John Brunton: 1954-2009
John’s wife Adele asked me to collect a few stories about him to ensure the funeral service - Bramcote Crematorium, January 6 2010 - included some laughter.
There are plenty here who knew John longer or better -- but are too shy, too upset or perhap too drunk to do this. But here goes...
I first met John in 1993. At the gym. He loved that crosstrainer. No hang on, it was at the pub. I’d just started working at the Evening Post in the advertising dept but wanted to get in to editorial and write about entertainment. Much like John. I’d nipped across the road to The Bell one lunchtime and there he was. Brunton On The Box. He wasn’t stood on a box, that was the name of his TV column.
I can’t remember what was said but I’m guessing his greeting was along the lines of: “What’s going on?” “What do you know?”
He offered me advice on how to get the job I wanted. 17 years later I’m still doing that job.
Since then we spent many, many lunchtimes ‘across the road’ where I’d learn of days in London and Hollywood, his work for Titbits -- or “Tits and Bums” as he called it. But he wasn’t showing off. John was never showy.
And it wasn’t all showbiz. He had a vast knowledge of people and places. He’d say: “Simon, did you know that building over there was originally used by the Masons in the 19th century...” and I’d say “never mind that ,what’s this about you interviewing Joan Collins in a bubble bath!?”.
I loved the showbiz stuff: Being a penpal of Stan Laurel. Being the first UK journalist to report on the death of Steve McQueen and Grace Kelly. Or when he was at TV junket in London and Dale Winton hollered across the room: “Oooh John, darling, you look gorgeous!!!”
He may have been wearing the outfit he favoured at such events - a bright white suit, white hat and a cane. It made him stand out from the crowd and ensured he got the best interviews. That was his thinking.
But that wasn’t his first dabble with flamobouyance. When he was a fesh faced journo on the Long Eaton Advertiser back in the early 70s he arranged a game of tennis with colleague Sue McNab. Back then Sue was living at the Malt Shovel in Beeston came out of the pub in her tennis gear much to the amusement of all the regulars hanging around outside waiting for the pub to open. As she looked up the road she saw this vision heading her way: in a striped blazer and long white flannel trousers - jauntily swinging a tennis racquet.
When I worked with John his fashion mistakes were round his neck. And a bizarre collection of bright/garish ties. But it’s the leather waistcoat with the tartan lining that everyone recalls the most about John as fashionista. For years it sat on the back of his chair - so you were never quite sure if he’d left for the day or not. Or maybe he’d just GONE TO THE LIBRARY.
Those library trips were for Bygones which he contributed to heavily over the years. But he would write about anything. There are pictures of him trying his hand dog grooming in a poodle parlour in Beeston. And make sure you ask Trevor Bartlett about the time the pair of them went to Skeggy for a feature on seaside B&Bs. The keyword is midgets.
Every time we had a features meeting he’d have an endless supply of ideas.
But he was still doing TV features.
Billy Ivory met him a number of times ‘across the road’. One time they met up at the Via Fossa -- or The Tosser as John dubbed it. During the lunch John had four pints of cider. “I thought you were leaving off the ale for a bit,” says Billy. John looks him in the eye: “It’s apples Billy. It’s one of your five a day.”
Another time at The Bell this time he was in a furious mood because his expenses had been queried. “How dare they!” he barked. After a chat they left the pub and said their goodbyes - and Billy watched John jump in to a taxi to take him the 60 second drive back to the Post.
He was never a lazy journalist though. Although he did nod off interviewing David Soul one time. John asked the first question, David Soul started to answer and John was away. Well, one can only assume he’s a boring sod.
But John still had the drive for the story. When Crossroads was finally axed John stayed in to the night to make sure the story got in the next day’s paper. His boss at the time, Neil White, saw him in the lift the next day and thanked him for his hard work.
“Neil,” he replies. “I had to do it. This was my Hillsborough!’’
There is much to miss about John Brunton or Brunners or JB or Johnny B or Brunto.
His stories, his generosity, his warmth, his wit, his knowledge...
The way he’d say “ah, yer lovely” .
The way he mothered a rubber plant that had been dumped in our department.
The way he’d complain of being “thirsty” when you were having your first cup of coffee of the day.
The way he’d try and talk to you with that white nictoine stick hanging out of his mouth and you couldn’t understand a bloody word.
Wherever he is, he’ll be with friends, telling stories, that white dummy hanging from his mouth asking : What’s going on? What do you know?”