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Author Tue Jul 29 2014

Lawrence Santoro, Chicago Writer Known for His Gifted Storytelling & Resonant Voice, Dies at 71

Lawrence SantoroBy Sally Duros

Lawrence P. Santoro, the amicable and talented creative man-about-town who worked in Chicago theater as a director, actor and dramaturge until finding his distinct voice as a writer of dark fiction died on Friday, July 25 in his Chicago apartment. He was 71.

He died from cancer of the duodenum, a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

"Larry was patient and a great teacher, and he made lifelong friendships with our motley crowd (of amateurs)," said Ted Allen, host of the TV series "Chopped," who was directed by Santoro as a key cast member of the Chicago Gridiron Show, an annual benefit for the scholarship fund of the Society of Professional Journalists. "I'll always miss him and think of him fondly, and will always remember the Gridiron show as one of the most fun times of my life, largely because of him."

ABC-7 Chicago entertainment reporter Janet Davies, also a Gridiron cast member, agreed. "I will always have special memories of Larry and the absolute professionalism he brought to herding a bunch of quasi theatrical media mongrels into brilliant satirical revues," she said. "Perhaps the Apostles are looking for someone to put on a show for the Big Guy."

Santoro was most recently the host and assistant editor of the award-winning podcast Tales to Terrify. Called the "Vincent Price of podcasts," Santoro was known for his deep trademark voice, which has been called the "perfect voice for horror." He was also known here in Chicago and nationwide for his dramatic readings of his works and was a regular contributor to the Twilight Tales horror reading series.

Santoro's written and spoken work was the winner of numerous awards in the dark fiction and horror genres. A sampling includes the 2013 Horror Podcast of the Year award for Tales to Terrify, the 2009 Sofanaut Award for Best Narrator, and honors and citations for many short stories, including "Catching," "So Many Tiny Mouths" and "At Angels Sixteen." In 2001, Santoro's novella God Screamed and Screamed, Then I Ate Him was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. Also Stoker nominated was Santoro's 2002 audio-drama adaptation of Gene Wolfe's "The Tree Is My Hat," starring Neil Gaiman, P.D. Cacek and featuring Gahan Wilson as the master of ceremonies.

Santoro's first novel, Just North of Nowhere, was published in 2007. A collection of his short fiction, Drink for the Thirst to Come, was published in 2011. Santoro continued to work on several pieces during his brief illness, including the piece "Chittering" and the incomplete work, "Calvin Willingham and Mikmaq Station Emporium of Dreams."

Santoro also wrote a Weekender section on film for the Chicago Sun-Times during the '90s.

Although known for his horror writing and successful podcast, Santoro's first passion was theater, in which he worked most notably as a director at the Children's Theatre in Minneapolis, as a literary manager and dramaturge at Chicago's Organic Theater and in several roles at the Royal George Theater, including casting director of Jerry Sterner's play Other People's Money.

Santoro's artistic work on television included casting director for ABC daytime "All My Children" and as director of the TV series, "Hyde and Seeke," produced by Walt Topel's Swell Pictures.

Santoro's many local theater friends included Del Close, William Peterson, Gary Houston and Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes.

In his work with the Chicago Gridiron Show during the late '80s and early '90s, Santoro successfully herded a motley band of amateurs and professionals into a cohesive comedic whole. He also directed many prominent Chicago broadcast journalists, including Andy Shaw, Bill Kurtis, Lester Holt and others. He had a happy moment directing filmmaker Harold Ramis for a short comedic spot.

Originally hailing from Reading, Pa., Santoro forged a perfect marriage at age 59 when he married Tycelia White, a secret crush from his college days at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. For the past 12 years, they have lived happily together in his Lakeview loft with their cats Mahler and Tabitha. Santoro had recently retired from his day job with the city of Chicago.

A celebration of Santoro's life will be held on Friday, Aug. 1, at Lakeview Funeral Home, 1458 W. Belmont Ave. Viewing of the closed casket is from 5 to 7pm, followed by a short memorial service at 7pm. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the American Cancer Society, noting that you would like it to be earmarked for research into duodenal cancer. Or you can donate to Imerman Angels, who provide one to one support for cancer fighters, survivors and caregivers.

Family and friends are planning a toast and celebration at a later date in September.

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