David Barry Brudnoy always believed in maintaining an open and honest relationship with his listeners. For more than three decades, the erudite Boston broadcaster interviewed hundreds of guests and used his talk show on WBZ-AM to civilly discuss books, current events and social issues.
Brudnoy’s candor and intelligence earned him a devoted following. When the station canceled his show in the early 1990s in favor of cheaper, syndicated talk programming, his loyal listeners boycotted the station and its advertisers. Brudnoy was back on the air a few weeks later. “The David Brudnoy Show” eventually became the highest-rated nighttime talk show in town.
The Minneapolis native received a bachelor’s degree in Japanese studies from Yale and a master’s in Far Eastern studies from Harvard. After a short teaching stint at Texas Southern University, a historically African-American school, Brudnoy moved back to Boston where he earned a master’s in the history of American civilization and a doctorate in history from Brandeis University.
In 1971, a friend encouraged Brudnoy to audition for an opening as a commentator at WGBH, Boston’s public television station. He landed the job and became the station’s “token conservative.” Brudnoy worked as a radio talk show host at WHDH and WRKO before he found a permanent home at WBZ. Since 1986, his deep, soothing voice has been heard every weeknight in 38 states and in Canada.
In his spare time, Brudnoy lectured at Boston University and presented opinionated commentaries on Channel 38’s “Nightcast at 10.” A longtime contributor to The National Review, he also wrote articles for The New York Times, TV Guide and the New Republic. Brudnoy penned movie reviews for the Community Newspapers chain, won the National Association of Radio Talk Show Hosts’ Freedom of Speech Award and co-founded both the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Boston Theatre Critics Circle.
Brudnoy nearly died from a viral infection in 1994. When rumors circulated about his illness, Brudnoy decided to end the speculation with a frank, on-air discussion.
He came out of the closet and revealed to his audience that he’d been diagnosed with AIDS. In 1996, he established The David Brudnoy Fund for AIDS Research at Massachusetts General Hospital to raise resources for unrestricted research into treatments and vaccines for the disease. Brudnoy then chronicled his struggles with HIV and AIDS in his 1997 memoir, “Life Is Not a Rehearsal.”
Last year, Brudnoy announced on air that he was suffering from merkel cell carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer. Normally, the cancer is treatable, but with a lowered immune system, it spread into his liver and kidneys. On Dec. 8, Brudnoy gave a final interview from his hospital bed. He said good-bye to his radio audience and told them he was ready to die.
Brudnoy died on Dec. 9 of renal failure caused by carcinoma. He was 64.