James Brady, writer and Hamptons chronicler, dies

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A prolific writer, editor, publisher and Korean War veteran, known for his playful wit and dapper charm, died on Monday, January 26, in his Manhattan apartment. He was 80 and had lived in East Hampton year-round for the last 20 years.

His daughter, Susan Konig, of Croton-on-Hudson, New York, said that he died suddenly while at work in his living room, either of a massive heart attack or a stroke. He had been completely healthy up until the moment he died, she said.

Over the course of his 50-year career as a writer and a journalist, Mr. Brady created the Page Six gossip column in the New York Post and he wrote a weekly celebrity column for Parade magazine that was read by millions. He was publisher of Women’s Wear Daily in the 1960s. There he learned about the fashion industry from his friend, Coco Chanel.

He was editor and publisher of Harper’s Bazaar in the 1970s. Later he wrote a column for New York Magazine until Rupert Murdoch hired him to serve as editor of The Star tabloid. He later become associate publisher of the New York Post.

Of Mr. Brady’s 18 books, East End readers might have been most captivated by his quartet of comic novels set in the Hamptons. They followed the exploits of Beecher Stowe, a wealthy foreign correspondent who moves back to East Hampton and gets entangled in mystery and intrigue among the Hollywood glitterati, old money families and local fishermen. “Further Lane” was the first, followed by “Gin Lane,” “The House That Ate the Hamptons,” and “A Hamptons Christmas.”

“East Hampton was the place that made him the happiest,” Ms. Konig said this week. “That’s why he spent so much time there and wrote about it.”

The mix of different social worlds he found in East Hampton—from fishermen to movie stars—fascinated Mr. Brady. “There was nothing he loved more than a great story and that’s what the Hamptons are full of” because of that mix, said Susan Mulcahy, a former Page Six editor and friend.

The Marines were a topic that Mr. Brady wrote about even more than the Hamptons. Right after college, during the Korean war, he joined the Marine Corps and spent a year commanding a rifle platoon in Korea. He was awarded a Bronze Star for valor.

His memories of the experience and love of the Marines were fodder for many best-selling books, including “The Coldest War: a Memoir of Korea,” which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, as well as “The Scariest Place in the World,” and “Why Marines Fight.” He finished final edits on his last book about the Marines the day before he died. Titled “Hero of the Pacific: The Life of Legendary Marine John Basilone,” it will be published in October 2009.

“He’d rather be known as a Marine than a writer, I think,” said Lee Beiler, a former owner of the Blue Parrot restaurant in East Hampton and friend. Mr. Brady was a fixture at the Blue Parrot and wrote a eulogy for it in his Forbes column when it closed in November 2006.

“He loved to sit at the bar and have a Pacifico. He loved to talk to the old fishermen that came in or Ron Perelman sitting next to him. That’s was who he was,” Mr. Beiler said.

An avid walker, Mr. Brady often could be seen trekking along Further Lane, on Main Beach, to the Jitney stop twice a week or on his way to Scoop du Jour on Newtown Lane, where he liked to catch up on gossip.

Richard Johnson, the editor of the New York Post’s Page Six, said, “He was a hero to me. He knew everybody and went to the greatest places. He’d go out to lunch and three hours later he came back and banged out half of Page Six. He was a pro.”

Many East Hampton residents will miss Mr. Brady, including Valerie Heller, widow of novelist Joseph Heller, who said he had “a brilliant sense of humor”; author Bob Drury, who worked with Mr. Brady at the New York Post, who said he was “a gentleman and a mentor”; and Roland Eisenberg, a partner in the Blue Parrot, who said he was “one of the nicest, sweetest gentlemen I’ve ever known.”

Mr. Brady is survived by his wife, Florence, of Manhattan; two daughters, Fiona Brady of Riverdale and Susan Konig of Croton-on-Hudson; four grandchildren, Sarah, Joseph, Nicholas and Matthew, and one brother, Monsignor Tom Brady of Brooklyn.

He loved having his grandchildren visit him at his home on Further Lane. In a profile in The Press in 2008, he showed off a framed note from his granddaughter, Sarah, that hung in his bedroom. It listed the “Top Ten Reasons” she loved her PopPop, including the fact that he “cooks some mean spaghetti” and has “gone so many places and met so many people and nothing can stop you from seeing more.”

Mr, Brady was born and raised in Brooklyn. He worked his way through Manhattan College as a copy boy at the New York Times, after which he joined the Marines. His first full-time journalism job was as a business reporter for Women’s Wear Daily.

A funeral mass was held Saturday, January 31, at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan.

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