Born in Fort William, Ontario and raised in Hamilton, Lautens began working for the Hamilton Spectator after school and in the summers when he was just 13 years old. He subsequently studied history at McMaster University, where he was editor of the campus newspaper The Silhouette from 1948 to 1950.
He subsequently rejoined the Spectator in 1950, working as a police reporter, sportswriter and columnist. Fans of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats once burned Lautens in effigy after he had written something unflattering about the team in the newspaper. He met his wife, Jackie, in 1957 when she was a contestant and he was a judge in the annual "Miss Tigercat" pageant.
In 1962, Lautens was hired by the Star to replace Pierre Berton. At the Star, Lautens became the most widely read columnist in Canada. He also hosted occasional television and radio programming on CBC Television. He was staff writer for many seasons of the iconic CBC series Front Page Challenge, also appearing as a regular guest panellist.
In 1982, Lautens was named managing editor of the Star, and successfully increased the paper's circulation and profits even in the midst of an economic recession. However, he was replaced as managing editor in 1984 and returned to writing his humour column.
He died on February 1, 1992 of a heart attack. Upon news of Lautens' death, thousands of readers turned up at the Star offices, lining up for three days to sign books of condolence.
Lautens published four books during his lifetime, and was twice winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. Two further books collecting some of his most popular columns were published posthumously.
- Laughing with Lautens (1964)
- Take My Family...Please! (1980)
- No Sex Please...We're Married (1983)
- How Pierre and I Saved the Civilized World (1984)
- Peace, Mrs. Packard and the Meaning of Life (1993)
- The Best of Gary Lautens (1995)
- NNA awardee list for sports writing: http://www.nna-ccj.ca/award-archives/list-of-winners-since-1949/#9