August R. Brown, Model, Free Diver

Nov. 12, 1929 - April 6, 2018

August R. Brown, a model, a veteran of the Army’s 101st airborne division, and the owner of the Pirate’s Den discotheque in Montauk in the 1960s, died of heart failure at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on April 6. 

Mr. Brown, who was known as Augie, was born on Nov. 12, 1929, in Cleveland to August Raymond Brown and Ruth Ingalls. After spending his childhood in Garfield Heights, Ohio, and attending Bowling Green State University, where he was a member of the swim team, he joined the Army and served as a physical training instructor while stationed at Fort Slocum in the Bronx. Afterward, with help from the G.I. Bill, he went on to receive a master’s degree in economics from Columbia University. 

Blessed with rugged good looks, Mr. Brown was introduced to the modeling business during his time in the Army, when a talent scout spotted him walking around Manhattan in uniform. Over the course of his modeling career, which spanned more than 40 years, he appeared in thousands of print advertising campaigns and hundreds of television commercials. He was featured in the Sears catalog, and ads for Budweiser, Bulova watches, Campbell’s soup, a wide variety of cigarette brands, as well as many other campaigns that called for a model with a quintessentially macho face and physique. He would go on to become one of 10 men chosen to help launch the male model division of the Ford Modeling Agency. He also did voice-over work.

In 1957, a photographer’s stylist named Grace Emilia Gonzales hired him to pose as a boxer in an ad for a women’s dress line that featured the slogan, “It’s a knockout.” On the couple’s first date, they attended a New York Knicks game and got a chocolate milkshake. “That began a lifelong relationship,” said Ms. Gonzales. The pair, who wed on Dec. 30, 1959, lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, before moving to Fort Lauderdale.

Mr. Brown, who was first introduced to Montauk by a Columbia classmate, loved the ocean and had a passion for free diving, which is akin to scuba diving except without the use of a breathing apparatus. His favorite spot to dive was off  Montauk’s coast in what’s known as the Race, a spot where the currents of the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island Sound, and Fishers Island Sound converge. In 1997, he became the first free diver to be admitted to the Explorers Club. He was a member of the club’s New York City and South Florida chapters.

In 1966, while in the midst of his modeling career, Mr. Brown, opened up a popular nightclub in Montauk called the Pirate’s Den, located in the building that currently houses the Sloppy Tuna. Later, he and his wife would buy a summer home in the hamlet.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Brown is survived by his daughter, Robin Grace Holloway, and two grandchildren, all of New Castle, N.H.

He was cremated. His ashes will be buried at Fort Hill Cemetery in Montauk. 

A memorial service will be held at the Explorers Club in New York City at a date to be determined. Condolences can be shared at

The family has suggested contributions to the Explorers Club Student Grants c/o Augie Brown Memorial Fund, 46 East 70th Street, New York 10021.