Brian Kelly on Bill Regardie’s thoughts about publishing controversial stories in his magazine~
“I said, ‘Bill, you’ve got to decide whether you want to be liked or respected.’ It took him about two seconds and he said, ‘Yeah, I want to be respected. Go ahead and run the story.’ That was always Bill’s feeling. Even though he is a Washington boy, grew up here, he knew that as an editor, as a publisher, he had to do the right thing for his readers, which was tell the story.”
Andy Ockershausen: I’m delighted that we have a star, a journalism star, to be our guest today, and he’s been a friend for years. He’s so well-known and well-liked by everybody, particularly the people he works for. And, by the way here’s what our friend Bill Regardie had to say about our special guest today.
Hiring Brian was the smartest move I ever made. I selected about a quarter of them, and another quarter came over the transom. But hiring Brian away from the Chicago Tribune. Brian used to come in and write for us every two issues. Hiring Brian was like hiring a young Ben Bradlee He was a “fn” killer. I didn’t know that when I hired him. He wanted to come in and make his name.
Welcome to Our Town Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of the U.S. News & World Report. Why should I do that? You’ve been in Our Town for 20 years, haven’t you, 30 years?
Kelly Comes to Our Town as Freshman at Georgetown
Brian Kelly: More than that, Andy. In 1972 I showed up as a freshman at Georgetown University.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s right. You went to school here.
Brian Kelly: Been a while, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: But you were born in New Jersey, raised in New Jersey, but why would you pick Georgetown? For the law school, obviously, but you didn’t go to law school, did you?
Brian Kelly: I didn’t. The first reason I picked Georgetown was because they let me in.
Andy Ockershausen: You couldn’t get in now.
Brian Kelly: Yale said no, so that was a big change. Yeah, and you’re right, I couldn’t get in now, but I came here, like most folks, wanting to go to law school. Everybody wanted to be a lawyer in the ’70s, and my freshman year I was in the freshman government class with all the other guys who wanted to be lawyers, guys and girls, and I realized that everybody in my class had done the summer reading except for me.
Andy Ockershausen: You found that out in the Fall?
Brian Kelly: The professor was asking questions about books that I hadn’t read, and I thought, “You know, maybe there’s got to be a better way here,” so that’s why I went into journalism.
Andy Ockershausen: You mentioned females, or girls, whatever they were at the time. I didn’t know Georgetown had them that early, in ’72.
Brian Kelly: It was fairly new. I think Georgetown went co-ed in ’68, ’69, something like that, so it was pretty new. There weren’t a lot of them on campus.
Andy Ockershausen: You never went to the law school when it was downtown Washington. You always were on campus, right?
Brian Kelly: Always on the main campus at Georgetown, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Did you work in Georgetown? A lot of guys I know that went to school there, they worked in bars and restaurants all over Georgetown.
Brian Kelly: I went to bars and restaurants, and since I knew a lot of people who worked there, it was very lucrative.
Andy Ockershausen: Wonderful evening.
Journalism Over Law – Editor of the Georgetown Voice
Brian Kelly: I really got into journalism at school. I ran the newspaper at school as the editor of the Georgetown Voice, and it was ’72, early ’70s, and it was so interesting because I actually ended up writing about Watergate. I wrote about events in Watergate. Pat Buchanan, who was Nixon’s press secretary, was a Georgetown graduate, so I interviewed Pat Buchanan. John Sirica, who was the judge who kind of broke the case open, was a Georgetown graduate.
Andy Ockershausen: From Hogan and Hartson at one time. I knew that.
Brian Kelly: Right. I was a kid journalist, but I got access to all these people, and that’s when I realized journalism was a lot of fun and they paid you.
Andy Ockershausen: The door opener for a lot of the businesses and a lot of people now, correct?
Brian Kelly: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s a way of life in Washington. Obviously being an attorney helps you in a lot of ways, but you weren’t a lawyer, you weren’t an attorney, but you didn’t do either.
Brian Kelly: Well, no. Getting into law school was just too darn hard, and journalism was fun and you could do a lot of interesting things without having to work too hard.
Andy Ockershausen: I always tell people the difference between a lawyer and an attorney is $500 an hour. The attorney gets a lot more money. He’s got a better title than a lawyer.
Brian Kelly: Right.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, the people I knew in your business, and being acquainted with Edward Bennett Williams … who didn’t go to Georgetown, he went to Holy Cross, did you know that?
Brian Kelly: I did, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: He was a professor at … and I understand people would fight to get in his class, and he never gave any homework. He didn’t believe in it, but he did conduct a lot of mock trials and so forth. He was an actor. Ed Williams was an actor, and I’m told very good, acting.
