Ed Bradley died today – of leukemia. He was not a usual man — not at all. Good, funny, gifted, fierce, loving and decent, he was a gentleman to the core. For two political convention seasons in the 80s I was his CBS News floor producer. In the midst of one of them, his mother had a stroke and was very ill in Philadelphia. She wouldn’t let him miss work though – insisted that he be on the convention floor every night. The convention was in New York , so Ed drove to Philadelphia after we were off the air each night, sleeping in a limo on the way to Philly – spending the night and morning with his mother and then returning in the limo the next day. He was there for her — and for his work, as she insisted that he be.
If you saw him on 60 Minutes, interviewing Aretha Franklin in the kitchen with a dish towel over his shoulder, chopping while they talked, or jamming with Aaron Neville, you saw another, wonderful Ed — no pretense, no baloney. And if you saw him with his godchildren – daughters of the wonderful Vertamae Grovesnor, you saw yet another part of this wonderful man.
Somehow though, when I read the CNN Alert just an hour ago — what I remembered at once was that night in 1975, 41 years ago this month, when Saigon fell. I was just back from maternity leave and alone on the overnight for the foreign desk at CBS. As a long-time CBS correspondent in Vietnam, Ed was the last guy out — or just about. What I can’t get out of my head is his account of walking down the deserted embassy hallway — where almost all the lights were out except one far down the hall — and his description of thinking of “the light at the end of the tunnel” — and then – as he signed off for the last time from Saigon – ending with the words of Saigon hookers “fini bi bi.” I’m not sure I can describe the sensitivity and sadness of this report – but I do remember sending him an email “Ernie Pyle, move over.”
The thing is – he was at least as wonderful as he was gifted and as talented as he was dear. It’s just so sad to think of him gone and of such a miserable disease. He’s leaving a beautiful legacy but that doesn’t make it OK. Not at all.