A tremendous loss
November 9, 2006
Ed Bradley, the celebrated “60 Minutes” investigative reporter who said he was more comfortable in Aspen than anywhere else, died Thursday of complications from leukemia at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He was 65.Around the upper Roaring Fork Valley, friends and acquaintances reacted with sorrow and shock as the news spread throughout the day.”God almighty, I’m a little torn up about this,” said a longtime Bradley friend, filmmaker Bob Rafelson, choking back emotion.”It has been a tremendous loss to the community, and especially to Woody Creek,” said Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, who was close to both Bradley and one of Bradley’s other closest friends, the late Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.Bradley was an award-winning journalist who broke racial barriers at CBS News and created a distinctive, powerful body of work during his 26 years on the “60 Minutes” news magazine show.He landed many memorable interviews, including the Duke lacrosse players accused of rape, Michael Jackson and the only TV interview with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.Bradley’s reporting skills were recognized with numerous awards, including four George Foster Peabody awards and 19 Emmys, the latest for a segment on the reopening of the 50-year-old racial murder case of Emmett Till.Though he had been ill and had undergone heart bypass surgery about a year ago, he remained active on “60 Minutes.” In one of his last reports, an investigation of the Duke case that aired last month, he broke new ground with the first interviews with the accused.Local friends noted that despite his health problems, Bradley hit the Aspen slopes early and often last season, and was socially active in the valley up until quite recently.
Bradley was married in Aspen in 2004 to artist Patricia Blanchet, and the two maintained a home in the Twining Flats neighborhood across the Roaring Fork River from Woody Creek.
He had been coming to Aspen for more than three decades, according to friends, and made this his second home here largely in order to hang out with one of his great friends, Thompson. His first home in Aspen was a small condominium on Main Street near Original Curve.Many of those contacted for this piece spoke of Bradley’s accessibility and genuinely friendly demeanor as a hallmark of his personality.”He lived the ski bum life when he was out here. He was a true neighbor, in the three-dimensional, Woody Creek sense,” noted Braudis, who met Bradley about 30 years ago through their common friendship with Thompson. Braudis said Bradley would come to Woody Creek several times a year for weeks or more, and would often hang out at Thompson’s Owl Farm to watch sports, bet and talk about both sports and politics.”He was on Hunter’s level when it came to handicapping,” the sheriff recalled fondly. “He was one of the few people who left Hunter’s with more money than when he came in.”Another friend in the Bradley/Thompson crowd is attorney Gerry Goldstein, who called Bradley “a giant among midgets in his profession” and “steady as a rock” as a friend.Evidence of Bradley’s strong and deep connection to Aspen and Woody Creek can be easily found.Filmmaker Rafelson, a 35-year friend, said the two were introduced by Thompson. Rafelson recalled “35 Christmases together, close friends who saw each other through every conceivable kind of problem and disaster, including [the suicide of] Hunter.Recalling Bradley, Rafelson continued, “He was an astonishingly good friend, a man of enormous compassion.” At Bradley’s wedding in Aspen, Rafelson recalled that the men had a couple of drinks together “before he took to the aisle, which led him to go in the wrong direction, he was so nervous.”Later that night, Bradley told Rafelson that while he has homes in other parts of the United States, “here is where I feel most comfortable with my friends.”And Bradley’s list of local friends “was so varied,” Rafelson said, that Bradley and his wife could be encountered at the homes of a wide range of people; some celebrities, but just as many were not.”The strength, compassion, and integrity that Ed brought to his work was matched by the warmth, commitment, and high spirits he brought to his friendships,” said architect Michael Lipkin, a longtime friend. “He loved Aspen. He was a great man, a great friend, and a mentor to my son. The loss is unimaginable.”
Gaylord Guenin, known at one time as the Mayor of Woody Creek, said of Bradley, “He was such a good guy … awfully kind to lowly scum such as myself. He didn’t have to acknowledge my existence, but he did, and he always did with everybody in Woody Creek.”Bradley would occasionally show up at a Woody Creek Caucus meeting, at which Guenin was co-moderator, particularly if Thompson would “stir him up on an issue.”
Bradley “was tough in an interview, he was insistent on getting an interview,” former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite said to the Associated Press. “And at the same time, when the interview was over, when the subject had taken a pretty heavy lashing by him – they left as friends. He was that kind of guy.”With his signature earring and beard, Bradley was “considered intelligent, smooth, cool, a great reporter, beloved and respected by all his colleagues here at CBS News,” Katie Couric said in a special report.”A reporter’s reporter,” fellow “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace told CBS News Radio.Born June 22, 1941, Bradley grew up in a tough section of Philadelphia, where he once recalled that his parents worked 20-hour days at two jobs apiece. “I was told, ‘You can be anything you want, kid,'” he once told an interviewer. “When you hear that often enough, you believe it.”After graduating from the historically black Cheyney State College (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania), Bradley, a lifelong jazz fan, launched his career as a jazz DJ and news reporter for a Philadelphia radio station in 1963. He moved to New York’s WCBS radio four years later.He joined CBS News as a stringer in the Paris bureau in 1971, transferring a year later to the Saigon bureau during the Vietnam War. He was wounded while on assignment in Cambodia. He was named a CBS News correspondent in early 1973 and moved to the Washington bureau in June 1974. He later returned to Vietnam, covering the fall of that country, and Cambodia.After Southeast Asia, Bradley returned to the United States and covered Jimmy Carter’s successful campaign for the White House. He followed Carter to Washington, in 1976 becoming CBS’ first black White House correspondent – a prestigious position that Bradley didn’t enjoy.He went on to do pieces for “CBS Reports,” traveling to Cambodia, China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. It was his Emmy-winning 1979 piece on Vietnamese boat refugees that eventually landed him a slot on “60 Minutes.”Bradley recently served as a radio host for “Jazz at Lincoln Center,” where he won one of his four Peabody awards.Accepting his lifetime achievement award from the black journalists association, Bradley remembered being present at some of the organization’s first meetings in New York.”I look around this room tonight and I can see how much our profession has changed and our numbers have grown,” he said. “I also see it every day as I travel the country reporting stories for ’60 Minutes.’ All I have to do is turn on the TV and I can see the progress that has been made.”But, he added, “there are many more rivers to cross, and many more stories to cover and, I hope, a lot left in this lifetime.”The Associated Press contributed to this report.