Much-admired Australian entertainment journalist, and decade-long correspondent for Variety, Blake Murdoch has died. He was 58.

Murdoch had suffered a period of recurring illness and died this week at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney.

Having studied print journalism at Charles Stuart University, he soon became Australian and Australasian bureau chief for Variety, between 1984 and 1993. He then switched sides and moved over to The Hollywood Reporter, where he was Asian Pacific bureau chief between 1998-2004. That time included a stint based in Los Angeles, which made him homesick for Sydney and his son Tom.

Later, other media roles included policy officer for the Film Finance Corporation (forerunner of Screen Australia), media and marketing for the Motion Picture Association of America, and at the Australian Communications & Media Authority.

Tributes from media and industry friends make much of Murdoch’s rare ability to perform a demanding role while still maintaining a mischievous sense of humor.

“You rascal you. We both broke into Variety at the same time, and our first Cannes Fest we were bunkmates in a broken-down hotel off the Croisette. My we laughed and laughed…. we’d sneak into various film distributors-private parties. We were once asked to leave the back of a yacht rather rudely…until we noticed we were at the wrong dock location,” wrote former Variety writer Michael Evans.

“I joined the Variety Sydney bureau in December 1986 to replace Blake, who’d decided to go freelance, and they were big shoes to fill. He was territorial about his relationships in the music and theatre industry and it took some convincing to get some of them, especially Sydney Theatre Company, to add my name to their media lists in place of Blake. Just when that was sorted out, only two or so months later, Blake returned to take over the bureau and be my boss. We were both only 24 years old,” wrote Debbie Kruger on Murdoch’s Facebook page.

“Later in life we’d talk about what ridiculously amazing jobs we had, running around interviewing the biggest industry players, back to back junkets and lunches and launches, travelling and covering the biggest stories in the Australian and New Zealand entertainment trade, at the time the only fully-staffed Oz bureau for an international showbiz publication.”

“We’ve lost a gentleman, a loyal, kind, wise and funny man who was my colleague, my teacher, my friend and many times my confidant,” she added.

Along with Murdoch’s sense of fun, some pals also mention his fondness for a tipple. Close friend, Lisa Cruse called Murdoch: “a master wordsmith, an unabashed lover of wine and a devoted father.”

He is survived by son Tom Murdoch, and fiancée, Natalie Boyd.