Tributes poured out over the weekend for Robby Browne, a beloved force of nature who was so many things to so many it’s hard to offer just one label – brilliant Manhattan real estate agent, LGBTQ philanthropist, competitive diver, drag aficionado, connector of hundreds, legendary part host, and lover of life. And we could go on… Browne succumbed over the weekend to COVID-19 complications after a valiant battle with cancer. He was 73
Wrote GLAAD (Browne was a board member) in a tribute to his accomplishments: “Browne leveraged his significant success in business to support many LGBTQ organizations and causes. He was proud of who he was and deeply cared for others, so Browne dedicated much of his life to fighting for a world where everyone could have the opportunity to be proud of themselves. More than 30 years ago, he started the annual Toys Party in his living room with homemade eggnog. The event, which he co-hosted since its beginning, has grown into a 2,500 person highly anticipated LGBTQ holiday fundraiser. Through the event, Browne has donated tens of thousands of toys to children in need and raised millions of dollars for SAGE, an organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ elderly people. He launched the event during the AIDS crisis as a way to bring gay men together during the holidays outside of bars. Browne once wrote about why he started the event: “I knew that so many of us had love in our hearts and wanted to have a family in the traditional way but were dealt different cards in that we were gay. I remember so well the joy in people’s eyes greeting me as the host and showing me what toy they had gotten and what it meant to them.” He appeared on the TODAY Show multiple times over the years to feature some of the donated toys. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Whoopi Goldberg, Don Lemon, and Mariska Hargitay are among the notables who attended and spoke at the Toys Party over the years. The event captured Robbie’s spirit and his trademark charm as it welcomed thousands of diverse LGBTQ New Yorkers who wished each other happy holidays, laughed, and connected, all while raising attention and donations for significant causes. Browne has participated on the Board of Directors of GLAAD and was an active contributor to Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), ACT UP, Hetrick-Martin Institute, and God’s Love We Deliver. He also participated in mentorship programs that paired New Yorkers with low-income young people.”
GLAAD added: “During times when the closet was the norm, Browne refused to be anything but out, loud, and unabashedly proud. In 1994, Browne helped friend and Olympic diver Greg Louganis publicly come out during the opening ceremonies of the Gay Games IV in New York. That year, Browne also went on to medal in his own diving division during the Gay Games. A kiss between him and his friend Louganis became one of the first gay kisses to air on mainstream news.”
There’s much more on GLAAD’s site.
The real estate site The Real Deal noted Browne’s career accomplishments: “Over a career that spanned more than three decades, he built a star-studded roster of clients including Hilary Swank, Uma Thurman and Jon Bon Jovi. In 2014, he sold billionaire Jon Stryker’s penthouse at 50 Central Park West for $42 million. That deal and others earned him an arsenal of accolades through the decades — Corcoran’s deal of the year, broker of the year and top sales team of the year awards on multiple occasions. He sold $218 million worth of real estate in 2018, placing 25th on Real Trends’ broker ranking last year. Browne left Corcoran for Brown Harris Stevens in late 2014 but returned in the summer of 2015.”
As did his firm, Corcoran, which published this tribute:
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Today is a difficult, heartbreaking day for our Corcoran family as we learn of the passing of our very own Robby Browne. To know Robby was to love him. He was a light that shined brightly — not only at Corcoran but across our industry, and to all who had the opportunity to meet him. As we grieve this immeasurable loss, our thoughts and love are with his family, friends, and all of those close to Robby Browne.
Don Lemon, a close friend of Browne’s, offered his own tribute (in two parts, scroll).
On a personal note, Browne was a longtime friend of mine. He will be dearly missed by so many.