David Bromfield would have been amazed by the turnout at his funeral. In the last few months of his life, when he knew his cancer was terminal, he was genuinely astounded by the letters, emails and personal visits that opened his eyes to how well-liked he was.
"I thought people saw me as a cynical bastard," he told a friend a few days before he died in February, aged 67. "I didn’t realise they liked me."
Dave — who was to become one of Fleet Street’s most successful showbiz freelances — came from a tough background in south-east London, then in the thrall of the notorious Richardson criminal gang. But partly thanks to a grammar school education he saw a way out of the world around him and vowed to make a respectable career. Sadly, that didn’t work out, so he settled for journalism.
After National Service in the Royal Artillery, he became a trainee reporter on the Kentish Mercury, graduating to the East Anglian Daily Times and then to the Daily Herald as a sub. He moved on to magazines, spending 15 years on Weekend in its paid-for, 1.5 million selling days, becoming chief sub despite writing headlines such as: "Does coffee perk you later?"
Following the editorship of IPC’s Titbits came a dispiriting spell at Woman’s Own, when he complained of meetings discussing such topics as Is red the new black?, Does broccoli reduce wrinkles? and whether it was time to do another piece about periods. So he quit to go freelance as a showbiz writer. That was when the red-tops, led by the News of the World and The Sun, were paying massive fees for showbiz exposés.
Dave was an effortless charmer and a natural flirt. He didn’t work at it and he seemed barely aware of it. He simply liked and was interested in people.
Always interested in movies and acting, he soon found that stars with an upcoming film or TV series to promote would gladly agree to an interview. And with his natural talent for building a rapport, they sometimes told him more than they intended.
Once, when he strolled into The Sun with another exclusive, Kelvin MacKenzie announced: "Here comes Fleet Street’s richest man."
But with the birth of satellite TV, Rupert Murdoch needed to fund his entry into the medium and tightened spending across his papers. Relieved, the other papers also cut back. Dave knew the game was up and was in the fortunate position of being able to retire in his early 50s.
He started playing tennis again: it had always been his great love, as long as he was winning. He devoted himself to his family, his wife Jacqui and their children Martin and Catherine.
Dave valued old friends and kept in touch with his former colleagues at reunions and long Fleet Street-style lunches.
His party piece was as a brilliant crooner. In his late 20s, after singing Moon River in a south London pub, he was offered a contract by a record company talent scout. Realising that singing fame would mean having hacks like him laying bare his private life, he declined.
Last July, Dave was still bounding across the tennis court. In October he was diagnosed with cancer. But he never lost his sense of humour.
His last months were, he maintained, some of the best of his life as he realised how much people liked and cared for him.