Farewell to an inventor
There are a lot of magazines out there. Estimates of city/regionals range into the thousands in a genre that hardly existed 50 years ago, which means there are a lot of people writing, selling or designing magazines that are aimed at specific communities.
Very few of these people can claim to have invented anything new. Almost all the local magazines run the same kinds of stories and carry pages of people enjoying themselves at social functions, usually for a worthy cause. If one organization finds a gimmick that sells, such as Top Docs, others are quick to follow. There aren’t many people who have actually come up with a fresh idea. John Broderick was one of them.
Broderick, who died July 31 at age 89, found himself in a difficult position in the late 1980s. He had been hired to run a dying local magazine. It was called The Best. Yolanda Maurer, the same woman who had started what is now Gold Coast magazine 20 years before, had launched it. And, as she did with her first magazine, she sold The Best as soon as it started to look successful.
The new owners were not magazine people and lived elsewhere. Without Ms. Maurer running it, their magazine quickly declined. They hired Broderick to try to save their investment. He had recently sold his own publication, Swimming Pool Weekly, a trade newspaper based in Fort Lauderdale. We met in 1972 when our publications were in the same building. We saw a lot of each other, especially when half of the Sunrise Professional Building (now the Galleria Professional Building) repaired to Nick’s Lounge at cocktail hour.
He was a memorable personality and great salesman with an engaging smile and knack for coining marketing phrases such as "our proprietary research shows..." Nobody knows what that means, but we train our sales force to employ it when in doubt.
By the late 1980s, the owners of The Best were weary of losing money. They basically walked away. Broderick decided to put out one last issue that might survive as its own entity. The idea he came up with was “Who’s Who In Charity and the Arts.” There were some charity registers around, and several South Florida magazines had long featured people at charity balls. But nobody had devoted an entire glossy issue to the charities and people behind them.
He sold it as an annual publication; it did not break anybody’s advertising budget. Charities felt that they had to be in the book to be taken seriously in the world of philanthropy, and prestige advertisers wanted to support the organizations that were often associated with their wealthy customers.
The concept worked well enough that Broderick repeated it several times, just long enough for us (after a nine-year legal battle) to regain control of Gold Coast and use the concept as our first comeback issue in 1991. Broderick stayed aboard as associate publisher for several years. He mainly sold ads, but his good looks and versatility allowed him to pose on short notice for a memorable Gold Coast cover.
By the mid-1990s he had the satisfaction of not only seeing his “Who’s Who” concept grow in our pages, but year by year it'd appear in an increasing number of city/ regional magazines. Today, even long-established magazines such as Philadelphia, New York, Washingtonian and Texas Monthly run variations on the concept. It is a rare regional magazine that does not have annual philanthropy features. Many list pages of charities and their calendars of events, exactly the same as Broderick did in the 1980s. Ironically, our annual philanthropy presentation comes up in our next issue, the 30th anniversary of the year it all began.
Although Broderick made advertising and publishing his career, he could have succeeded in other fields. His sales skills would work in any industry. He was also gifted musically. He was a fine singer and could play the piano and just about any other instrument he got his hands on. He was proud of his Irish background in Pittsburgh, and his “Danny Boy” was much in demand. We used to announce a “Danny Boy” contest on St. Patrick’s Day at Gaffer’s pub (at the time across from Holy Cross Hospital) and pronounce Broderick the winner, whether he showed up or not. He usually showed up. Then there were lunches at Wally Brewer’s Olde Town Chop House in the mid-1990s. Broderick, his friends and a hundred of Wayne Huizenga’s Blockbuster crowd keep that joint going, and several times when the regular piano entertainer was absent, Broderick would sit down and entertain the diners with his playing and songs.
He was also a bit of a historian, especially in military matters. He liked to talk of his father’s participation at the battle of the Marne in World War I. And he was proud of his own service with an artillery unit attached to the 18th Airborne Corps. That was just before he moved to Florida in 1952. His legacy presentation on the Iinternet shows several photos of him in uniform and posing with military hardware. His burial will be in a national cemetery in Lake Worth.
In his prime, the man was highly mobile, always ready to “meet you at the corner” and an uplifting spirit for all who met him. But a hip injury from a fall kept him in a wheelchair and largely close to his Pompano Beach apartment with his wife of 34 years, Jane, for the last few years. He was the proud father of daughter Eithne of Massachusetts and sons Sean and Tim Broderick, both of Fort Lauderdale. His first wife, Mary, died earlier this year. He also had several sisters who lived in South Florida, shared his high-energy personality and predeceased him.
There will be a memorial mass Saturday, Aug. 18 at 11 a.m. at St. Martin Episcopal Church in Pompano Beach.