Brendan Sullivan | The Evening Star | Kelly’s Mentor Evening Star Sports Editor Dave Bergen
Brian Kelly: Yeah, he was terrific. I’ve gotten to know Brendan Sullivan, who was his protege. He has this towering reputation, but when you meet him, he’s an absolutely nice, down-to-earth guy. You know, funny, good sense of humor, and you realize that these great lawyers, the great Washington lawyers, the thing they have to do is appeal to jurors. They have to have that personality, and that’s what they have. They don’t have to be brilliant legal scholars. They have to be convincing and trusted and regular guys.
Andy Ockershausen: You know, Brendan was at Hogan and Hartson one time before they … that Ed Williams started his business. In fact, he was married to one of the daughters of one of the partners. They were the law firm for the Evening Star. You were not part of that, because I think the Star was gone almost when you got here, but the Star owned this broadcast company, WMAL, and Channel 7, and the Star was a bright star of our city. We didn’t get beat by the Post, we got beat by television. The afternoon newspaper was a dead duck, the traffic.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. Actually, when I was in school the Star was around, and I loved that newspaper.
Andy Ockershausen: Wasn’t that ’72?
Brian Kelly: A guy named Dave Bergen, who was the sports editor of the Star.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, yeah, I know that name.
Brian Kelly: He was the journalism advisor at Georgetown, and Dave Bergen was absolutely brilliant. I mean, he really reinvented a lot of journalism design. You know, they would do these beautiful full-page photos of the Redskins game or something like that, and Dave was a real mentor to me. I really wanted to work for the Star, and I remember he said to me, “Don’t come here, because things are going south.”
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, that ship was sinking.
Brian Kelly: He got me my job in Chicago out of college.
Andy Ockershausen: Is that right? Now, wait a minute. I asked you this question before. Why would you go from Washington to Chicago when you’re a Jersey boy and are close to the Big Apple? Of course, you could get a job in Chicago.
Brian Kelly: Because they offered me a job, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Were you married at the time?
Kelly Moves to Chicago After College | The Chicago Sun-Times | Chicago Politics
Brian Kelly: No. No, and I really had hardly ever been outside the East Coast. The Chicago Sun-Times, which was then a big newspaper, it was probably the sixth-largest newspaper in the country, offered me a job, and it was one of these dreams where you’re a kid reporter. I said in Chicago I covered crime and politics, which is essentially the same story, and just had a blast running around town. It was like something out of the movies. You know, you had Mayor Daley was the legendary figure.
Andy Ockershausen: Wonderful, wonderful.
Brian Kelly: He died just when I got there, which sort of threw the place up for grabs, and there was all kinds of political turmoil.
Andy Ockershausen: There’s always another Daley, isn’t there?
Brian Kelly: Well, and that was … yeah, following the first black mayor, and then Richie Daley was the son and he took the mayor’s office back from him. It was just great, great drama and great stories.
Andy Ockershausen: The mayor’s name was Washington, wasn’t it?
Brian Kelly: Harold Washington was the first black mayor.
Andy Ockershausen: Right, of a major city. Well, it’s still a great thing because Chicago is a great city. What we were talking about, Janice, about the City of the Big Shoulders and Hog Butcher to the World? We used all those cliches in the writeup, did we not, about Brian Kelly? That was such a big break for you. Maybe that was better than staying in Washington.
Working Outside the Bubble | Different Perspective of Our Town
Brian Kelly: Well, it was. It was really important to get out. I think I always wanted to come back to Washington. You know, I wanted to work for the Washington Post, and the best thing is that they didn’t hire me, because Washington is a fascinating place on so many levels, but it is a bubble, you know. When you’ve been out of the bubble, you can appreciate being in the bubble in a better way. It’s true, being out in the Midwest, covering stories about farmers and steelworkers, there’s a real world out there, and that has been very helpful for me as I’ve moved on in journalism.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, being part of the ABC radio and television family, I would make trips to Chicago, and in the Midwest I’d listen to Chicago radio in the morning. They were giving futures about hog bellies and how much is corn on the radio stations in the morning. I would ask why, and they said, “Because everybody in the Midwest listens to WGN or WLS.” They had to know these things, so it was a big part of the morning, only in Chicago.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. The newspapers had farm editions which went to press really early, because they had to truck them all the way down to downstate Illinois.
Andy Ockershausen: Even in Iowa they read the Chicago Tribune, right, and the news. Was the Tribune strong at that time, when you went out there?
Friendly Competition Among Newspapers Long Ago
Brian Kelly: Yeah, the Tribune was the mighty, stodgy newspaper. They were three times larger than us and we were the scrappy upstarts, and it was a great way to … you know, they’d have five reporters on a story and we’d have one, but we’d still beat them, we thought.
