Tom Poster (IC ’59), one of the Inner Circle’s most flamboyant, funny and beloved members, is being remembered for his on-stage antics as well as for being a hard-hitting political reporter and innovator of “celebrity news.” He died June 23, 2015 at age 87.
Tom was an Inner Circle star who made the Friday night crowds roar with laughter and the Saturday night swells pointedly seek him out. He usually performed in drag as prominent female politicians such as Bella Abzug or Carol Bellamy, so well that he was practically typecast. The musical numbers stand out too for their length compared with today’s. (Watch some of Tom Poster’s performances from 1980s-90s)
He was also a go-to reporter in the City Room. When People Magazine launched to immediate success in 1974, New York’s tabloids grabbed the celebrity ball and raced with their own daily versions of gossipy stories about the glitterati. Tom was picked to drive the Daily News’ “People Page.” For nearly 20 years, Tom along with co-writer Phil Roura made it a mainstay for New Yorkers and a fierce rival to the Post’s “Page Six.”
Tom started out as a reporter for the Associated Press covering Albany and City Hall. Tom was born and raised in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, the son of Polish immigrants. Besides daily journalism, he and his wife, Helen, wrote, edited and published the weekly Polish American World newspaper for 51 years until it closed in 2010.
“Tom was a sweet man and nobody’s fool. He was a hardworking reporter in his day as well as one of those guys who made working at the Daily News such a joy for so many years,” said Sal Arena.
“He would call into The News’ wire room to dictate a story,” recalled Mark Lieberman, “about an event in Greenpoint involving someone with a Polish all-consonant surname, adding ‘normal spelling’ to assist the person typing. I wonder how Bella is greeting him or if Mary Anne (Krupsak, NY Lt. Governor in the 1970s) – ‘I am Mary Anne Margolis’ – can still hear him.”
“One of a kind,” said Mitch Lebe. “He made us laugh with his portrayals of women at the Inner Circle. And he was a serious journalist who covered Albany in the Rockefeller years.”
“I knew Tom was Polish-American but didn’t know he was on a first name basis with the late Pope – now saint – John Paul II,” said Mary Murphy. “He was a kind man.”
George Arzt: “Tommy was one of the great people covering politics. As an adversary, he was fun to be with; funny, competitive and innovative.”
And from Gabe Pressman: “Tom saw the humor in the stories and the people we covered and, most of all, he made us laugh at ourselves.”
Carol Zimmer said she always appreciated Tom Poster’s “spirit and the gusto with which he approached his roles, dressed in the most ridiculous and hilarious costumes. Irreplaceable!”
“Absolutely no one could command the stage like Tom,” added Molly Gordy. “Before I joined the Inner Circle I would hold my breath waiting for him to come on, and after I joined he became and remains the standard by which I try to build each performance.”
Henry Goldman: “He was so thoroughly enjoyed by so many friends
Tom’s son, Tom Jr., said in a recent email: “Pops Poster is a great guy and the Inner Circle organization has been a big part of his life. Mine as well for that matter.”
Shelly Strickler added: “These last few years, Tom and I would correspond right before Inner Circle. He would apologize for not being able to make the show. He was always warm, friendly, positive and one of the funniest men around.”
He was a rare blend of humor, hard work, passion and ethnic pride. His email address summed it up:
Tom was President of the Inner Circle in 1967; president of the New York Press Club, 1968-69, and a board member until 2015.
Besides his wife, Helen, and son, Tom Jr., Tom is survived by another son, Paul, a daughter, Susan; a brother, Stanley; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.