Brian Brown, a versatile reporter who later became a beloved radio show personality with Voice of Vashon, died on Jan. 18. He was 84.
The news of Brown’s passing from cancer was announced by Jeff Hoyt, a program manager for the station, in an email to colleagues a few days after he died.
“We lost a great one Saturday night,” Hoyt wrote. “Rest in peace, Brian. I will miss that ever-present twinkle in your eyes.”
On the island, Brown was known as the host of “Brown Briefly,” which was taglined on VoV’s website as a show in which, “less is more, more is less.” Every week, Brown would espouse “humorous observations on topical news — local, national, international” and the intergalactic, the website said.
At the beginning of every show, Brown would greet listeners with the same introduction: “Ahoy, Vashon! [Or,] as the French say, ‘Vashon,’” mimicking the country’s accent. He would also note the opinions on the show don’t reflect those of KVSH or VoV.
Those opinions came from not only Brown but his regular guests, including islander Lynn Carrigan, who admired him for his gift of storytelling, interest in people and easy-going demeanor.
“We were at our best because we were modeling what he wanted us to be doing,” Carrigan said, describing radio show conversations with Brown as ones that weren’t “trying to persuade,” so much as, “listen and understand.”
“It was easy to express our opinion in a place where we knew we liked each other no matter what,” she said. “I think that’s an important thing to try to build — not a lecture hall or a rally, but a thoughtful place of people talking. It’s rare to do that.”
Listen to a few clips online of “Brown Briefly” and it’s easy to hear how it was that “free-flowing” environment Carrigan described, including on the Dec. 3 show when Carrigan shared a sonnet that King James VI wrote to his son.
After hearing the poem, Brown told of a poetic response he had for his son when he was in college.
“‘No mun, no fun — your son,’” Brown said. “To which I replied, ‘Too bad, how sad — your dad,” which made his colleagues erupt with laughter.
Brown’s radio colleagues paid tribute to him on Jan. 22, after The Beachcomber’s press deadline, with a “Brown Briefly” show that was all about him. In addition, a one-hour, 40 minute-show about his life was shown on local TV and posted to the VoV website.
Brown was not a native to Vashon-Maury Island. He was born in Scarsdale, New York and obtained a degree in literature at New York University, according to a 2014 profile in The Beachcomber. Brown moved to the island in 2007 to be closer to his family, who lived in Seattle.
And, the article said, Brown had many titles throughout the course of his life — professor, business manager; even stand-up comedian. But the one title he seemed to be most proud of was being called a journalist. He got his start in small papers before working his way up to broadcasting and eventually Time Magazine and United Press International.
Brown, who gave a lecture at Vashon Community Cares’ “Telling Stories” speaker series, told The Beachcomber his days as a reporter were “the last great years in news magazine publishing.”
“There were news bureaus in every major city all over the world, and correspondents lived in the areas where their bureaus were,” he said. “So much money was spent on print in those days that no one can afford now.”