Andy Ockershausen: We had a little paper here called the Washington Daily News. It was a tabloid, and it was doing so well. It would needle the Post. Well, the Post was nothing and the Star was everything. It would needle everything, but it was so good to read because it was a fun paper.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. It’s a sad thing. Journalism was better when there were more newspapers. You know, it’s great to have strong newspapers like the Post is still pretty strong, but there’s no competition. Who tells the Post that they got that story wrong, you know?
Andy Ockershausen: I said the same thing to Donald Graham. The thing that the Post missed was the competition of the Washington Evening Star.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. They were both better.
Andy Ockershausen: They know that.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I think that’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: They still were friendly competitors. Now, but from this background, what did you take from your Chicago experience other than the experience of you’re dealing with political figures? A very political city, is that correct, Chicago? The aldermen and so forth?
More On Chicago Politics | Roman Pucinsky
Brian Kelly: Yeah, it’s intensely political. I remember covering the mayor’s race, and one of the sportswriters who was covering the Cubs, I think, said, “You know, you’ve got a much better story.” People followed politics as if it was sports. They knew the names of all the aldermen and they knew what was happening in city hall. It’s very personal there.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, someone told me in Chicago, if you have a problem with your trash removal, you don’t call the City, you call your alderman, or your block captain or something. Political makes it work.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. The aldermen were the power centers. There was an alderman named Roman Pucinsky.
Andy Ockershausen: I remember that name.
Brian Kelly: He was in the 50th Ward, and Daley got mad at him, so he forced him to run for Congress to come to Washington. That was considered punishment.
Andy Ockershausen: “Get him out of town.”
Brian Kelly: Sending you out of town to Washington, to the provinces.
Andy Ockershausen: I remember, didn’t the Sun-Times used to have a printing office right along the river somewhere?
Chicago Sun-Times Printing Office | Sargent Shriver
Brian Kelly: Yeah, exactly.
Andy Ockershausen: Right along the …
Brian Kelly: It’s now Trump Tower.
Andy Ockershausen: Is that right?
Brian Kelly: The base of the building. It was a squat little building right on the Chicago River, around the corner from the Tribune. If you ever go to Chicago these days, it’s now the base of Trump Tower. I have blood that I sweat in the basement of that building.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, I’m sure. Well, the press are right there in the window, aren’t they?
Brian Kelly: Exactly, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: We had an office there on East Wacker, and I know it was close, and I remember the Merchandise Mart and all the great places in Chicago. I’m sure they still … well, who was it that ran the Merchandise Mart?
Brian Kelly: The Kennedy family.
Andy Ockershausen: The family owned it, right?
Brian Kelly: Right, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Sargent would run it, Sarge Shriver.
Chicago – A Phenomenal Town With Terrible Problems
Brian Kelly: Yeah. That was one of their big … yeah, Chicago is a phenomenal town, and still even today is probably better. I mean, downtown Chicago, it’s a funny place.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, boom.
Brian Kelly: They have terrible problems, race problems and crime problems in the southwest, west part of the city, but downtown is absolutely booming.
Andy Ockershausen: Mayor Emanuel will take care of that, though.
Brian Kelly: Well, he’s got a big job. If it weren’t for the weather, it would be the best city in America.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah. I’ve told people, and Janice may not remember me telling her. I said the coldest I’ve ever been in my life was walking around off of Michigan Avenue and the wind hit me, and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t get my breath, it was so bad. People joke about the wind, but it was wind, the coldest I’ve ever been in. The warmest I’ve ever been was one night where the temperature was over a hundred, at a place called Riccardo’s in downtown. Do you remember where Riccardo’s is?
Brian Kelly: Yeah. It’s this …
Andy Ockershausen: It’s a gin mill.
Brian Kelly: It’s another reason I could never go to law school, a little too much time at Riccardo’s.
Andy Ockershausen: You remember all the good places, don’t you?
Brian Kelly: Yeah. Drinking was an important part of the reporter’s lifestyle.
Andy Ockershausen: Of your industry, right?
Brian Kelly: It was. All the good stories came out of the bars.
Andy Ockershausen: It was an important part of entertainment in our broadcast business, selling too. We’d go to the [Bull Mish 11:50] and all those names that I know you know about, in the Tribune Tower.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, Bull Mish, they close at 4:00 in the morning. You had to know that. If you needed a drink at 4:00, you needed to know which one had a late last call.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s Our Town, right?
