Sallie Brady, a magazine writer who died recently in a Ramsey, N.J., house fire, once drew Hollywood’s interest with her single-girl tale of trying to snag a congressman.
Although her orbit was the hectic New York publishing world — she planned to be in London this month on assignment for Art & Antiques magazine — the 47-year-old widow relished the quiet life in Bergen County, N.J., riding horses and taking strolls with her toy poodle, Theodore.
For a few months in 1995, the journalist known then as Sallie Motsch traveled in a decidedly glitzier circle.
Freelancing for Washingtonian magazine, she set out to land dates with all the bachelors in the House of Representatives’ freshman class. Her goal: finding a “member of the House who was looking for a home.”
The only unmarried Democratic freshman, Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island, said no thanks, but five Republicans were game, including South Carolina’s Lindsey O. Graham, now a powerful senator.
“He doesn’t look like a congressman,” she wrote. “Where’s the self-conscious poise? Standing about 5 foot 8, he has ivory skin, pale blue eyes, and graying brown hair. His plain face transforms when he smiles. You might not notice this man in a crowd until he opens his mouth. Graham’s tongue is fast and bold.”
After lunch at a barbecue joint, Graham invited her to see the Capitol Hill townhouse he shared with another lawmaker. She made note of the Cheerios box and half-eaten loaf of Pepperidge Farm whole-wheat bread on the kitchen counter.
“I’d take you upstairs,” the congressman said, “but there’s a lot of underwear on the floor.”
The 9,000-word opus, titled “How to Date a Congressman,” caused a sensation, even if her dates failed to lead to a relationship. She signed a deal with 20th Century Fox for the rights to the story. Jennifer Aniston was being talked about as the star. But the story never reached the screen. The Monica Lewinsky sex scandal was breaking and the timing just wasn’t right, said Sallie’s mother, Susan Motsch.
Mrs. Brady, who had studied journalism at Northwestern University, took the disappointment in stride.
“She never expressed any kind of sadness or regret that it wasn’t made into a film,” said Kevin Doyle, a close friend since college. “She may have felt it, but she was just grateful the story generated the interest it did.”
Mrs. Brady died of smoke inhalation in a May 29 fire that Ramsey authorities say was caused by a faulty dishwasher. Her poodle survived and is in the care of neighbors.
James Brady, her husband of 14 years, died 16 months ago at 78. The two had met at a midtown Manhattan saloon popular with the publishing crowd. James, a golf-loving widower 32 years older than Sallie, was tending bar.
The two bonded over their shared Irish heritage. She had three Irish grandparents, and her husband was a native of County Cavan.
“It wasn’t what we would have preferred,” her mother said, referring to the age difference. “But we liked Jimmy very much, and Sallie was very happy.”
She wrote for Conde Nast Traveler, Veranda, Brides, Arts & Antiques and other lifestyle magazines during her career as a freelancer. Her subjects ranged from “the best hotels you never heard of” to the boldly colorful estate jewelry of the ’60s and ’70s, to English landscape paintings.
— Record of Hackensack, N.J.