Written by Ben Mevorach, 1010 WINS Director of News & Programming
Produced by Mark Mason, VP/Editor-in-chief, CBSNewYork.com
His strength was his humility. His stature was his dignity. He was just over 5 feet in height but was a giant of a man. 1010 WINS senior correspondent Stan Brooks died peacefully at his home on Monday afternoon. He was 86 years and 11 months old. He worked until he was 86 years and 10 months old.
How do you tell the story of the story teller? How do you provide perspective on the man who pioneered the most successful and recognized all-news brand in radio history? How do you compose a symphony that plays the notes of a 60-year love affair between a husband and wife? How do you let go and say goodbye?
For more than 50 years Stan has been telling news stories on 1010 WINS. He was doing it when WINS was still a rock-n-roll station. In fact he’d been doing it for so long, his colleagues often joked that everyone in New York City had been interviewed by Stan at least once. His favorite song lyric came from Neil Young’s “My My, Hey Hey.” He quoted it whenever anyone asked him when he was going to retire: “….Better to Burn Out Than to Fade Away.”
Brooksie, as he was called by just about everyone who knew him, “Was a child of the Bronx, small and shy, 182nd Street and Walton Avenue home ground, played in the streets, stick-ball, hockey (on roller skates), marbles, urban baseball (against the walls) and for a 13th or 14th birthday, was given a fortuitous little printing press out of which was born The Walton Avenue News, the inception of his journalistic career,” according to Eve Berliner, former editor of The Silurian News.
Stan told Berliner that he listened to Uncle Don and the old radio serial shows, his favorite, NBC’s stentorian-voiced Kenneth Banghart. His real interest was in the newspapers that his father would bring home with him each evening: The New York Post, The Journal American, PM, Compass and The Star.
He wrote for his high school newspaper, “The Clinton News” at DeWitt Clinton H.S. It was a general news column entitled “The Gossiper” and later changed to “Babbling Brooks.” He was a blogger before there was a name for it!
He told Berliner that his heroes were Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, the Brooklyn Dodgers and his brother, Alan Brooks, sports editor of The Heights Daily News at NYU, his inspiration who went on to become a doctor.
And then, there was the trombone (add Tommy Dorsey to that list of idols) which now sits on a stand in his bedroom, a gift from his three sons who had it repaired and re-polished. His son George, a virtuoso jazz saxophonist, took up the mantle of music.
According to Berliner, Brooks had been drafted out of City College into the Infantry in 1945 landing him overseas post-World War II as a trombonist in a dance band entertaining the troops in Hawaii! The aspiring trombonist returned to the states, graduated from Syracuse University and became a reporter and editor at Newsday for the next 11 years. In 1962, he landed a job at 1010 WINS. Before ‘You Give Us 22 Minutes, We’ll Give You the World’ became a household slogan, Stan was doing a two minute newscast at the top of the hour, working alongside legendary deejays like Murray the K and Jack Lacey.
Watch the wonderful Michael Stoler interview below to learn more about Stan’s life:
In December 1964, the bosses at Westinghouse (owners of 1010 WINS at the time) asked Stan what he thought about changing the station format from Top 40 to all-news. Stan responded, “All-news? What’s that? That of course became the launch of All News. All The Time and Stan was the station’s first News Director.
In 1967 he was named National Correspondent for Westinghouse Broadcasting. He covered the major stories of our generation and the generation before that: The fight for civil rights; the Watts riots; Chappaquiddick; the Vietnam War demonstrations; the ’68 Democratic National Convention in Chicago; Malcolm X’s funeral; the crash of TWA Flight 800; the attacks on September 11th and innumerable others. He would eventually step down to go back to reporting but he continued to be the heart and soul of the station.
|Stan recounts the birth of 1010 WINS:
||Stan recounts his first time on the air:
On September 9. 1971, Stan covered the Attica Prison uprising when about 1,000 of the Attica prison’s approximately 2,200 inmates rebelled and seized control of the prison, taking 42 staff hostage. During the following four days of negotiations, authorities agreed to 28 of the prisoners’ demands, but would not agree to demands for complete amnesty from criminal prosecution for the prison takeover or for the removal of Attica’s superintendent. By the order of then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller, state police took back control of the prison. When the uprising was over, at least 43 people were dead, including ten correctional officers, civilian employees and 33 inmates. The first voice you hear is that of attorney William Kuntsler. You can hear Stan choking on tear gas as he reports on the state troopers and guards storming the prison yard:
On Sunday, December 6, 1987, the eve of the Washington, D.C. Summit between Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan, an estimated 250,000 people demonstrated on the National Mall in an unprecedented display of solidarity for Soviet Jewry
On August 22, 1972, John Wojtowicz, along with Salvatore Naturale and Robert Westenberg, attempted to rob a branch of the Chase Manhattan bank on the corner of East Third Street and Avenue P in Gravesend, Brooklyn. Wojtowicz and Naturale held seven bank employees hostage for 14 hours. Wojtowicz, a former bank teller, had some knowledge of bank operations. However, he apparently based his plan on scenes from the movie The Godfather, which he had seen earlier that day. The robbers became media celebrities. Wojtowicz was arrested and Naturale was killed by the FBI during the final moments of the incident. Wojtowicz answered the phone and gave Stan the interview. The robbery was turned into the Oscar winning film Dog Day Afternoon.
In September 1998, Swissair flight 111 took off from JFK and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean just five miles from the tiny fishing and tourist community of Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia. Stan was on vacation in Peggy’s Cove. He was the first reporter on the scene.