Brian Kelly: Yeah. It’s different than D.C., absolutely different.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, people here seem to be busier. I’m not sure they are, but everybody’s up early in Our Town, doing something. We see them, and traffic’s become now almost 24/7.
We’re going to be back and talk to Brian about … I’ve heard so much about Chicago. I want to talk about Our Town, which he’s made so great, and we want to talk about what other things we’re looking forward to. This is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town, and we’re talking to Brian Kelly about his time in Chicago, but the most important time of his life, it seems to me … and I’m sure he would agree with this … is when he had the opportunity to come back to Our Town as a writer.
The Road to Regardie’s | Freelancer to Editor
Brian Kelly: Yeah, really. Well, as a writer and as an editor, yeah. When I left, I always knew I wanted to come back. I mean, I love D.C., having gone to school here, and I was really fascinated by so much of the stories, the journalism, fascinated by power. You know, I think that’s what’s so interesting, how you understand power and write about power, and I got this terrific opportunity. Bill Regardie, who had a fairly new magazine, was looking for writers, and I had quit my job at the Sun-Times. Rupert Murdoch bought the paper, and I decided that I wasn’t going to work for him. He wanted to turn it into a Fleet Street tabloid, and so I moved on. As a freelancer, I had a bunch of clients, and one of them was Regardie’s, which was this upstart magazine.
Andy Ockershausen: You were giving them stories at the time from Chicago?
Brian Kelly: Well, more from D.C. I’d come into D.C. and they’d have stories to write about. You know, they wanted to write about Hechinger’s and the business drama of the Hechinger family and the competition in the store.
Andy Ockershausen: Boy, they lost one of the great stores of all time.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. There were so many interesting stories about local business as local business was changing, and a lot of it … you know, Woody’s was going out of business, and Garfinckel’s and the big banks, and there was just a transformation of D.C., so they were great stories.
Andy Ockershausen: Is that late ’70s?
Brian Kelly: This is now early ’80s, actually, early to mid ’80s.
Andy Ockershausen: Okay, so you had a good 10 years, almost, in Chicago?
Brian Kelly: I was in Chicago, yeah, about 10 years in Chicago, and then at one point Bill asked me to be the editor. I had been doing a lot of writing for him and other magazines, but Bill said, “What would you think about becoming the editor?” I had never been an editor before, but I just thought Bill was terrific.
Andy Ockershausen: You had a personal relationship with Bill? He knew you through your writing?
Brian Kelly: Through the writing, I had gotten to know Bill, and I think we thought the same way about stories. We both loved storytelling. We loved interesting stories with narratives and cops and robbers and good guys and bad guys, and business and understanding business and what it takes to be successful in business. I think we had a kind of a meeting of the minds, and he said, “I’d like to you take what you’re doing and get a bunch of other people to do it, to put it through the whole magazine,” so I said yeah, and packed up and headed out here in 1985.
Andy Ockershausen: You were married at the time?
Brian Kelly: Married at the time.
Andy Ockershausen: Brought your wife into this again?
Brian Kelly: Yeah. My wife was a Midwestern gal working for the Chicago Tribune.
Andy Ockershausen: Right. She’s a writer also?
Brian Kelly: She’s a writer, yeah. She actually came and went to work for Newsweek. She got a job at Newsweek.
Andy Ockershausen: In Washington?
Brian Kelly: In Washington, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, Newsweek at the time was still a powerhouse, correct?
Brian Kelly: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. She had the good job. I was working for Regardie’s with a tiny circulation, and she’s got 3 million readers.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, but you had great stories. The magazine took off, Brian. It’s a well known fact the magazine took off when you came here. It was always good, but you made it a great, I thought, business publication. It did so great in Our Town. I just can’t tell you how much I enjoyed Regardie’s.
Brian Kelly: It was tremendous fun, and that was I think part of being out of D.C. and seeing it from a distance. You know, I had a harder-nosed edge about politics, so when we came in I said, “You know, Marion Barry, everybody’s handling him with kid gloves.” You know, the Washington Post was giving him a pass. I said to Bill, “We’ve got to go after this guy, because there’s a lot of bad stuff going on,” and Bill gave me the green light.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, he did?
Always a Story at Duke Zeibert’s
Brian Kelly: We got some great stories out of Barry. Looking at Washington not just as a local story but as a national story at the same time, I always used to say I loved going to Duke Zeibert’s for lunch, and in the old Duke’s you would have … all of Washington would be there. The mayor would be there, the big real estate developers, the lobbyists.
Andy Ockershausen: Ted Lerner owned the building.
Brian Kelly: It wasn’t just the local guys, because you know, Bob Strauss, who was the head of the Democratic National Committee, big wheeler-dealer on the national scene.
