Herb Brin, one of the most colorful writers and editors in the annals of Los Angeles Jewish journalism, died of congestive heart failure on Feb. 6 at the Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda.
His death came 11 days before his 88th birthday and shortly after he completed his autobiography, pecked out, like countless exposes, features and editorials, with two fingers on a manual typewriter. For some 45 years, from the mid-1950s to the end of the 20th century, Brin was the editor-publisher of the Heritage weeklies in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and the Central Valley.
He "was the last of the old-time Front Page newspapermen, absolutely committed to every cause he felt just," said his youngest son, Daniel J. Brin, who worked at his father's side for 25 years, succeeded him as editor and, with his brothers, supplied most of the material for this obituary.
Amidst deadlines, soliciting ads and even printing his weeklies, Brin authored six books of poetry and two books on post-Holocaust Germany, based on his frequent travels.
In some respects, Brin was a throwback to the mid-19th century editors of the Wild West, whose newspapers were an extension of their personal passions and prejudices, and who settled differences of opinion with horsewhips and six-shooters.
His overriding passion was for Israel, which he visited countless times, and in whose capital city he was buried earlier this week. He battled real -- and sometimes perceived -- enemies, or even lukewarm supporters, of Israel and the Jewish people, with every fiber of his being and applied the same passion, and often blunt language, to a long list of causes, from civil rights to conservancy of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Never a very astute businessman, he fought bitterly against The Jewish Federation and the realities of a corporate society to maintain his chain of community papers, but, at his death, only the San Diego Heritage, under different ownership, has survived. Brin was born in Chicago of immigrant parents and cut his journalistic teeth at his birthplace's fabled City News Bureau, immortalized in Ben Hecht's "The Front Page."
After World War II Army service, Brin moved to Los Angeles and found his niche as a lively feature writer of oddball human interest stories at the Los Angeles Times.
In 1954, with a wife and three small sons, Brin quit The Times, mortgaged his home and started the Los Angeles Heritage as a 12-page weekly.
He continued to write occasionally for his old paper and covered the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem for the Los Angeles Times. Throughout the years, Heritage published his investigations of white supremacy and neo-Nazi organizations, his early meetings with Soviet Jews, and his picketing of the 1979 Oscar ceremonies to protest an award to British actress Vanessa Redgrave, a PLO sympathizer.
Elie Wiesel, who learned of Brin's death while traveling in Europe, said, "Herb and I were very close. He was a great editor and a superb poet. All those who knew him will miss him."
Brin was married and divorced three times. He is survived by his sons, Stan, a business reporter; David, a bestselling author of science fiction novels; and Daniel, an editor; and six grandchildren.
On Sunday, a memorial service at the Jewish Home for the Aging, with Rabbis Louis Felman and William Kramer officiating, honored Brin's life and work.
To learn more about Herb Brin, sample his autobiography, or to offer condolences, visit www.davidbrin.com/herbbrin.html .
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