In the summer of 2003 Stan reported live from under his desk at City Hall as a gunman opened fire in the city council chambers. He signed off from his live report, “I’m outta here.”
Most days, Stan started his shift at City Hall. Everyone knew him. Everyone respected him. NYPD security officers assigned to the hall took pictures with him, newspaper reporters did stories on him, and decades of mayoral news conferences often started with the mayor asking, “Is Stan here yet?”
Stan didn’t believe in ‘gotcha journalism,’ a style of reporting more often about the reporter than holding politicians accountable. Not that Stan wasn’t tough. He often got into verbal tussles with elected officials. He frustrated them, they occasionally lashed out at him but Stan never took the bait. He remained courteous and respectful while never backing away from getting answers. In the end, Stan was ALWAYS right and it wasn’t uncommon for politicians to correct course after being questioned by Stan.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Stan’s tenacity was only equaled by his kindness, “I think I speak for every mayor, including ones that I supported and ones that ran against me…I think everyone would agree that Stan Brooks is just absolutely right at the top. One of the very, very best and this city gained a great deal for having such a professional cover us for so long.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg describes the time he called Stan, who was in the hospital at the time, and Stan answered the phone!
To honor New York’s senior radio correspondent, Bloomberg re-named the radio reporter’s room in City Hall as The Stan Brooks Radio Room on December 17, 2013.
Above all else, Stan loved his wife Lynn. No man ever loved a woman more than Stan loved Lynn. He saw his own death not as an end but as a time when he would be able to rejoin Lynn and simply continue on with the sixty-year love affair that they had shared on Earth. Lynn was the founder of Big Apple Greeters. At B.A.G. functions she wasn’t the wife of the 1010 WINS newsman, instead he was Lynn’s husband. He loved that. In his world, Lynn was the spotlight in the room and he cherished those moments. Lynn died suddenly on their wedding anniversary on May 4, 2013. Stan died seven months later.
|Brooksie once said that when he is reunited with Lynn, he is worried that she will scold him for consuming ice cream, chicken livers, margaritas and all the other bad-for-you things that she had banned from his daily diet but which he had been ‘relishing’ for the past few months. Then he shrugged his shoulders and joked, “I should probably take an apple with me to show her just in case.”After his cancer diagnosis and Lynn’s death, the outpouring of support never stopped. He would shake his head in disbelief at the number of invitations to take him to lunch or dinner or the movies or to just hang out. He would cry when he would try to count up the number of phone calls and letters expressing care and concern. He was blown away when he received a neatly folded American flag with a note from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand that she had flown over the capital in Lynn’s memory. He would keep asking, “How will I ever be able to thank everyone for their incredible kindness?”||||||||The life and times of Stan’s wife, Lynn, in this Michael Stoler interview:|
Brooksie never use the word ‘I’ as in “I want” or “I need” or “I deserve.” He only used it as an expression of human connection as in “Can I help” or “What can I do” or “I love you.”
When CBS Radio Executive Vice President Scott Herman was the General Manager of 1010 WINS, he promoted Stan to the title of Senior Correspondent. When told the new position also came with a pay raise, Stan graciously accepted the title but would not accept the raise. Mr. Herman said Stan simply said, “I don’t want to make more than any of the other reporters.”
When he talked about his illness and the inevitable outcome, Brooksie said, “Tell everyone that I have been truly blessed with a wonderful life; a life that was more than I could have ever asked for or have ever expected.” Then in a voice filled with humility and dignity he added, “Don’t worry. I’ll be OK.”
Stan’s last story aired on November 21, 2013. He was reporting on the outgoing mayor, the incoming mayor and the city budget. A very fitting last assignment.
Our Brooksie leaves behind three sons and a bushel full of grandchildren. Bennett, his youngest son, said Stan was spared much of the pain often associated with his type of cancer and that he was telling jokes up until his final days.
He was a treasure and he was treasured by all who were fortunate enough to circle within his constellation. He will be missed but he will be OK. He would be very happy if we would be OK too.
STATEMENT OF MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ON THE PASSING OF STAN BROOKS
December 23, 2013
“Today, New York City today lost an honorable man, a legendary reporter and a trusted voice.
Everyone who knew Stan can tell you an amazing story about him. Here is one of mine: A couple years back, Stan had a heart procedure and was in the hospital. I wanted to call him, so I asked my Press Secretary at the time, Stu Loeser, to connect us. Before trying the hospital, Stu called Stan’s cell phone, assuming his wife Lynn, or one of the sons would pick up. It seemed like the quickest way to get through to the family.
Stu called, and a voice answered: ‘Hello, Stan Brooks, 1010 WINS.’ From his hospital bed shortly after a heart procedure, he answered the phone like he was getting a call on a story.
Stu was standing next to my desk in the bullpen, and I noticed he looked surprised. He then handed me the phone. As I took it I asked him which family member it was – but didn’t get an answer. And then I heard Stan’s voice on the other end.
That was Stan Brooks – nothing ever stopped him from doing the job he loved, a job he did with class and integrity for 50 years. New Yorkers were lucky to have him on the dial.
Last week at an event for past and present City Hall reporters, we honored Stan by naming the radio room at City Hall in his honor, and his family joined us at Gracie Mansion to accept on his behalf. To say you could see the love and respect they felt for Stan would be an understatement – and it was a feeling shared by everyone in the room. The Stan Brooks Radio Room will stand as fitting tribute to a journalist who truly did it the right away.
Stan was loved by his colleagues and friends inside and outside the business. And maybe the most telling measure about him: he was even liked and respected by his most cranky listeners – the many mayors he covered. Our thoughts and prayers are with Stan’s family, and may he rest in peace.”