James Brady: The Famed Newspaperman I Knew

By: Joe Strupp

Before there was Rush and Malloy, ?The Insider,? and countless TMZ and Perez Hilton-types, there was James Brady. His death at 80 is a true loss.

He was more than just another gossip and name-dropping writer — he was an original of the tabloid-created world of dish and dirt who helped give birth to Page Six, that New York Post standard that all gossip columns seek to emulate.

He was also a hell of a nice guy. I got to know Mr. Brady not only from the few times I spoke with him as a writer for E&P during the past 10 years, but through another connection: my wife, Claire.

Claire and Brady?s oldest daughter, Fiona, met as students at Boston College years ago and remain close friends. Fiona and her husband Carl are godparents to my son, Cole, and about as friendly and easy-going as one could imagine.

Credit much of that to Brady, who was both generous and gregarious, whether you were a four-star celeb at Elaine?s or an unknown guest at a family gathering.

Several times we got to know him on special occasions, and each brought out the charming personality of his east side nightlife, as well as the fatherly kindness he always showed my wife. No one loved their grandchildren more, as seen by the fact that Brady dedicated nearly all of his books to them.

At Fiona?s wedding years ago ? at St. Thomas
More Church on Manhattan?s East Side, and later the scenic Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park, Brady was all proud papa, showing none of the Big Apple celebrity he could have boasted, declaring to his first-born pride and joy, ?you?re the best!?

In 2006, when the New York Post was rocked by the Jared Paul Stern scandal of alleged bribery, I phoned him on a Sunday morning at his East Hampton home, and although I caught him in mid-brunch with family, he gladly got on the phone and offered his usual insightful comments.

“I certainly don’t think it is irreversible,” Brady told me that day. “I think it is embarrassing. But to my knowledge, if it doesn’t go any further than Stern, it is an aberration. If he did what he is accused of doing, he is a bad guy and ought to be canned.” And, of course, he was right as Stern left and the Page Six franchise remained as big as ever.

On another occasion, when my attempt at a novel was published, circa 2001, he not only gave me great advice for trying to publish it and market it, but wrote a kind blurb for the back cover, declaring it had ?never a dull moment.? I don?t know if he even read it.

Earlier, when I joined E&P in 1999, he gave me undeserved space in his popular Brady?s Bunch column for Ad Age, noting my addition to our magazine was part of ?E&P reshaping itself.? Not long after, Claire got a mention when she joined a Manhattan advertising recruitment firm.

Anyone who read his work, even in later years, found his ability to mix the glamour and grit of New York with the flowing words of a real newspaperman. He was a true throwback to the era of Walter Winchell, but hardly stale or has-been.

In between, his mix of books?ranging from war-torn epics about his fighting days in Korea to the Beecher Stowe series of Hampton tales ? offered a variety of writing that few others could master.

He was also a Hamptonite before it became trendy to do so, even lamenting the onslaught of outsiders to the Long Island enclave in one of his novels, ?The House That Ate The Hamptons,? which decried the growing influx of mcmansions and non-islander types.

Even at the time of his death, having left Ad Age, he had built a new following at Forbes.com with a media column, as well as continuing his popular Parade pieces.

His ?In Step With? writings were among the first things Parade readers turn to. He made each person sound so interesting, he could have written ?In Step With a Sanitation Worker? and made it seem lively.

And, of course, Brady?s voice was a recognizable uppercrust lilt. Despite a New York background, his voice was sort of Cambridge-meets-Park Avenue, which covered a charming personality and was ever-present at cocktail parties, newspaper haunts and private gatherings.

He also enjoyed ?a tibble? now and then, as Fiona would say. I say we all raise such a glass in his honor today.

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