James Brady, a former editor of fashion and gossip publications who became the celebrity interviewer for the mass-circulation Parade magazine...
James Brady, a former editor of fashion and gossip publications who became the celebrity interviewer for the mass-circulation Parade magazine and wrote more than a dozen books ranging in topics from war to high society, died Monday at his home in New York City. He was 80; no cause of death was reported.
After returning from Korean War combat, Mr. Brady used his skills as an administrator and raconteur to propel himself up the masthead of Fairchild Publications, whose flagship offering was the fashion bible Women’s Wear Daily. He became publisher of Women’s Wear Daily in the 1960s and helped launch its spinoff lifestyle magazine, W.
Following a brief tenure as publisher of the Hearst Corp.’s Harper’s Bazaar — he said he was fired for updating the magazine too rapidly — Mr. Brady began in 1974 a long affiliation with Rupert Murdoch, the Australian publisher then making inroads into the United States with his tabloid the Star.
In addition to an executive role with Murdoch’s News Corp., Mr. Brady edited the Star and went on to develop the snarky “Page Six” gossip column for the New York Post in the mid-1970s. He also briefly edited another Murdoch acquisition, New York magazine.
Most Read Local Stories
- Police chief's decision to quit may have just saved Seattle from itself
- Coronavirus daily news updates, August 14: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world
- What type of mask is best? How often should I wash it? Answers to your questions about masks
- Six months into pandemic, Washington state still struggles with COVID-19 data
- Hundreds of sea lions to be killed on Columbia River in effort to save endangered fish
In subsequent decades, Mr. Brady was a news commentator on New York television stations and a contributing writer to publications ranging from Advertising Age to Forbes.com. He was best known to the general public for the past 25 years as the author of Parade’s “In Step With” celebrity profile column.
The feature appeared in the back of the magazine, which claims a circulation of more than 70 million and was known for its flattering summations of entertainers’ lives. Mr. Brady once boasted of needing merely “three sound bites” to make a Parade column work.
An interviewer for People magazine watched Mr. Brady tick off the sound bites as he spoke with talk-show host Kathie Lee Gifford. First, Gifford said she considered “God a gentleman,” second that she wouldn’t cut her nails to help her golf game and, third, that her husband, football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford, once had fat extracted from his eyelids.
“In Step With” paid the bills, Mr. Brady said, as he pursued book projects. For many years he wrote novels about the fashion and media world (“Designs,” “The Press Baron”) that bore the distinct aura of an insider.
His second home, a five-bedroom Dutch colonial in East Hampton, N.Y., allowed him an up-close view of a wealthy enclave that was the setting for several romance novels.
They featured a WASP-y narrator named Beecher Stowe, who happened to write for Parade, and a London book editor named Alix Dunraven. Critics politely called them page turners.
“I know the names and I read the local papers out there,” Mr. Brady told Newsday in 1997. “The old story about the little boy with his nose pressed against the glass, looking in at the party or the ball, there’s still a lot of that in me, because I know somewhere down the line I’m going to get a novel out of it. Everything is grist.”
He surprised many reviewers with “The Coldest War,” his gripping 1990 autobiography about being a rifle-company executive officer in Korea. Herbert Mitgang of The New York Times praised its “clarity and modesty” that avoided “heroic flag-waving.” In People magazine, Ken Gross wrote that “The Coldest War” “not only limns some hidden corners of combat, it also illuminates a side of Brady that few have seen.”
Mr. Brady fictionalized combat in several other books, including “The Marines of Autumn” (2000) about the Korean War, and he also wrote the nonfiction account “The Scariest Place in the World: A Marine Returns to North Korea” (2005), which was based on an article first published in Parade.
He recently completed a biography of John Basilone, a Marine Corps veteran who served in the Pacific during World War II and is a featured character in an upcoming HBO miniseries.
James Winston Brady was born Nov. 15, 1928, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and graduated from Manhattan College in 1950. He was then sent to Korea, where he received the Bronze Star. In 1958, he married Florence Kelly, who survives him, along with two daughters; a brother; and four grandchildren.
After an early career as a Macy’s copywriter in New York, Mr. Brady was hired by Women’s Wear Daily to work in its Washington, London and Paris offices. He became bureau chief in the European capitals, mingling with Coco Chanel and other fashion luminaries.
“It was there in 1961 that Chanel, then arguably the most famous woman in the world, developed a crush,” he wrote in 2005. “I was happily married to a beautiful young American and just into my 30s, and Coco was pushing 80, which added a certain piquancy to the situation.”
Chanel’s attraction, he said, allowed him rare access to new clothing collections. Equally valuable, he said, were her scathing remarks about colleagues, which were for attribution.
Mr. Brady made his name for juicy insider knowledge during this period, which added to his reputation for what writer Julie Baumgold once called his “hustler intensity and determined dash.”
Mr. Brady remained savvy about managing relationships with celebrities and relished the few who made access easy.
Oprah Winfrey was among his favorite people to interview, he said, “because, unlike so many other celebrities, I don’t have to go through layers of authority to get to her. With Oprah, it’s just not like that. She’ll call me and say, ‘James, is this a good time to talk?’ “