Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tony Brunton, R.I.P.

Tony just left us for the broadcasting studios of heaven at the age of 76, following a heart attack. When you speak of people who are larger than life, he will always come to my mind. Larger, more outrageous, either a dreamer or someone whose imagination has run away with his reason.

Tv news anchors in those black-and-white days wore blue shirts; they photographed as white, without making your face dark as a real white shirt would. The shirts were called “tv blue,” and were standard. But not in radio, unless you were Tony Brunton and wore them all the time as you edited the news and presented it in a small booth, miles away from anything remotely resembling television.

“What’s the ‘right now’ angle on the story?” he wanted to know, through stickers put on all the newsroom typewriters. Well, what is the “right now” angle? I was doing a story on the Miss America contest, held last night, during which Miss Kentucky, or some such, was crowned. There was no “right now” angle; she was in parts unknown doing things equally unknown. My opening: “Miss Kentucky is enjoying her first day as Miss America 1959, following her coronation last night… (blah blah).”

His motto seemed to be, “When you aren’t official, then b.s. your way into wherever you need to be.” Works for me. The WICC News wagon had a blue flashing light on it and one time we had to cover a plane crash in Brooklyn; off it went, far above the speed limit, blue light flashing and cars giving way for wild man Tony.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom: How interesting that you should mention Tony's proclivity for blue shirts (generally with the cuffs unbuttoned and rolled back a turn. Sorry to learn of his passing. Tony was an interesting, larger-than-life guy who shot from the hip. A bulldog with a story, a little challenged for sensitivity. A champion of news-gathering technology who personally designed that teardrop "news trailer" and introduced WICC-NEWS to studio-quality remotes. I worked with him (under Bill Whalen) starting in 1959 (almost 50 years ago !) and alongside another CT news great, Walt Dibble. The newsroom became a farm team for CBS after Bill's death as well all moved up a notch and hired such folks in turn as Christopher Lindsay, Steve Bell, John Laurence, Rob Navias...

Tony was the one who, over my persitent but futile objections, came up with the sobriquet "Captain Phil" when we began the Marine Reporter series of broadcasts. He taught me an aggressive approach to news I'd never have developed myself and it served me well in later years. When Tony left for CBS to produce the Evening News, he called to let me know that WCBS, which was purposely treading water with Pat Sommerall as it geared up for it, was going to an all-news format. He asked if I would like to be the Fairfield County stringer and put me in touch (already presold) with the right people. I owe Tony thanks for a number of important boosts in my early career in radio and wish now that I had taken the opportunity to thank him.

October 28, 2008 10:49 PM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

We just have to know each other from those days. If you want to remain anonymous here, send me a note:

tomcarten at hotmail dot com

I was there at the same time and am trying to figure out who you are. And, yes, it has been just months short of 50 years since I started in radio, and I'm still at it.

October 29, 2008 2:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked for Tony at CBS Radio News during mid-1980s and remember the blue shirts and quick temper. Never heard about his death but assumed that since he would be 80 by now that he was no longer around.

Wondering where WICC-News was.

Tony didn't work for Evening News but was a reporter at WCBS Radio and later director of special events for CBS Radio News (where I knew him). I don't know how long he stayed there after 1987 (when I left) or when he retired. There were a lot of changes in CBS Radio News in late 1980s.

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Anonymous John Laurence said...

Forgive me for being so late to this, but I worked for Tony Brunton at WICC as his back-up reporter in 1960-61 and just now learned that his life ended in 2008. Tony hired me, a 21 year-old novice fresh out of school, and taught me the basics of covering stories for radio, rewriting wire copy and newspapers, and how to ad-lib a breaking story from a phone booth (Take a deep breath, overcome your jitters and describe what you see and what you've been told.). In December, 1960, we drove to New York City in the mobile unit to cover the in-air collision between Pan-Am and TWA planes in which 126 people on both planes and another six on the ground were killed. Tony was an indefatigible worker, a hard-charging journalist and all-around polite and supportive colleague. After my 10 months working for him at WICC, he gave me away to WWDC Radio News in Washington, D.C. when he was asked if he new anyone suited to a reporter's job there. Newly married and with a child on the way, it more than tripled my salary. Tony was "old school." He was not in the business to make a lot of money or a name for himself. I will always remember him fondly for his professionalism and skills as a journalist and man.
John Laurence (from England)

May 17, 2013 8:48 PM  

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