Today would have been my brother-in-law Brad’s 57th birthday. He died a couple of months after his 40th birthday, way too early. Back then, red ribbons were as ubiquitous as pink ribbons are today (although no one thought to plaster them on everything from water bottles to trash bins, or to develop a perfume). He died shortly before the drugs got better and what was formerly a death sentence became a chronic illness. And so it goes.
He was a stunning man. He had dark hair, dark eyes, and huge Bambi eyelashes women would kill for. When we were in high school, all the girls had a crush on him. When he moved to San Francisco in the ’70s, his friend Gina recalled how he looked in leather pants and a flowing white shirt. Forever after, he would be her pirate.
Brad escaped Nebraska and led what most of us would consider a glamorous life. He was a booking agent for models in San Francisco and later Los Angeles. He was best buddies with Carrie Otis when she was a model, and was her date at Vogue’s 100th birthday party. I have the Entertainment Tonight film clip of them walking into the party, and the commemorative T-shirt.
He encouraged me to be more daring in my dress, something I’m still learning to take him up on. He gave me a flowing pleated cowboy tunic for my 36th birthday and I’m wearing it more now, 19 years later, than I did in my timid 30s. I wore it to my book launch party in his honor and wished he could be there, like I always do when anything fun is happening.
He had a deliciously snarky sense of humor. He used to threaten to move back to Nebraska and open a bad perm shop. Once we were sitting at an intersection in Lincoln, Neb., and he caught sight of a woman in a station wagon. He said, “I speak her language.” Next thing we knew, he had rolled down the window and yelled “Meatloaf! Jell-O salad!”
And yet he was kind. I got to see him in action once, when he was a guest of a modeling school ceremony in Omaha. This wasn’t the big well-known school he usually visited, which has produced international-caliber models, but a smaller, far humbler school. Many of the students were the visual equivalent of the tone-deaf auditioners on American Idol, pudgy farm kids with big dreams. His standard comment for all of them as they handed over their portfolios was, “You could do commercial work.”
I would share a picture with you but I just realized I don’t have one. All the pictures we have of Brad predate digital. I will scan one or two and share them later.
Happy birthday, Brad. I will love and miss you always.