Andy Ockershausen: Texas guy.
Brian Kelly: Larry King, doing the radio. There was the two Kings, right? Larry King the whorehouse king, and the radio King, but it was like a circus every day. You would pick up stories, and I always think if you just wrote for that audience, it would be really interesting. What stories did these folks want to read? It was terrific. It was like being a kid in a candy store.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s almost bringing tears to my eyes, how much I miss that atmosphere and what it meant to be sitting there with Mo Siegel and something would happen, and Larry King came in and said, “You mind if I sit with you,” and Siegel said, “Yes, I do mind.” He wouldn’t let him sit down. I mean, you can only do that in Washington, right?
Brian Kelly: That’s right. That’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, and get away with it. Bill was a very important part of it. Brian, you brought so much electricity to the magazine, and that increased. I’m not sure about the circulation, but everybody wanted to buy something to be in that magazine. If you wanted to get known, in addition to using WMAL radio, of course, you would buy in Regardie’s magazine, and people would know who you are.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. It was … the advertising was a strong point of ours. Particularly the real estate industry in Washington was booming, and we were the place to go if you were trying to sell office space or sell cars or anything, because we knew … as you say, the high-end audience was reading us, but we needed to make sure we were telling the stories that those folks wanted to read. One guy told me once, “I love reading Regardie’s, I just don’t want my name in it.” The thing you don’t want is a reporter from Regardie’s in your office lobby, and I took that as a compliment.
Andy Ockershausen: I remember for a long time Regardie was barred from a couple of places because he’d written about some of the members at Woodmont or some of the members at Norbeck that couldn’t get in Woodmont, so they said he’s barred from everything. Now he’s in Woodmont.
Brian Kelly: Finally. I mean, I feel really happy about that, because I got Bill tossed out of a lot of good places.
Andy Ockershausen: He loves it.
Bill Regardie | Jack Kent Cooke | Pat Oliphant
Brian Kelly: One of Bill’s greatest accomplishments was when Jack Kent Cooke would invite him to the box at the Redskins game, and we had a cartoonist. Pat Oliphant was a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist …
Andy Ockershausen: Brilliant, brilliant.
Brian Kelly: … who wrote a satirical Washington comic strip for us. It was really brilliant work, but he started to make fun of Jack Kent Cooke, and Cooke would tell Bill, “You can’t be in the box this week,” and Bill would be all upset and he’d make amends with Cooke and then Cooke would let him back in, and then Oliphant would stick another thing about Cooke in there. He kept going back and forth and it would make Bill crazy, and Bill knew that he couldn’t tell Pat not to do it. Pat was the kind of guy who like … it was only going to make him do it more.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, Pat, he was so, so talented. He was European, British? Was he British?
Brian Kelly: Australian.
Andy Ockershausen: I knew he was from out of the country, but we hired him. WMAL, we hired Pat, because he was working for the Washington Star.
Brian Kelly: Right.
Andy Ockershausen: We hired him to do sales sheets, to do pictures of our talents, caricatures of our talent. He was brilliant. I mean, he captured Harden and Weaver better than anything. He had Felix Grant with a record wrapped around his head. I mean, he had Bill Mayhew asleep. He did just great things we never thought of. That was Oliphant.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, he was brilliant.
Andy Ockershausen: You had him in your magazine.
Brian Kelly: We had lots of talent there, which was terrific. The great thing I loved about Bill was he was willing to spend the money, which is what it took. He hired this art director once. We hired him from I think it was one of the big New York magazines, Rolling Stone, Fred Woodward, and he said, “I gave Fred an unlimited budget, and he exceeded it.”
Andy Ockershausen: The magazine was gorgeous, wasn’t it?
Brian Kelly: Yeah. We had great art, photography.
Andy Ockershausen: Only Renay can hold out. We love Renay Regardie. I know you do too.
Brian Kelly: Renay is terrific, and she did kind of keep us on the straight and narrow sometimes. I don’t know where we would have been if it hadn’t been for Renay.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, Our Town was on fire then, and you were a big part of it and the magazine was a big part of it. The stories about Regardie, one of the stories about Regardie belonging to the club … I don’t know whether it was Woodmont or his new club down the road, but he called somebody and said, “I’m looking for a match, can I get in,” and the guy said, “Sorry, we already had three.” Yeah, I love Bill.
The Regardie’s 100
Brian Kelly: We did a list in Regardie’s called the Regardie’s 100, which was the richest people in Washington. We had some really good insider information about what people’s net worth was, and it was very eye-opening to see these great fortunes. You know, it wasn’t critical, but it just described these people and the wealth they had and how they had made it.
