Gary Dretzka of Movie City News knew Brenda You, the L.A. writer who apparently committed suicide over the weekend, and adds some needed texture to her story in an unpublished email to PerezHilton.com. (My news post yesterday is here.)
I was Brenda You's editor at the Chicago Tribune, which is where she worked as a feature writer and music critic in the early '90s. At the time, her name was Brenda Herman (give or take an 'r' or an 'm') ... she married a gentleman named You, and he's the father of their beautiful child. Thus, the "unusual" name.
Your readers should know that Brenda had a life and journalistic career well before her Playboy.com pictorial (she might have made the magazine, but Hef 'doesn't like redheads'). After leaving the Tribune, she became a producer and director for the 'Springer Show.' It was then that she decided to fulfill a longtime dream by posing for Playboy ... she almost always acted on her whims.
From there, she took advantage of long-held contacts at the gossip papers and, eventually, wound up in LA. She loved dishing the dirt on full-of-themselves celebs, and was good at it.
As far as I know, Brenda was not estranged from her family. She was loved and gave love to those around her.
Brenda came to me first as someone who worked the Tribune switchboard on weekends, and did some work for Downbeat. She wanted desperately to write in the Big Show, and was best suited for the rock beat. We needed someone to review metal and industrial CDs, so I took a flier on her.
Before long, Brenda was writing superb feature-length pieces for our Tempo section. Her reporting on the the dearth of music on MTV predated a similar piece in the LA Times by two years, and greatly pissed off the MTV brass.
In short, she was a natural.
Brenda did prove to be a bit too hip for the room, though. Her ambition and curiousity couldn't be contained at a paper as square as the Tribune, and, after an ethical lapse, she moved on. More tenured reporters at the paper took greater liberties -- their lapses were universally ignored -- but Brenda lacked the same clout. (Her obvious beauty, willingness to flaunt her tattoos and gams, and punk fashion sense made her no fans among women editors.)
By then, however, her forward momentum was carrying her in more tantalizing directions.
Fact is, she was a journalist and producer who posed for Playboy; not a Playmate who became a gossip writer.
I wouldn't know Bonnie Fuller from the truck driver who carries away my garbage each Thursday morning. I do know that Brenda could recognize a phony from a mile away, and had more integrity than most journalists I worked with over the last 35 years.
Plus, she was a world-class spitfire.
The world is a duller and far less beautiful place this week.