NY doctor who treated celebs and correspondents dies

Posted June 23, 2011, at 9:49 p.m.

BRONXVILLE, N.Y. — Dr. Donald Brandon, a World War II combat veteran and longtime Manhattan internist whose patients included Marlon Brando, Tennessee Williams and a long line of foreign correspondents, has died at age 84.

Brandon, who lived in Bronxville, died June 15 of heart failure at nearby Lawrence Hospital, his son, Richard, said Thursday.

Brandon was medical director to The Associated Press for many years, and his son remembered many mealtimes interrupted by phone calls from reporters abroad.

“If one of the people at AP were to call from some remote outpost and have some exotic tropical disease, my father would stay on the phone for hours and make sure he was getting the right treatment,” Richard Brandon said.

Donald Brandon was also an official physician to the United Nations, his son said, and counted Secretary General U Thant among his patients and close friends. The doctor told friends of his pride in accompanying Thant as his personal physician on an overseas trip.

Brandon was born in Memphis, Tenn., the son of touring vaudevillians, and grew up on the road. After his parents’ death, he would occasionally serve as an assistant in his sister’s magic act or a bass player in her band.

Brandon attended more than a dozen schools before starting college.

His education was interrupted by the war, and he served with the U.S. Army in the South Pacific, his son said.

Afterward, he graduated from the University of Denver and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He established his New York practice and worked until 2008.

Brandon was married to Janet E. Brandon for 48 years until her death in 2009. He then married Joyce Brandon, who survives him. He is also survived by his son Richard, of Rye; a daughter, Leslie Brandon, of Fleischmanns; and seven grandchildren. One son, Donald Jr., died earlier.

With his show business and medical connections, Brandon became friends with many celebrities including Brando, Williams, Lenny Bruce and explorer Thor Heyerdahl, his son said.

Darrell Christian, editor at large at the AP and a patient for 25 years, said Brandon “was a throwback to the days of the old-fashioned country doctor, except that his office was in middle of the biggest city in the country. … He relied on common sense and experience as much as medical journals.”

When the AP’s foreign correspondents returned to New York on leave, Brandon’s office was a mandatory stop for a checkup and whatever inoculations were called for.

“From listening to all his stories, I think he secretly would have rather been a journalist than a doctor,” Christian said. “He relished his association with the AP.”

 

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