Andy Ockershausen: Our Town had money.
Brian Kelly: Right, and you discovered there was a lot of wealthy people in Washington under the radar.
Andy Ockershausen: Under the radar, correct.
Brian Kelly: Because it’s that kind of town, it’s not a showy town. When we started doing it, Bill got a lot of criticism from some of these folks, probably at those country clubs, and I remember we had a conversation and Bill said, “You know, I don’t know if we can keep doing this. People don’t … they’re not liking me.” I said, “Bill, you’ve got to decide whether you want to be liked or respected.” It took him about two seconds and he said, “Yeah, I want to be respected. Go ahead and run the story.” That was always Bill’s feeling. Even though he is a Washington boy, grew up here, he knew that as an editor, as a publisher, he had to do the right thing for his readers, which was tell the story.
Andy Ockershausen: Tell the truth. You know, he didn’t come from money. His family didn’t have big bucks. He was just one of the guys like we were, growing up here. Half the people wanted to be off the list and half the people wanted to be on it, I was told, right?
Brian Kelly: That’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: I’d think you couldn’t win. I mean, half the people would say, “Why am I not on that list?” Or, “I shouldn’t be on that list.”
Brian Kelly: Yeah, yeah. People just don’t like the attention sometimes.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s a great idea. Brian, it’s been so great to hear and think about Our Town, but that was then and now is now, and you’re such a big, more important part. As much as I love Regardie’s, he had his day. He had his time, as we at WMAL did. I mean, we had our day at Channel 7, a great powerhouse. I made a remark about somebody on cable. We had a 3 rating on a basketball game, and he said, “In broadcasting now, you’d kill for a 3 rating.” I couldn’t believe it. We used to look at Channel 7 and it’s 15-30 rating, but no more. It doesn’t exist.
Washington Post Editor | Clinton Administration and Monica Lewinsky
Brian Kelly: Yeah. The media business has changed so much. When Regardie’s folded in the early ’90s, I was very sad, but as you say, you have to move on. I went to the Post after that.
Andy Ockershausen: How long you were you at the Post?
Brian Kelly: I spent six years at the Post. I was there through most of the Clinton administration.
Andy Ockershausen: As an editor?
Brian Kelly: As an editor, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Was Conconi there when you went over there?
Brian Kelly: Chuck was there.
Andy Ockershausen: He worked for you at Regardie’s too, didn’t he?
Brian Kelly: He wrote a few pieces for us. We had a lot of people that did freelance pieces, but I had a great run at the Post. It was a lot of fun. The Clinton administration was … you know, lots of stories, including the Monica Lewinsky story, which I was one of the editors on that and ran that coverage for a long time, and I would say it wasn’t one of the most pleasant things I’ve ever done in journalism. You’d go home every night having to take a shower. You know, it just was … something about it was so creepy.
Andy Ockershausen: What was the one … my friend the attorney, maybe Plato Cacheris. Remember that name?
Brian Kelly: Sure, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: He represented somebody, but I don’t think it was Monica. He did something for her, but he had the one … Tripp. What was her first name?
J Ockershausen: Linda.
Andy Ockershausen: Linda Tripp. He was her attorney. I think he’s the one that stashed her in a hotel downtown. “Don’t talk to the writers.” That’s the day … what was it, Ben Stein and names like that. They were criminal attorneys, correct?
Brian Kelly: Yeah. Well, it was a field day for Washington lawyers. Everybody was out there, but not … not a happy chapter for anybody, I think.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, but they still were great times to live through. There was a lot of action in Our Town.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. As long as the market’s moving, you know, when you’re in journalism.
Andy Ockershausen: You have plenty to write about, huh?
Brian Kelly: You want something to write about, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, this is a wonderful conversation with Brian Kelly, the editor-in-absentee of Regardie’s magazine, and we’re going to get back to Brian and I want to talk about Marion Barry and those years, but what do you see now and how do you envision the city, and you’ve seen it from all angles, so I want to talk about Our Town. This is Andy Ockershausen and this is Our Town.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen. Brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen and we’re back with Brian Kelly, and talking about the great years when Brian was working for the Post in the ’80s, all the great things that were happening, but what he has seen in Our Town and his experience when he came here, came back and went to school. The changes have been so dramatic, Brian.
Two Washington’s – Local and National
Brian Kelly: Yeah, it’s really remarkable. I mean, you know, I’ve always lived in two Washingtons, the local Washington and the national one. I bought a house in 1987, and I live in the same house in Chevy Chase.
Andy Ockershausen: You’re sitting on a gold mine.
Brian Kelly: Well, there is that. You know, I raised my kids there, changed my job a bunch of times, but still had a … you know, just a beautiful place to live.
