Brad Burlingame, 63, president and CEO of Visit West Hollywood for nearly two decades, died Dec. 8 of pancreatic cancer. Especially well-known and highly regarded in the California travel and tourism industry, his passing prompted an unusually poignant outpouring of expressions of sympathy and accounts of fond remembrances. More than 200 such expressions were posted on Facebook within days after his death.
While he was highly regarded in the California travel and tourism industry and a familiar figure at travel industry trade shows and on sales missions during which he marketed his destination and its tourism product with such success—he promoted West Hollywood as the “Creative City” and as hub of cultural and artistic activity in Los Angeles—he also had also been active as an actor, appearing occasionally in several TV series in the 1980s.
Burlingame was former chair of the California Travel Association and a past president of the Western Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (WACVB). He also served on the boards of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and was an honorary board member of the West Hollywood Design District. Before he joined Visit West Hollywood, Burlingame was vice president of marketing and sales for the Los Angeles-based Japanese Assistance Network, a firm specializing in the Japan travel market.
He was much sought after as a speaker, presenter or panelist at industry events. He was also sought after as a mentor, or for help and counsel. With numerous contacts developed during his lifetime in Los Angeles and California, he was able to refer individuals seeking help or advice to one or several of his many professional colleagues.
Burlingame experienced a deep personal tragedy on Sept. 11, 2001 when terrorists staged an attack within the United States. His brother, Charles “Chic” Burlingame III, was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, whose controls were hijacked by a group of terrorists who forced the plane to crash into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Following his brother’s death, Burlingame carried with him a leather pouch that contained a small piece of metal from the wreckage of his brother’s plane. He also did extensive research into the circumstances of the attack.
“Sometimes we encounter someone who by the very fact that we know them make us better people,” commented Jake Steinman, founder of NAJ. “Brad Burlingame was one of those people, which is clear from the (at last count) 263 tributes on his Facebook page, a surprising percentage of which mentioned that he was their mentor.”
Sorely missed, Brad Burlingame is survived by his wife, Diane McDavitt, and daughters Marta and Lora.