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Wednesday, December 08, 2004
THE DAVID BRUDNOY ERA. David
Brudnoy, the best radio
talk-show host in the
history of the city, if not the country, is seriously ill and is not
expected to recover. He's been at Massachusetts General Hospital
last week for tests. Today
the hospital announced that the sixtysomething Brudnoy has suffered a
recurrence of Merkel
cell carcinoma, a rare,
aggressive form of skin cancer that knocked him off the air for
several months last year. The cancer has now spread to his
In addition to being a terrific
talk-show host and a friend to an astounding array of media,
political, and literary figures and regular folks, Brudnoy is a
medical marvel. In 1994 Brudnoy nearly died of AIDS after having
secretly lived with the disease since the 1980s. Against all odds,
Brudnoy recovered and returned to the airwaves on WBZ Radio (AM
1030). And with the advent of new AIDS drugs, Brudnoy remained in
remarkable health until last year.
Despite living with illness for
nearly 20 years, Brudnoy kept up a schedule that people half his age
found inspiring - even intimidating. In addition to his
three-hours-per-night (five before '94) radio show, he taught
journalism at Boston University and wrote movie reviews for the
Tab newspapers. He also wrote occasionally for the
Phoenix, including, most recently, "Where's
Our Gay Sidney Poitier?",
on why gays and lesbians need non-stereotypical media role
A self-described libertarian
conservative, Brudnoy is the sort who can get along with almost
everyone and who treats everyone he meets with respect. A Japanese
scholar who graduated from Yale University, Brudnoy pursued a career
in a medium not exactly known for its intellectualism. But rather
than letting talk radio drag him down, Brudnoy elevated it. Like
late Jerry Williams,
Brudnoy is a founder, a giant in his field of the sort who may not be
Brudnoy is said to be spending
today doing interviews with Boston Globe columnist Brian
McGrory, Boston Herald columnist Mike Barnicle, and his own
station. His interview with WBZ will be broadcast tonight at 7 on a
special program that will reportedly be hosted by his old 'BZ
sidekick, Peter Meade.
The last time I interviewed Brudnoy
was in September 2003, just after he'd been diagnosed with Merkel's.
Among other things, I asked him how he had changed as a result of
with illness for all those
"I've learned one thing: I can't do
it alone," he responded. "I've always had friends, I've always loved
people. But I always thought, 'I can take care of my own things.' And
I realize now, you can't. I've learned to need people and not to feel
embarrassed. I've also learned to open up far more. I never wanted
people to stay here at the house. It isn't that I didn't like people,
it's that I felt I couldn't function with house guests. I've lived so
long alone. I finally got a hide-a-bed. And I've learned I kind of
like people around.
"I've also found that my priorities
are more devoted to helping others. I realize how many people helped
me get through 1994. And so I tend to be a little bit more
comfortable reaching out."
David Brudnoy is a great man, and
his passing will create an enormous void in the fabric of the city
and of New England.
Mass General issued a statement on
Brudnoy's condition moments ago. Here it is in full:
Statement from the
Massachusetts General Hospital regarding David
Robbins, MD, MGH Infectious Disease Division, and John Clark, MD,
MGH Cancer Center
WBZ Radio talk
show host David Brudnoy was admitted to Massachusetts General
Hospital Dec. 3 because of a recurrence of Merkel cell carcinoma,
the disease that kept him off of the air last fall and winter
while he underwent treatment. The cancer, which had been in
remission until several weeks ago, has spread to his liver,
affecting the functioning of that organ. As a consequence of the
disease, his kidneys also are failing.
Because of the
recurrence of cancer and the multi-organ failure, his condition is
terminal. Mr. Brudnoy has asked that he receive only comfort care.
He continues to be alert and is resting comfortably.
carcinoma is a very rare and highly aggressive form of skin cancer
characterized by malignant cells that begin to form just beneath
the skin and in hair follicles. This type of cancer grows rapidly
and often spreads to other parts of the body.
Mr. Brudnoy has
been treated at the MGH for HIV infection for more than a decade,
and his immune system has steadily improved with the ongoing use
of HIV medications. Merkel cell carcinoma is not related to HIV
has asked the MGH on his behalf to express his deepest
appreciation for the thoughts, words and gestures of kindness as
well as the many cards and flowers he has received. He also has
asked the hospital to remind his friends and listeners about the
David Brudnoy Fund for AIDS Research, which he established a
decade ago to help in the ongoing fight against HIV disease
locally as well as internationally. For more information about the
fund contact the MGH at (617) 726-2200.
posted at 3:53 PM |
Even when you viciously disagreed with him, you
always had to respect him. Sadly, it's the end of
an era--not just the end of a life, but the end of talk radio (decent talk radio, that is) in Boston. The curtain has closed.
David is a good, gentle and decent man. He will be greatly missed. But talk radio is as good as callers (and the rare hosts like him who let them speak), make it. David's gift has been that he is so secure in his prodigious intelligence that he attracts people with something worthwhile to say. Even when they let him down, he sometimes suffers fools gladly, he had nothing to prove. I think that the best tribute to David would be to have a civil conversation with someone you disagree with vehemently. Show him that the positive energy he has been injecting into the world all these years didn't go to waste. Thanks, Bruds, you're the best.
Rick , Duxbury
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Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.