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Long-time Star-Telegram theater and entertainment critic Perry Stewart dies

If you ever met Perry Buck Stewart, who wrote for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for around four decades, you would remember two things about him – the scraggly ponytail and the hoarse voice.

That voice fell silent Sunday night when Stewart, 75, died in Dallas as a result of injuries suffered when was hit by a truck as he was crossing a street Oct. 3, 2017.

A service for Stewart is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 13, at 10 a.m., at Grace United Methodist Church, 4105 Junius St., in Dallas, Stewart was transferred Autumn Leaves, a rehabilitation center on the shores of White Rock Lake in Dallas after he was discharged from Baylor Medical Center.

Stewart worked at the Star-Telegram in a day where the newspaper had two separate editions and two people covering similar beats. His opposite number was Elston Brooks, who died May 22, 1991, from a disease Brooks maintained that he couldn’t pronounce – cancer.

“There are so many stories I could share,” said Pam Brooks, wife of Elston Brooks. “Elston and Perry competed with each other. Elston was the AM edition entertainment columnist. Perry was the columnist for the evening edition of Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“They tried to outscoop each other on entertainment news and Hollywood interviews,” she said. “But they somehow managed to forge a lasting friendship. Perry has always been there for me since Elston died. He was like a brother to Elston.”

At the Star-Telegram, Stewart was famous for his supremely messy desk, with papers piled high, wrote Mark Lowry of Theaterjones.com, who worked with him for years and took over the theater beat at the Star-Telegram when Stewart retired in the late 1990s.

“Perry Buck: I figured it would be a desk avalanche that would lay you low, not this,” former Star-Telegram colleague Rich Haddaway said in a Facebook post in late November when it still appeared that Stewart would recover from his injuries.

Stewart seemed to be doing well in the recovery center, friends who visited him reported in Facebook posts.

Word of his death spread rapidly among members of the theater world and current and former employees of the Star-Telegram.

Stewart began as a copy editor at the Star-Telegram in 1965 and was named “amusements columnist” in 1966, Lowry wrote.

“[He] would soon become film critic and then theater critic, covering the major Fort Worth theaters that opened in the late 1970s and early 1980s: Hip Pocket Theatre, Stage West, Circle Theatre, and Jubilee Theatre, as well as the already established Casa Mañana and Fort Worth Community Theatre (later Fort Worth Theatre, now defunct).,” Lowry said. “Alongside established theater critic Elston Brooks, productions at these theaters received two reviews, one for the morning edition, and another for the afternoon edition. (Wouldn’t he be mortified to know that the newspaper no longer publishes theater or other arts reviews?)”

Robert Philpot of the Star-Telegram also recalled Stewart’s desk. “Legend has it that when he retired, he found an uncashed paycheck when he was cleaning out his desk. I saw firsthand a coupon for a Fort Worth restaurant that had been closed for several years,” Philpot wrote in the newspaper.

“It’s odd that he didn’t cash the paycheck (if that’s not an urban myth) because he was known for his frugality. He would prefer looking for a parking meter that had leftover time on it to taking one closer to the building. Once, when I opened some mail and thoughtlessly threw a paper clip in the trash, he admonished me: ‘Don’t throw that away! That’s a perfectly good paper clip!’ He once charged me when I asked to ‘borrow’ a stamp,” Philpot said.

“I grew up reading the movie reviews by Perry and Elston Brooks, back in the day when newspapers could afford two reviewers, vs. today’s none,” said former colleague Linda Stallard Johnson. “I couldn’t believe I was so lucky as to work with both in my career.”

Includes material from Facebook, Theaterjobes.com, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Caring Bridge.

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