Sitting in his comfortable Port Ludlow home, Tony Brenna recalls vividly being tied up and tossed into the back on a bloody army truck in Uganda, terrified he was going to be shot and fed to dictator …
Sitting in his comfortable Port Ludlow home, Tony Brenna recalls vividly being tied up and tossed into the back on a bloody army truck in Uganda, terrified he was going to be shot and fed to dictator Idi Amin’s crocodiles. (He was eventually dumped out at the Rwandan border and warned never to return. No problem-o! )
At the other journalistic extreme, the veteran tabloid reporter recounts his buying up every first-class ticket on a Swissair flight from Geneva so he could sit next to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and confirm their re-marriage and get an exclusive. Getting Burton drunk “and helping him fall off the wagon” did the trick. For this, Taylor cursed out Brenna.
Brenna, who’s arguably had a more colorful career than any journalist in this state, has put his adventures into a book, “Anything For a Headline,” in which the Brit, a veteran Fleet Streeter, recounts his edgy, peripatetic career. There’s a lot of drinking and womanizing here — Brenna was certainly fond of seeing double and feeling single.
“I’m pretty much a choirboy now,” said the impish octogenarian, a guy who used parking meters as walking sticks. I wonder.
I met Tony through the National Perspirer, er Enquirer — before the current publisher, Trump fan David Pecker (his real name) owned it.
I was down in Lantana, Florida, Brenna’s U.S. base, one time at the Enquirer offices, a bustling newsroom packed with Fleet Streeters, who, like Brenna, were prodigious drinkers, tireless skirt chasers. A Brit reporter next to me slammed down the phone and hung up — on Frank Sinatra! “In your country,” he later explained in an East End accent, “Journalism is a profession. In mine, it’s a trade.”
My Fleet Street tabloid experiences were far more limited than Brenna’s — and far more sedate. One was writing for Melody Maker, the major British music newspaper, which gained me access to — and interviews with — British rock royalty like Pink Floyd, Rod Stewart, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, George Harrison, etc., etc.
I also worked as San Francisco correspondent for the Sunday Express. I’d call London to pitch a story about, for example, a town bully in Idaho. And my Brit editor would often ask, “were there by chance any cowboys involved?” Um, yea, sure, I’d lie — and put cowpokes in my story. (U.K. readers apparently liked cowboys).
Well, as the old Fleet Street saying goes, never let the truth get in the way of a good story!
Brenna, who spends time these days on his boat fishing near the Hood Canal Bridge, was the ultimate globetrotting Fleet Streeter, having worked for The Mail, The Mirror, The Sunday and Daily Telegraph, and World’s Press News in the U.K. before joining The Enquirer.
Brenna’s farflung tabloid adventures are fun to listen to and read (I’ve finished his upcoming book).
But I would not want to be a potential menu item for Idi Amin’s crocs. There were also reports of Amin literally eating his political and journalistic adversaries. When asked about this by the New York Times, Amin joked that human flesh was “too salty for me.”
Tony Brenna? Definitely salty.
BORDERING ON STUPIDITY: Shifty-eyed Wisconsin Gov. Snot, er, Scott Walker has suggested building a wall between his state and Canada. That brings up a joke heard locally that if such a wall is ever built, it’s to stop Americans from fleeing to Canada.
VIVE LA FRANCE! Fêtons la prise de la Bastille! Have a happy Bastille Day Saturday, mes amis. And Vive La Résistance!