ABC News journalists offer recollections of their colleagues at CBS News, hit in a roadside attack in Baghdad. Paul Douglas and James Brolan were killed, while correspondent Kimberly Dosier remains in critical condition.
Foreign Correspondent Jim Sciutto recalls traveling with Brolan, who had also worked extensively for ABC News:
In television news, we meet people who are professional and who are fun, but I have never met someone who combined both so well, adding in a one-of-a-kind flair for performance.
James was, simply, hilarious. He made you laugh out loud -- and I'm talking gut-wrenching, painful laughter -- in the worst situations: an endless stint in Kabul, a dusty embed in the Kuwaiti desert, a long nerve-wracking stay in Baghdad.
He was at his best with children. Along with his audio mixer, he carried a repertoire of silly tricks wherever he traveled: the missing thumb trick, the faked high-five and -- my favorite -- the gorilla walk. I have a picture somewhere -- I'm killing myself that I can't find it -- of James performing the gorilla walk for dozens of enthralled Afghan kids on a desolate road somewhere between Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. In their faces, I remember seeing pure enjoyment and certainty they were watching their first certifiably insane white man. He made them and us happy, when it was truly difficult.
James was a self-proclaimed master of useless information. I still find myself quoting cocktail party facts, and then quietly remembering I heard them from James first. Obscure things, like the origin of marmalade (a curative treatment developed when Marie Antoinette was sick, or in French 'Marie malade') or the way his old military unit the Royal Green Jackets was the first British unit to give up bright red uniforms for more camouflaged green. He was also absolutely unbeatable at Scrabble. Silly stuff, but when you're riding in a military convoy or killing time in Baghdad, it is priceless entertainment.
I can assure you that the world of news is less warm, less happy, and less fun without James.
Correspondent Dan Harris recalls spending time overseas with the three CBS journliasts involved in the roadside attack.
Kimbery Dozier: I've worked side by side with Kimberly in Afghanistan, the West Bank and Iraq. she's consistently impressed me with her courage, doggedness and professionalism. These are difficult, dangerous places to work -- and Kimberly did so with both poise and style. Few push harder or stay longer than she does. It's been a treat to watch her rise at CBS in recent years. I have full faith, given her toughness and tenacity, that she'll pull through this -- and be back, beating me on stories, very soon.
Paul Douglas: He was one of those guys you meet, and then never forget. He was a bear of a man -- which made the fact that he was so friendly an enormous relief. I saw him just a few months ago in Iraq at a news conference. It was the first time I'd seen him in years. He remembered me straight away and we got to reminiscing. When you work overseas, you meet some real characters -- some of them pleasant, some of the not so much. Paul was a rare gem: a man who'd been all over the place, but who didn't flaunt a been-there-done-that attitude.
James Brolan: This is tough. We've had a lot of bad days here at ABC in the past year or so. James' death is another hard blow. Like so many people here at ABC, I spent many, many months working with James overseas. The first thing anyone who's worked with James will tell you is this: he was funny. Not just moderately funny, but outrageously, uproariously funny. Unfortunately for me, much of his humor was at my expense.
For example, we spent christmas together in Baghdad in 2003. His gift to me? In a clear jab at my diminutive stature, he went to the market and managed to find me a weightlifting guide … for 15-year-olds. I have so many memories of James, all of which came flooding back this morning when I was awoken by a call from my colleague Nick Watt, who told me about the attack. I remember playing long, grueling games of scrabble with james (he always won), drinking a beer after a long day, listening to music … and talking about his wife and two children. While james was always more than happy to make fun of people, when it came to his wife and kids, he openly displayed a very soft, sentimental side. In our last conversation (he called me when we were both in Baghdad recently), he told me that his son had started a band. He was incredibly proud."
ABC News Senior Producer Andrew Morse also worked with Brolan overseas, and recalls his colleague and friend:
James Brolan was a character, in the truest sense of the word.
He was exactly the kind of guy you wanted around, in just about every situation you can think of. "A walking good time," is perhaps the best way to describe him.
James was an excellent sound recordist who cared deeply about his work and took great pride in it. His skills made every team he ever worked on stronger, but the reason why I always wanted James by my side whenever I set off for a particularly difficult -- or a particularly fun assignment went far beyond his technical talents.
Quite simply, James had a way of sucking the tension out of any difficult situation. He was always quick with a joke, and when it came to his jokes, nothing was sacred. He could have a room full of people rolling on the floor, as he went around and poked fun at each one of us. But, he always did it with a tender touch, and there was no one James liked poking fun at more than himself.
Traveling with James was always a treat, especially on long plane rides. Whenever I would manage to fall asleep in my seat, James would invariably shake me awake, having managed to contort his face into some otherworldly gesture, with whatever props he could find -- he had a true gift for physical comedy, and he could have made a living doing impressions.
No matter where we were in the world, James had a gift for communicating with people. Every now and again, we'd lose sight of him, in a crowded bazaar or a teeming refugee camp, but we could always find him by looking for large circles of people. They'd congregate around James, as he played the ringmaster, making his thumb "disappear" as children squealed in delight, or taking digital photos and showing them to the crowd.
Although James and I spent quite a bit of time together working in unpleasant places like Iraq and Afghanistan, my fondest memories of him came when we spent two weeks trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp. The true dream assignment. James had a real sense of adventure, and was so excited for the trip he called me virtually every day for an entire week before we left to tell me about all the gear he was packing.
Throughout our trip, James struck up a particularly close relationship with the Sherpa guides who led us up the mountain. They spoke little English, but that didn't stop James from giving each one a nickname, from "Nails," an old man who was tough as nails, to "Bubba," who simply looked like he could be called "Bubba." He spent most of his time delighting them with his funny faces and his impressions of the rest of us.
When we finally made it to Base Camp, the first thing James did, as the rest of us reached for our canteens, was light up a cigarette. He had been chain smoking most of the way up the mountain, to all of our amusement, trying to convince us all that his lungs were actually superior in the thinner air because of his smoking. So, as we all sucked for air, he smoked his cigarette, proclaiming that he must have been the first man to smoke at Everest Base Camp.
Most of all, when I think of James Brolan, I think of Scrabble. He had a true passion for the game, and carried one along with his sound equipment wherever he went. He said he didn't study, but I never believed him -- he had a gift of coming up with obscure two letter words using Qs and Xs that was just infuriating to an opponent. James even started up the "Association for Frontline Scrabble Players," appointing himself as commissioner, of course, and overseeing games in war zones and odd, out of the way places. In all the times we played, and in all the different countries, I never did beat him.
I'll miss James a great deal, but I'll smile when I think of all the joy he brought to so many people. He was an excellent soundman, a true friend, a crackerjack Scrabble player, and a wonderful traveling companion. But most of all, he was just a character.