Andy Ockershausen: Did you ever ride the Metro?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, took the Metro to work every day when I worked at the Post.
Andy Ockershausen: So did Donald Graham. I knew that for a fact.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. It’s funny, people think of Washington as this big, fancy political town with all kind of egotistical people, but it’s a very middle-class town in many respects when you live in a place like Chevy Chase. It’s been a great experience, and then I’ve loved to see how the town itself has changed. Remarkable development, just beyond anything.
Andy Ockershausen: We never imagined it, Brian. I never, ever thought the southwest waterfront would look like it looks now. I never thought the Navy Yard would be anything but a pit. It’s just a great thing down there now.
Brian Kelly: Sure, downtown. I used to … I was an intern for Gannett across the street, at the National Press Building right near the White House in the early ’70s, and it was a dangerous place. I mean, people were selling heroin on the corners. Now look at it. I mean, there’s almost, you know, no parts of the city that you wouldn’t walk in.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, we would go to the Southwest Freeway a lot. It’s had $2 billion being spent on the wharf, a billion dollars being spent in the area of the Navy Yard, and that’s just a small part of Our Town. It’s happening in Anacostia too, Brian. We ride through there a lot. In fact, in Prince George’s County, too, which is part of Our Town. In fact, I remember Regardie. Regardie went to Prince George’s County one time and took Ed with him. Neither of them had any idea where they were on Route 450. It was a new world to them.
Brian Kelly: Right. It was like covering a foreign country. We had to discover it. You wondered if you had to get special inoculations when you were going across the river.
Andy Ockershausen: The political excitement now has just been crazy in Our Town.
Brian Kelly: Well, so that’s the national Washington, in that sense.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, but it affects us locally too, Brian.
Brian Kelly: Well, we’ll see. I think that’s a big question. Certainly the federal government’s shrinking and jobs are going to have an effect, but I think Washington is still an economic powerhouse that’s going to continue to no matter what. Whatever your politics, we’ll get through whatever the president is.
Andy Ockershausen: We’ve been up and down and the highs and lows. You know, I lived through all the riots when Nixon was in the White House. I’m watching that Vietnam War segment on PBS, and the riots we had in Our Town made what’s going on now plain. I mean, there was really some stuff. There were guns. I mean, incredible, what we’ve been through.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. It’s good to have some context and some history there. When Trump talks about the swamp, I say, “Gee, that’s me.” I am a swamp creature. I’ve been inside the Beltway for 30 years, and I’m proud of it.
Andy Ockershausen: You’re on high ground.
Brian Kelly: Well, I’m on high ground. I’m safe, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Chevy Chase.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, exactly.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, I wouldn’t say that it’s over, Brian. I think we’re still going to see a lot of changes. I’m not sure about the streetcar system. I grew up riding the streetcars. It was the greatest. People in Chicago rode the Loop or the El, right?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, the El.
Andy Ockershausen: We had streetcars. The transportation was wonderful. Now they’re talking about bringing them back. I don’t know where they’re going to put the tracks. There’s too many cars.
Brian Kelly: Yeah, that’s going to be one of the challenges for D.C., because I think it’s the kind of town where people do want to walk, they want to ride bikes. It’s very different that way, but what a tragedy that they pulled all those streetcar tracks 60 years ago.
Andy Ockershausen: You know what they did with them? A lot of them they used for superstructures and so forth. I mean, they cut up the steel. They were really good, they were valuable, and now we have nothing to run on but tires.
Brian Kelly, it’s been such a great, great thing to talk to and you see what you have done. You know, you created U.S. News & World Report. The young people now read you. I don’t know how to get it, but Janice knows, and you’ve made a whole new world for U.S. News.
U.S. News & World Report Editor
Brian Kelly: Well, we were the first big magazine to get out of print, and it was too bad. I mean, I love print, but in 2010, the media economy, with so many media companies, had really cratered, and we made a decision. We had a big online website presence and we said, “Well, it’s time to make the move,” so it’s been very successful for us. We’ve been fortunate. We had two million subscribers to the magazine. We now have 40 million unique readers a month.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s staggering.
Brian Kelly: They come to us for news, for politics, for colleges, what’s the best college, what’s the best car. I can sell you a car if you want, I’ve got great data on that, so it’s a whole different model.
Andy Ockershausen: The best colleges, I remember picking that up 30 years ago and looking at that when it was in print.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. It’s still the essential guide. You know, it’s one of the things we do. We’ve got hospitals, and I can find you a doctor in case you need an orthopedic surgeon.
Andy Ockershausen: People love that, correct?
