Braden Keil, a prince of the New York Post newsroom and the city’s greatest real-estate scoop artist, died Tuesday night, at the age of 53. The cause was complications from melanoma.
Yesterday at the Post‘s Sixth Avenue newsroom in midtown, the loss was palpable.
Mr. Keil sat along with the Page Six crew, and tears were shed all day. Bill Hoffman, Mr. Keil’s office neighbor, broke down into tears the second he walked into the office; it was not an easy day in the usually hard-charging and cheerful bullpen.
“He was the nicest, friendliest guy in the world,” said Mr. Hoffman. “I would come in totally depressed and bummed and within a minute or two he’d have me laughing. I never saw him without a smile on his face or without something nice to say—never, ever, ever, ever.”
Mr. Keil, who lived on the Upper West Side, wrote a weekly Thursday residential real estate column for the Post called Gimme Shelter. He filed items for Page Six, worked as a gossip reporter for The Washington Times and he told an old colleague that he ran for Congress—as a Republican—in the late 1980′s.
He inhabited the world that he wrote about every day, and he looked the role: He was a dapper fellow, with a strict clothing code of a blue blazer with gold buttons, loafers, and no socks. Every day.
“He didn’t look like a dude, he looked like a gentleman,” said Leonard Steinberg, a broker at Douglas Elliman. “There was an elegance about him. He looked like a writer as well.”
“We used to call him ‘Skippy!’” said Page Six’s Paula Froelich.
After work, he was often to be found at Langan’s, the Post’s quitting-time bar, quite possibly the only one to regularly order a glass of Chardonnay there.
“He was a foodie, we had that in common,” said Wendy Maitland, a broker at Brown Harris Stevens. “In fact, the last dinner we had together was at BLT Prime with Andy Wang, the editor of the real estate section. We marveled at the popovers, as always. We ate those, we had steak, chicken, salads. We had probably ten things on the menu. And lots of wine! He loved wine. I mean, I think he had a cocktail and then wine, but we talked about wine and his love of wine.”
“He’d hobnob with chefs and socialites all day, and then with Donald Trump in a yacht and then he’d turn in at the Siberia bar at 3 a.m. and hang out,” said Chris Wilson, the deputy editor at Maxim, who worked with Mr. Keil for years at the Post.
At work, his desk was a popular landing pad—particularly for the ladies in the office.
“If you were having a bad day or feeling like you gained an extra 50 pounds, he could make you feel better,” said Paula Froelich, a Page Six companion who sat in the same area as Mr. Keil.
“He had a way with the ladies!” said Richard Johnson, the Page Six editor and close friend.
“He was a badass guy, just a cool guy,” said Mr. Wilson. “Women loved him. Charming. Preppy. Just a straight-up character.”
He always had stories.
“One time we were drinking at Langan’s and he was telling me this surreal story about, he was with Fawn Hall, or Marla Maples? And he was hanging at her house and then the phone rings and this guy says, ‘Hey is she there?’ And Braden said, ‘Uh, who is this?’ And it was John Kerry.”
“A lot of time someone’s name would come up and he’d say, ‘I used to date her!’” said Mr. Johnson. “It became a joke after a while so anytime any woman came up in the news, we’d turn to him and ask if he ever dated her.”
“He had the best stories!” said Ms. Froelich.
Can you tell us one?
“No, ’cause I’d be sued for slander by the Kennedys. Let’s just say Ted Kennedy and a hot tub was involved.”
“I definitely remember us going out late one night and we went to Bungalow 8,” said Mr. Wilson. “And we were there probably until dawn. And then we both worked the next day at 10 a.m.”
And once he got there, he excelled. (He seemed like insurmountable competition to a long string of Manhattan Transfers reporters for this newspaper.) His particular art was to find out what was happening with New York City’s richest and most famous as they navigated their way through the co-op boards and vanity condominium projects that, as the years went on, only seemed to multiply.
In 2007, he broke the story that Bon Jovi had inked a $26 million deal for the penthouse in the New Museum.
“He knew about the deal before I did, it was really miraculous,” said Mr. Steinberg, the broker on the deal. “He was on top of his game and I had to deny everything repeatedly but somehow he found out everything he needed, with or without my help.”
“The one thing I will never forget about Braden was his detective skills,” said Wilbur Gonzalez of Brown Harris Stevens in an email. “He never ceased to amaze me on how he got his info! I still remember so clearly (literally 10 years ago) taking Jennifer Lopez into a loft on Reade Street at 1 a.m. to avoid any drama (she was with Ben Affleck at the time). We did a super-quick quiet deal. Before they even moved in, Braden was calling me asking why she chose Reade Street. I was floored. We hadn’t even countersigned and he knew! No counter signature meant that we hadn’t even processed paperwork where a back office or attorney could have leaked it. I just couldn’t understand how he did it. It was truly amazing.”
And he knew how to pull it out of you.
“He tried to extrude information and you’d say, ‘Braden I can’t say anything about it!’” said Mr. Steinberg. “But somehow he’d find out, but he was always a gentleman about it.”
“There was one piece of information, actually about Madonna,” said Ms. Maitland, the broker. “His paparazzi had caught me in a photo, and he was just looking for confirmation, which I wouldn’t give him, but because his people were there, they had the address. And I wouldn’t give any information and I said to him, ‘Braden, if you have a compassionate bone in your body, please don’t print this address, because it will preclude this person from ever living a normal life.’ And he said, ‘I get that.’”
Mr. Keil is survived by his wife, Jennifer Gould Keil, and his children, Braden Lewis, 5, Kaitlin Rose, 3, and Kourtney Lee, 21.
“He was a total pussycat when it came to his kids,” said Mr. Hoffman. “When you’re a reporter on the job, it just envelops you and it’s generally your partner that takes care of the kids. He was hands-on all the way, both he and Jennifer.”
“He had this great apartment, kids, he dressed great, it was like, uh, what kind of salary are you making over there?” said Mr. Wilson. “His family must have been kind of wealthy or something, but it’s like he did this for fun. He lived like a millionaire and he acted like one in the best possible way.”
Just over two weeks ago, on Mr. Keil’s 53rd birthday, Richard Johnson and Bill Hoffman from Page Six joined Mrs. Keil and the real estate broker Dolly Lenz at his hospital room at Memorial Sloan-Kettering hospital.
“He wanted to get in his wheelchair and he wanted us to take a ride with him,” said Mr. Hoffman, laughing. “We said we were going to kidnap him for a couple of cocktails at Langan’s. And he was definitely all ready to have a glass of wine.”
To pay homage to Mr. Keil, a group of Posties gathered last night at—where else?—Langan’s.
“Braden would have wanted it that way, he wouldn’t have wanted any sadness,” said Mr. Hoffman. “He’d want everyone to drink to his name, tell a few stories and have a few laughs. There was no sadness whatsoever. He was a joy to life.”
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