Bill Brubaker generally works on stories that entail extra digging, but don't call him an investigative reporter. "The term's redundant," he says. "If a reporter doesn't dig, he isn't doing his job."
Brubaker sharpened his inquisitive-ness early. He started at the Hollywood, Fla. Sun-Tattler in 1972 and moved in '73 to The Miami News, where his beat was high school sports. In one story there Brubaker revealed that a state champion basketball team had four ineligible starters. In another he reported that a Fort Lauderdale lawyer was coaxing kids into signing retainers in hopes that they would become pro athletes. He doubled as Newsweek's Miami stringer in those days, interviewing Anita Bryant and Haitian President for Life Jean-Claude Duvalier. "That was my toughest interview ever," says Brubaker. "He said absolutely nothing of substance. Then, as I was leaving, he asked, 'How old are you?' I said, 'Twenty-six.' He said, 'Ah, we're the same age! This is a wonderful generation!' "
Baby Doc still runs Haiti, but Brubaker, now 33, has moved around. After leaving Miami for a three-year stint with the New York Daily News, he joined SI as a special contributor in 1983. His specialty is the behind-the-scenes report, whether it's a late-breaking story on a sports drug pipeline (SI, Jan. 21) or this week's profile of a troubled athlete like basketball star Micheal Ray Richardson (page 58). His method doesn't vary: "I went at both stories the same way. I don't interpret; I just try to find out what happened."
This curiosity extends to the world's far reaches. "When I was 11, my mother took my sister and me on a cruise to Nassau," he remembers. "Ever since, I've been fascinated by different cultures and life-styles." First he traveled to the Caribbean and then thrice to Asia, thrice to Africa and five or six times to South America. He began to collect things: carpets from India and Nepal; batiks from Sri Lanka and Uganda; a stone deity head from Cambodia. The marionettes seen here were used nearly a century ago in Burmese puppet shows.
February 4, 1985
Bill's wife, Freddi, doesn't mind his collecting—she knew long ago what she was in for. In the summer of 1977, a year after they met, she accompanied him on one of his jaunts. "We went to Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt and the Seychelles islands," Bill says. That sounds like a match made in heaven, but it was actually made in quite a different place. "That summer we were sitting in a bar at the Akwa Palace Hotel in Douala, Cameroon during a major rainstorm. We were waiting it out, having a couple of French beers, and we decided to get married." They did, in '78.
While Bill is being professionally inquisitive, Freddi works a challenging beat of her own. She's a registered nurse in the emergency ward of Bellevue Hospital, considered one of the busiest trauma centers in the world. Tough work, as is her husband's. Which means that though their junkets are always new and exciting, the Brubakers take their vacations the old-fashioned way. They earn them.