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The Cool Secret Steve Jobs Asked My Friend Gary To Keep

I’m sad today like millions of others, that the top inventor of our time, Steve Jobs, has died.

I feel very lucky that I got to interview Steve Jobs for an article I wrote early in my career (I can remember how excited I got when he called me directly to chat!). I more recently got to ask Steve and Bill Gates a question about entrepreneurship (see Bill Gates, Steve Jobs & Me).

But, I have a cooler Steve Jobs item to tell you about.

I want to share a story that Steve Jobs asked my friend Gary Brickman to keep secret years ago.

This is my old buddy Gary Brickman at CMP's/TechWeb's China Basin, San Francisco offices circa 1997 -- Steve Jobs asked him to keep a cool secret.


Gary was an incredible individual who was, among other things, a master of the early Internet and media (mostly at CMP Media/TechWeb) — he passed away June 26, 2000.

You should check out the cool site that was dedicated to him at (thanks Matt Jalbert).

The Story Of The Steve Jobs Secret

The Steve Jobs/Gary Brickman secret story is really rather simple.

Gary suffered from brittle-bone disease which left him in a wheel chair unable to use his legs.

As you can see from the photo above, Gary had little problem using his hands (that’s a marker he’s tossing David Letterman style).

Anyway, Gary and Steve had some friends in common.

Steve heard that Gary was having struggles with transportation — tough to get around in a car or bike without working legs!

Steve bought him a van, fully equipped with gas and breaks that could be operated by hand.

Those who know Gary know that he was rarely found without the van close by. He practically lived in the thing.

In fact, the first sign that Gary had died was that his van hadn’t moved for a few days — and it wasn’t like Gary to not be cruising around in it!

Anyway, the one condition Steve gave for buying Gary the van was that Gary wouldn’t ever tell anyone that it was “Steve Jobs” who bought the van.

Gary did tell me about it of course. And I’m now telling you.

It’s very cool to do something because it’s the right thing to do…and not for public accolade.

Steve Jobs was cool…and so was Gary.


  • Gayle K.

    well, then, I actually rode in the van Steve Jobs purchased for Gary on one of my trips out to SF during my time at TechWeb.

  • Rob Kelly

    Right on, Gayle!

  • Edward Grossman

    Nice story Rob!

  • Linda

    What a wonderful, cool story – about BOTH of them.  It’s just simply beautiful.  Thank you!

  • Jeff Pundyk

    Rob, you kept that secret a lot better than Gary did.  but then, he  was designed to spill secrets, not keep them.

  • David Fox

    Memories, memories flooding back! What a trooper that Gary was!

  • Rob Kelly

    So nice to hear all the Gary Brickman love, people. Cool to see David Fox and Jeff Pundyk in the same place — it’s been awhile! 

  • Mitch York

    Rob, an amazing little story. Hadn’t thought about Gary in a long time. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Rob Kelly

    Yes, it’s cool to see how many people are coming out of the woodwork for the little man in the chair! When I think of what gadgets Gary would have if he were alive today, I wouldn’t be surprised if his wheelchair was made by Apple!

  • Rob Kelly

    I’m reading “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson and they mention that his sister  (writer Mona Simpson) depicts Jobs in the title character of her novel A Regular Guy as making a generous overture to a character that sounds like Gary Brickman:

    “It depicts Jobs’s quiet generosity to, and purchase of a special car for, a brilliant friend who had degenerative bone disease…”  (it’s in chapter 21 and on page 830 of my iBooks version of the book).

  • You sir, are awesome!


    I’ve been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this blog. Thank you, I will try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your website?…