With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gerry Brooks Chats With Sad City

Gerry Brooks has been a fixture on the Hartford news scene since 1974. We remember growing up watching Gerry and his segment "The Brooks File" on Channel 3. Today Gerry is still covering Connecticut news over at NBC and has his own blog.

We were very excited when Gerry became the first celebrity commenter on Sad City and since then he has become a multi-time commenter and Hot In Hartford contestant.

Gerry was nice enough to give us some time and answer some questions about career. Interview after the jump.

1)    From our research it appears that you grew up and went to college in Massachusetts and came to Hartford shortly after graduating from UMass in 1974. Tell us how you got that first job. Had you been to Hartford before?   

I got an internship at WPOP when I was a senior at UMass.  It wasn't easy commuting between Amherst and Newington during my last semester while trying to enjoy all the "experiences" being a senior had to offer.  I was familiar with Hartford because my father's sister and her family lived in Newington, and we made the trip once or twice a year.  I can still hear my father saying, "We have to leave early because there's always road construction in Connecticut."  Some things never change.     

2) So it was 1974 when you came to Hartford. At that time how long did you think you would be here. If we told 1974 Gerry Brooks that 2011 Gerry Brooks would still be working in Hartford what would he say?

He'd say he knew he was in the right place from the get-go because many buildings in Hartford at the time were spray painted "GB #1."  That may have stood for the Ghetto Brothers street gang, but I preferred to think it was for me.

3) From your blog The Brooks File, it looks pretty clear that you currently do not live in Hartford. Have you ever lived in the city limits? If so, what parts of town?

I've lived in a number of the 'burbs, but never in the city.  But for extra credit, let me point out that I married a South End girl 30 years ago.  She went to Our Lady of Sorrows and South Catholic.  Lived on Hamilton St., Sisson Avenue, and Ansonia St.  So there.

4) What are some of the craziest things that have happened while you were on the air? Have you ever been live and totally lost it on air?

1.  The last time I broke out laughing was reading a story of a robbery suspect who disappeared into thin air.  Then I saw his mug shot, and the guy weighed 450 pounds.  Disappeared into thin air?  Cracked me up.

2. Gayle King lost it while I was reading an obit for the singer Johnnie Ray, and as they say, laughter is infectious.

3.  I got caught smoking once.  Got rid of the cigarette in time, but forgot to blow out the smoke.  I read a story while watching smoke gently waft out of my mouth.  Fortunately, boss wasn't paying attention.

4.  Doing a live shot at Bradley.  Bad weather was causing holiday delays, so I picked out someone who really looked like she wanted to be on TV.  I asked where she was going, and she said something I couldn't make out.  When I asked her to repeat it, she said, "I'm deaf!"  Oh.

5) Did you have any idea that Bill O’Reilly and Gayle King would go onto such national, albeit wacky careers? Did you hang out with them and drink Schlitz?

You couldn't pick two people more different.  Even in 1980, we referred to O'Reilly as "The Pope" in the newsroom, because he might have liked us to genuflect in his presence.  Smart guy, though, and he's parlayed that into whatever the hell he is now.  As for Gayle, she really is one of the nicest people I've ever met and worked with.  We laughed a lot, and never had a bad day working together.  Her friendship with what'shername is the real thing, and no, they're not lesbians.  By the way, I know you liked my earlier Schlitz reference, but that was my beer of choice in high school.  Between Schlitz and Bud, I was a Schlitz guy.  Between the Tops and the Tempts, I was a Tops guy.  Loved Levi Stubbs.

6) We’ve been told that in the 1970’s through mid 1980’s Hartford had a quite vibrant downtown scene for young professionals. Can you confirm this? What were some of your favorite hangouts back then? What were the best dive bars to throw back some Schlitz?

By then, I had graduated to Jack.  Rocks.  And yes, we had a ball in downtown Hartford in the 80's.  Zero's was the bar at the Hotel Sonesta, and we couldn't get to the parking garage without walking past the window of the bar.  And there was always someone to wave you in.  I remember a club called Lorien that we frequented for a while.  And there was Hubbard's Park, which is where Vito's is now.

7) When did you first start reading Sad City? What are some of your favorite Sad City posts? How have blogs, Facebook and Twitter changed the way local news is covered?

I started reading Sad City when I saw Jenna Carlesso's story in the Courant.  I was pleasantly surprised by the substance that goes with the attitude.  And it's clear you guys love the city.  I blog mostly for daily therapy and/or my own amusement.  From a news standpoint, Facebook is valuable for background on certain kinds of newsmakers, and Twitter is where it's at for breaking news.  Having said that, you still have to fact-check what's out there.  It is dangerously easy to ruin lives on the internet and through social media.

8) What year was it your decided to shave your mustache? Is their any truth to the rumor that Hilton Kaderli was insanely jealous that he couldn’t grow a mustache that would measure up to yours?

In the mid-eighties, my boss at Ch.3 asked if I'd cut off my mustache.  I said, "Sure.  If you'll cut off your (figure it out)."  In 2007, my wife and I went to Argentina on vacation, and on the 11.5 hour plane ride down, I broke the news to her that I was ready to shave.  She'd never seen me without the mustache, so it was semi-traumatic.  Somehow we survived, and the 'stache went down the drain in room 1204 of the Four Seasons Hotel in Buenos Aires.  As for Hilton, he had that cute Midland, TX drawl, so he didn't need facial hair.

9) What news events during your career do you think have had the biggest effect on Hartford either positively or negatively?

In my time, the Civic Center roof collapse, after which Hartford displayed a "can do" attitude and rebounded nicely.  The departure of the Whalers was a tough one.  As Joni sang, "You don't know what you've got til its gone."  Mike Peters was a huge upper until he wasn't, and Eddie Perez turned into a huge downer.  But as far as I'm concerned, the big and ongoing story is education.  We need consistency and continuity in the Hartford school system, and we've never had it.  Until Hartford kids are properly motivated and educated, the city is going to have problems.

10) Probably because of his unique name we have been unable to locate the whereabouts of 1980’s Channel 3 sports anchor Dave Smith. He wasn’t moonlighting as a relief pitcher for the Houston Astros was he?

No, that Dave Smith died a couple of years ago.  Hell of a reliever, too.  As a matter of fact, we had dinner with Ch.3's Dave Smith last week.  His is alive and quite well and still in the area.

(Ed. Note: Yes, that Dave Smith had a nasty heater. He is immortalized on R.B.I. Baseball for those curious. As far as the other Dave Smith, wish him well for us. We used to wait through the whole broadcast for NHL and MLB scores from Dave).

11) Where do you hang out in Hartford these days? What bar can we find you at and buy you a cold Schlitz?

I am not a "see and be seen" type.  I do most of my drinking at home where it's safest.  But if you're looking for me on a Friday night after work, I might be at the Corner Pug in Elmwood with the gang.  We have a good bunch at NBC CT.

Sad City Hartford would live to thank Gerry for his time. Check out his blog here or follow him on Twitter here.


  1. This is a great interview, thanks Hakaan and GB!

  2. I enjoyed seeing a 'human side' to this talking head I have watched many years. Tonight (3/3/11) on Bill O'Reilly's program they will be showing old clips of him reporting for Channel 3, in Hartford, in front of the Civic Center.

  3. I got my first electronic cigarette kit at VistaVapors, and I enjoy it a lot.