David Brudnoy, the most recognized voice of Boston talk radio for more than a quarter of a century, died Thursday night at Massachusetts General Hospital, his radio station, WBZ-AM, reported. He was 64. The openly gay Brudnoy, whose soothing voice could be heard every weeknight in 38 states and in Canada on WBZ since 1986, announced on the air in September 2003 that he was suffering from merkel cell carcinoma, a form of rare but treatable skin cancer. He had already lived with AIDS for more than a decade, beating a viral infection that nearly took his life in 1994. His death came a day after, in an interview conducted at his bedside at Massachusetts General Hospital, he announced the cancer had spread into his liver and kidneys--and that he was ready to die. "I am not asking my doctors to do anything illegal," Brudnoy told veteran news anchor Gary LaPierre. "I wish I could but they won't. I will make it through. My head is completely accepting of this. I am absolutely ready."
Brudnoy left his show in November of last year to fight the cancer, recovered, and returned in March, interviewing Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura in his first night back. His voice was noticeably more hoarse. "We're guaranteed nothing in life except life itself, and what we get is an adventure, not always a happy one but always a learning experience as well as, like now, a time of fear and maybe even--I hope temporary--despair,'' he said at the time. But Brudnoy was hospitalized again this month, and his condition deteriorated quickly. Wednesday, after his final interview aired, elected officials including Romney and Sen. Edward Kennedy as well as everyday listeners who had come to know him from their radios called to offer remembrances and thanks.
Brudnoy had been optimistic about beating the cancer, not just because of the expert medical care he was receiving, but because he had been living with AIDS for nearly a decade. "I've lived nine years since fall 1994, defying the odds, and unless my nine lives have been used up, I'll survive this too," he said. Brudnoy revealed in 1994 that he was gay and had AIDS after he was hospitalized with a viral infection that almost took his life. He said at the time that he only expected to live five or six more years. The cancer had nothing to do with AIDS, he said.
Brudnoy's radio show touched on almost any topic, including politics, current events, and the arts. He was known for his intellectual thoughtfulness, his sense of humor, and his easygoing manner with callers, who came from all walks of life. His loyal listeners revolted in the early 1990s when he was taken off the air in favor of cheaper syndicated talk programming. Listeners boycotted the station and advertisers, and Brudnoy was back on the air within weeks. Though best known for his broadcasting career, which started in 1971 at WGBH-TV in Boston, he also wrote movie reviews for suburban newspapers and lectured at a number of area colleges, most recently at Boston University. His articles have been published in The New York Times, National Review, TV Guide, The New Republic, and many more.
"David was a breath of fresh air on the faculty," said Robert Zelnick, chairman of the journalism department at Boston University, where Brudnoy taught a media criticism class. "He challenged students...he made them think critically." He started his talk radio career at WHDH-AM in 1976, then moved to WRKO-AM in 1981. His memoir published in 1997, Life is Not a Rehearsal, chronicled his battle with HIV. Brudnoy was a Republican until 1998 when he officially switched to the Libertarian Party. Born in Minneapolis, he received a bachelor's degree in Japanese studies from Yale, a master's in Far Eastern studies from Harvard, and a master's in the history of American civilization and a doctorate in history, both from Brandeis University.