Changing Skyline: Tom O’Gorman to follow Ann Gerber’s beat

Tom O'Gorman

Tom O’Gorman

Chicago artist, writer and historian Tom O’Gorman is about to take over the longest-running gossip column in the city — if not the country.

Inside Publications has tapped O’Gorman to succeed the legendary Ann Gerber, whose deliciously catty society column has been a guilty pleasure for readers of the weekly Skyline and other local newspapers for more than 65 years.

Ann Gerber

Ann Gerber

Health problems have sidelined Gerber, according to publisher Ron Roenigk, who said severe back pain is making it hard for her to do the work her column requires. “Ann may decide to write more for us down the road — and she has carte blanche,” Roenigk added.

O’Gorman, a former priest, has written numerous books on Chicago architecture, history and politics, and was a scholar-in-residence at the Newberry Library. He has close ties to Alderman Edward Burke, for whom he once served as a speechwriter. Burke and O’Gorman are credited as co-writers of End of Watch: Chicago Police Killed in the Line of Duty, 1853-2006.

“Skyline made its bones as a society newspaper and we’re missing that today,” said Roenigk, who has owned Skyline since 2012. “We look forward to having Tom in our pages next year to try and fill that need.”

Except for a brief stint at the Sun-Times in the 1980s, Gerber has been synonymous with Skyline since 1960 when she began chronicling society life in Chicago’s Gold Coast and Near North Side neighborhoods for the publication’s original owner, Lerner Home Newspapers. Her lively mixture of caustic comments, blind items, and genuine news about movers and shakers had been running since 1950 in other editions of the Lerner chain.

In 2013 Gerber received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Journalists Association. “I realize the fact that I’m a gossip columnist, which makes me suspect and certainly not as desirable as people who do hard news, but gossip is just an extension of people’s talk,” Gerber said at the time. “Gossip is news. Besides, I print true gossip.”

O’Gorman wasn’t the only writer approached about the Skyline job. Roenigk said he also offered a society column to man-about-town Bunky Cushing, who accepted the gig. Cushing’s first column was to have run in mid-October — the week he died following complications from triple-bypass surgery.