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James W. Brady — seasoned newspaperman, former Women’s Wear Daily publisher, Page Six founder, columnist and author — died Tuesday at his home in Manhattan at age 80.
The cause of death could not be determined. Funeral arrangements were expected to be made today. Brady is survived by his wife Florence, daughters Fiona Brady and Susan Konig, and a brother, Monsignor Tom Brady.
Old-school in his hardscrabble approach to fast and accurate reporting and nosing out the competition, Brady made a name for himself by chronicling celebrities’ escapades, not backing down from a good battle and grasping how people made news stories come alive. A former U.S. Marine, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-born Brady was as at ease hanging with his Semper Fi-loving friends as he was with fellow well-heeled Hamptonites — so much so that he wrote books about both.
While Brady’s newspaper career began at the New York Daily News, it was his time at WWD that truly molded him — and one he would remember fondly over the years in numerous columns. Of his WWD days, Brady once wrote, “Mostly I remember the fun. The grand crew of journalists who worked for the paper. And the strange, gifted people who designed the clothes. I was fascinated by the designers, less intrigued by the clothes.”
At then-chairman and editorial director John B. Fairchild’s side as WWD crowned Aristotle and Jackie Onassis “Daddy O” and “Jackie O”; needled the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, a.k.a. “Commerce & Industry” for renting themselves out, or got a dressing-down from former first daughter Lynda Bird Johnson for crucifying her Texas “style,” Brady proved to be more than willing to have a go at whatever came his way at WWD, or what he chose to pursue. When a transit strike crippled the city, he and Fairchild charged ahead on rented bicycles. In a 2001 essay in WWD for the paper’s 90th anniversary, Brady said he shared Roy Howard’s belief that a newspaper’s job was to “print the news and raise hell.”
And so he did. Long before the paparazzi stampeded the red carpet and tabloids picked through celebrities’ trash cans, Brady pounded the celebrity beat. “What a time it was! Giddy, glorious, glamorous, dizzying and sometimes surreal. We were doing solid, serious journalism, accurate and fast, scooping papers and magazines 10 times our size, and having fun doing it,” he wrote. “We were putting out a terrific little paper every day and making money at it. And we were still young enough to glory in the adventure.”
For $32 a week, he worked his way through Manhattan College as a late night copy boy for the Daily News, then the nation’s largest daily newspaper. After a two-year run as a first lieutenant in Korea, Brady returned to Manhattan, put in for a reporting job and declined when his copy boy job was the only opening. A self-proclaimed “news junkie who went to Louis & Armand on 52nd Street just to see Edward R. Murrow drink,” Brady gladly gave up his first post-Korean War gig of writing ads for Macy’s when WWD offered him a job in 1953 as a retail reporter with a $100 weekly salary.
“I first met him when he was working at Macy’s in p.r. and I was trying to get an interview,” said John B. Fairchild, currently WWD and W editor at large. “I was determined to get it — I didn’t — and never dared ask him whether it was his fault or I didn’t do it right.
“He had a lot of guts, a lot of charm and was what I would call a fiery Irishman who never missed a trick. It was sad when he left us to work at Harper’s Bazaar for a short time. It was great to know him.”