Sad, sad news arrived this evening. Steve Brennan, longtime reporter and editor for The Hollywood Reporter, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center today at 57 after a yearlong struggle with cancer. He was my friend, and I will miss him so much. (Click here for THR's obituary.)
Steve was an incredibly colorful character, a sharp wit, a fantastic and accomplished writer. He realized a longtime dream in 2007 with the release of his book, "Emeralds in Tinseltown: The Irish in Hollywood."
Steve worked for THR, in his last years as international editor, for two decades. He started out as freelancer (he liked to tell of how he managed to sell stories on every permutation of the Irish entertainment biz) and then after he moved to L.A., he charmed his way into a full-time gig covering syndication and international TV.
He was a great reporter and an even better raconteur. He added to the joviality of many a NATPE convention, that's for sure. (Let's just say there are some waiters at famed New Orleans establishments who will never forget him.)
Steve loved the biz, and he was a perfect match for the larger-than-life salesman types who populated Hollywood's syndie and international exec ranks. Steve was in his element covering a market like NATPE or MIPCOM. He knew everyone, and everyone liked him. I loved working with him during my seven years at THR.
He loved to tell stories of his exploits as a tabloid reporter in his homeland, and he was justifiably proud of having been named Journalist of the Year by an Irish press org when he was working for the Irish Independent daily.
His pride in his heritage was palpable. I'll never forget how sincerely he saluted me one morning after I wrote a short piece about a John Ford documentary that was running on one of the movie cablers. Steve marched up to me after reading it and declared: "That's the kind of thing we need more of in the paper!"
Growing up in Ireland when he did -- the '60s and '70s -- Steve saw more in the way of civil and cultural strife and upheaval than most of us Yankee trade press tenderfoots ever will. He was also full of great stories about his parents, both of whom were accomplished actors, with all the attendant drama and glamour that a life on stage and screen tends to bring.
The love of Steve's life was his (stunningly) beautiful wife, Bernadette O'Neill, his co-author on "Emeralds in Tinseltown" and also an actress in Ireland and on this side of the Pond. She and Steve were favorite relatives to many nieces and nephews and other kin who had the time of their lives visiting them at their condo
duplex in West Hollywood.
As my mind races over all great times with Brennan, as we tended to call him, one afternoon stands out when we drove back to the office together after a particularly arduous Publicist Guild Awards luncheon. We hit a lot of traffic but it didn't matter because I could've listened to Steve's stories for hours.
This time around, he got very animated and giggly in recounting an instance when he allowed himself a little creative license in covering a fairly routine story about some dignitary's photo op (as I recall) as part of umpteen efforts to quell hostilities among Protestants and Catholics.
He said he looked up in the gray overcast sky and saw a scraggly bird flying above the photo op site. When he got back to his typewriter at the office, that bird became "the white dove of peace" that miraculously appeared overhead just at the moment the dignitary began to speak. He also recalled with a mischievous grin how he got major grief from his journo colleagues after his story ran.
That was Steve -- wily and crafty, but with a heart of pure gold, and a pirate's brogue that would melt the most hard-hearted editor's opposition to anything he might suggest. I cherish the time I had with him as a colleague and a friend.
My heart goes out to Bernadette and the Brennan clan for their loss. Steve Brennan was one of a kind.