Link salad today, because I haz a tired.
It appears the story of the night is the death of Ben Bradlee, and as you’d expect, there are many wonderful words to read about this titan of the field. I recommend David Von Drehle in Time, an ex-WashPost writer with a great gift for it:
Charisma is a word, like thunderstorm or orgasm, which sits pretty flat on the page or the screen compared with the actual experience it tries to name. I don’t recall exactly when I first looked it up in the dictionary and read that charisma is a “personal magic of leadership,” a “special magnetic charm.” But I remember exactly when I first felt the full impact of the thing itself.
Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee was gliding through the newsroom of The Washington Post, pushing a sort of force field ahead of him like the bow wave of a vintage Chris-Craft motor yacht. All across the vast expanse of identical desks, faces turned toward him—were pulled in his direction—much as a field of flowers turns toward the sun. We were powerless to look away.
This was after his storied career as editor of The Post had ended. I was the first reporter hired at the paper after Bradlee retired in 1991 to a ceremonial office on the corporate floor upstairs. For that reason, I never saw him clothed in the garb of authority. He no longer held the keys to the front page and the pay scales, so his force didn’t spring from those sources. Nor did it derive from his good looks, his elegance, or his many millions worth of company stock.
I realized I was face to face with charisma, a quality I had wrongly believed I understood until Bradlee reached the desk where I was sitting and the bow wave pushed me back in my chair. It is pointless for me to try to describe this essence, because in that moment I realized that it cannot be observed or critiqued. Charisma can only be felt. It is a palpable something-more-ness—magical, magnetic—as rare as the South China tiger. I’ve met famous writers, directors, actors, athletes, billionaires, five presidents of the United States, and none of them had it like Bradlee.
Or you can try Martha Sherrill in the Post itself, writing about his legacy in the Style section:
“Hey, Tiger.” He said things like that. He had lusty greetings, exotic epithets and obsolete profanities he got away with. He was unabashed, uninhibited. Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee, who died Tuesday at age 93, was a Boston Brahmin but enjoyed being an improper one. A lesbian friend from his postwar Paris days wasn’t just “gay,” she was “gay as a goose.” A newly divorced editor with a revived sex life was “finally getting his ashes hauled.” The primal motive driving Jackie Kennedy Onassis was “she needs a lot of dough.” ¶ Men were divided into two camps: those whose private parts “clanked when they walked” and those whose, alas, didn’t. Women were judged differently. The only ones Bradlee didn’t seem to appreciate were humorless. “A prude,” he’d say, as though nothing were more distasteful. ¶ He passed on his sensibilities to Style, the groundbreaking “soft” feature section he invented and launched at The Washington Post in 1969, which replaced the toothless For and About Women. Style wasn’t for prudes. It was designed to entertain, delight, provoke, surprise and occasionally horrify, reflecting its founder’s infinite curiosity about society, appreciation for vivid storytelling and deep love of troublemaking.
Or just the straightforward obit:
Mr. Bradlee stationed correspondents around the globe, opened bureaus across the Washington region and from coast to coast in the United States, and he created sections and features — most notably Style, one of his proudest inventions — that were widely copied by others.
Sigh. The good ol’ days.
I see a few of you veered off on a tangent late yesterday — the OMG Renee Zellweger tangent. So, so sad. We must all clasp hands and thank the gods of our understanding that we don’t have to be pretty to make a living, because evidently it sucks. I would have liked to see what she looked like beforehand, because to my mind, what made her adorable was her wonderfully squinty eyes — she always seemed about to laugh. “Unrecognizable” seems to be the adjective that first comes to mind. I wonder about the plastic surgeon’s art; so many variables to consider. Elasticity, armature, that sort of thing. Oh, that poor woman.
A headline you don’t see every day: Drunken trombone-playing clown fires gun from garage, police say
Our governor considers himself very pro-business, except, of course, when he isn’t.
Let’s hope the rest of the week perks up, eh?