Brian Kelly: It’s helpful. It’s useful. It’s always been useful information. You know, that’s what we’ve always done at U.S. News, News You Can Use.
Andy Ockershausen: The owner is still alive?
U.S. News & World Report Owner Mort Zuckerman
Brian Kelly: Mort Zuckerman is aging. You know, he’s been a great guy to work for over the years.
Andy Ockershausen: Wasn’t he involved in the Redskin deal at one time, the money?
Brian Kelly: Mort was Dan Snyder’s backer. Yeah, he backed Dan Snyder to get the team. Mort’s a Canadian. He loves sports but doesn’t really love football, and shortly thereafter, he said, “I’m getting out,” and sold his shares.
Andy Ockershausen: He got rid of it at one time. I recall the whole incident with Snyder back then because they had the guy’s name, Milstein or something from New York, and found out they were connected somewhere. You know what I mean? Dan ended up with the deal, but he didn’t have the money.
Brian Kelly: That’s right.
Andy Ockershausen: He had to bring in other people.
Brian Kelly: Mort had to support him.
Andy Ockershausen: I hope Mort saved his share, because it must be worth a fortune now. It’s $2.4 billion, I read.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. Mort does quite well.
Andy Ockershausen: He didn’t need the money?
Brian Kelly: Didn’t need the money, no.
Andy Ockershausen: They leave you alone at the magazine? How big is your staff now?
Brian Kelly: We’re about 350 now.
Andy Ockershausen: You used to be somewhere off of 21st Street, didn’t you?
Georgetown Home to U.S. News & World Report
Brian Kelly: Right, and now we’re in Georgetown. That was the ancestral home. Mort, you know, is a real estate developer, Boston Properties, which built a lot of buildings in Washington.
Andy Ockershausen: Was that his company, Boston Properties?
Brian Kelly: Boston Properties. He founded it, but when he bought the magazine in ’83, he also got the real estate. The Park Hyatt Hotel was the employee parking lot. I mean, he was very clever. He paid for the magazine with developing all that land there. We’ve been in Georgetown for 20 years. I’ve been at U.S. News for 20 years now.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, you moved across the bridge, as I say. You’ve got to be across the bridge to be in Georgetown, to me, correct?
Brian Kelly: Yeah. We’re on Thomas Jefferson right up from Washington Harbor, been there for 20 years, a great location.
J Ockershausen: We’re at 29th and M. We’re right around the corner.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. No, it’s a great spot. A lot of really great young people work for us, and they ride their bikes to work and they have lunch on the river. It’s a beautiful place.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, yeah. Georgetown’s booming too, but Georgetown made a mistake when they didn’t let the Metro come in there. The people that were the big powers in Georgetown … not on M Street, but as Bud Doggett would say, the people who live in the expensive area of Georgetown didn’t want no Metro.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. No, I think that was a mistake, because they really could use some transit there.
Andy Ockershausen: Can’t do anything about it now. Well, Brian Kelly, I can’t believe how great times have been, and you really make me think about the good days, but I tell people for Our Town, this is the good days.
Brian Kelly: It’s got to be, yep. Can’t look back. It’s fun to have a sense of history, as you say. I think that’s great, Andy, but we’re living still in exciting times and there’s a lot to get to.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, my. I’m waiting for the trial to start. People say, “What trial?” I say, “There’ll be a trial, don’t worry.” Somebody in the White House is going to get it before this is over, and we’re waiting for all that, Brian, so you’ve got a lot to look forward to. Will you cover that as the editor, go to the hearings? There’s going to be something, baby.
Brian Kelly: The great thing about being the editor is you can do anything you want. I feel like I’ve got a great ringside seat to history, so lots more to come.
Andy Ockershausen: Brian Kelly, you’ve done so much for Our Town, it’s so great, and continue to do it with U.S. News & World Report, and you have a retort, too. You all get even with people, don’t you? I love it, writers. Somebody said, “Never argue with a guy that buys ink by the gallon,” or the truckload, right?
Brian Kelly: Yeah. Now you buy pixels by the billions.
Andy Ockershausen: This has been a wonderful experience, and thank you so much, Brian Kelly, for what you have done for Our Town and what you will continue to do, and we hope that it’ll be for years and years and years, in spite of Regardie.
Brian Kelly: Thank you, Andy.
Andy Ockershausen: Brian, thank you, babe.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town Season 3 presented by GEICO. Our hometown favorite with your host Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. Drop us a line with your comments or suggestions. See us on Facebook or visit our website at ourtowndc.com. Our special thanks to Ken Hunter, our technical director and WMAL Radio in Washington DC for hosting our podcast. Thanks to GEICO. 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.