Journalist and War Hero James Brady Dies at 80

Penned Much-Read Column for Ad Age, Created Post's 'Page Six'

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- James Brady, longtime Ad Age columnist and author of "Parade" magazine's celebrity profile column "In Step With," died yesterday at his home in Manhattan. He was 80.

James Brady
Photo: Buck Ennis

James Brady

A James Brady sampler:

Attack on New York
Dispatch From Inside a Wounded City
Mr. Brady, who for decades wrote Ad Age's "Brady's Bunch" column that was a much-sought after home for bold-face media names, was described by Parade Chairman-CEO Walter Anderson as a "towering figure in American journalism." He was a decorated war hero and a prolific author, writing fiction as well as an account of his return to North Korea, "The Scariest Place in the World." He also authored "Why Marines Fight," and "The Coldest War" and at the time of his passing was finishing a new book, "Hero of the Pacific: The Life of Legendary Marine John Basilone," a World War II hero.

In November 2001, Mr. Brady was awarded the Bronze Star. The ceremony was attended by Ad Age editor in chief Rance Crain, who commemorated the occasion in a column. At the event, Mr. Crain wrote that Mr. Brady said, "I haven't spent the last 49 years wringing my hands over the medal because I always had the medal. It wasn't on my breast; it was in my heart. I had the great privilege and high honor of commanding U.S. Marines in deadly combat and doing it competently and with honor. There is no higher decoration or citation than that."

To Ad Age readers, Mr. Brady is best known for his signature writing style, rubbing shoulders with John Fairchild and Coco Chanel at his frequent roosts at Elaine's and The Four Seasons. For more than 25 years, the cigar-chomping columnist's writings graced Ad Age's pages, and on special assignment for Ad Age he covered the world-changing fall of the Berlin Wall and, in 1987, the poignantly sad story of the Chilko River disaster that took the lives of several ad execs including the VP of advertising for Procter & Gamble. He recalled the experience in a 2005 story titled "A Long Way to Go to Die."

"I admired Jim's work for a long time before I got the courage to ask him whether he might contribute to Ad Age," Mr. Crain recalled. "When he did, he brought a style and grace that was instantly embraced by our readers. He made a lasting and great impression on our publication and audience, and I'll forever be grateful for his storytelling. He will be greatly missed."

It all started at the New York Daily News, where Mr. Brady worked his way through college as a copyboy. After graduation and returning from the war, he wrote ad copy for Macy's but he really made his name at Women's Wear Daily, where he was hired in 1953. In 1956-58 he covered Capitol Hill for Fairchild Publications during the Eisenhower administration.

Mr. Brady was boosted to London bureau chief for Fairchild in 1959 and two short years later jumped to bureau chief and European director in Paris, where he became well acquainted with Ms. Chanel, who is said to have referred to him as "mon petit indien ... my little Indian."

He became publisher of Women's Wear in 1964, transforming the trade paper into a media force to be reckoned with and shepherding the consumer spinoff of W magazine as the company's editorial director. In 1971 he left to join Hearst Magazines as VP-editor and publisher of Harper's Bazaar -- where he was fired for trying to modernize the title a bit too quickly for management tastes.

Not all was lost, however, as he then penned his first book, "Superchic," about his publishing adventures and misadventures. That led to a job with New York magazine, where editor Clay Felker tapped him to write the "Intelligencer" column. Not long thereafter, he hosted a TV talk-show spinoff for New York that was nominated -- and won -- several Emmys. Mr. Brady eventually became editor succeeding Mr. Felker.

In 1974, he joined the weekly tabloid Star as editor, working for Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch where he spent nine years before being tapped as associate publisher of the New York Post. He is also credited with creating and writing the Post's powerful "Page Six" gossip column.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Page Six in 2001, Mr. Brady wrote for the Post: "Oh, what a town this is! Oh, what a life it's been!"

Most Popular
In this article: