talent lay in editing people, not copy and he was known as a good listener. "I have a feeling I've listened to more talk in my life than any other single person," he once said.

By the late Sixties the Village Voice could claim around 150,000 readers and had become renowned for its unusual advertisements: "Veteran of three lunatic asylums wants to explore possibility of book with qualified writer," read one.

Wolf sold his interest in the paper in 1970 for $3m and retired to enjoy the benefits of affluence. In 1977 he became an adviser-at-large to Mayor Edward Koch whom had supported in his election campaigns through editorials in the Voice and with whom he shared a common dislike of the existing political organisation in New York. "I suppose that my role is to encourage him to be himself," Wolf said describing his role as a taskmaster who eased the Mayor through heated decision-making difficulties."He knows that I am not there to gain points."

In later years Wolf remained Koch's editor and confidant after he left office."I'm the only person in America I know who has his own editor and probably the best editor they have ever had on a newspaper," Koch once remarked.

Daniel Wolf, journalist: born New York 25 May 1915; co-founder and editor, Village Voice 1955-70; married 1956 Rhoda Lazare (one son and one daughter); died New York 11 April 1996.

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