Ed Bradley, who died this week at 65 of leukemia, was best known for his 25 years of sterling journalistic work on television's 60 Minutes. He also had an immense love of fine wine. In a 1994 interview with me, he described how he turned one bedroom in his seven-room New York apartment into a wine cellar.
When 60 Minutes profiled Baron Philippe de Rothschild, then owner of Château Mouton-Rothschild, it was Bradley who got the assignment. As usual, it was an insightful, revealing piece. It just showed his range. He always seemed as eloquent telling us about Lena Horne (whom he also profiled on 60 Minutes) as about the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic church, for which he won an Emmy.
Knowing that he enjoyed cooking, I suggested we meet at his home for an interview. But he wanted to go to a restaurant, so, after some agonizing about where, I took him to Lespinasse, which had just opened. There was great buzz in the foodie community over Gray Kunz's food. The wine list was hot, too; it eventually won a Wine Spectator Grand Award. Bradley hadn't been there, and he loved it. We drank a couple of outstanding bottles and he savored every plate in the three-hour dinner.
I don't know if it was the wine, the food, the buzz about the restaurant, or his consummate professionalism, but he gave me one of the best interviews in my experience. He spun stories of how he learned to cook from an Egyptian-born cameraman he worked with in Paris, talked about drawing stares when he brought a bottle of wine in to the CBS newsroom to drink with his lunch, and illustrated his love of jazz by waxing poetic about the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and his friendship with Aaron Neville.
Bradley had a home in Woody Creek, Colo., not far from Aspen, where my wife and I spend some time every summer. We often saw him around town, slouching into Ajax Tavern under a weathered baseball cap, trying to make his 6-foot 1-inch frame inconspicuous. For someone who had one of the most recognizable faces on television, he remained a private individual. He even kept his terminal illness from his colleagues at 60 Minutes, according to an obituary in the New York Times.
Last summer I stopped at his table at Ajax to say hello. He looked a bit gaunt and the eyes had a strain. He wasn't drinking. But I noticed a bottle of 1990 Brunello at his elbow, sharing it with the rest of the group at his table. That generosity of spirit tells you all you need to know.