Franz Lidz
BornFranz Ira Lidz
(1951-09-24) 24 September 1951 (age 69)
New York City, United States
  • Journalist
  • memoirist
  • American professional basketball executive
Notable worksUnstrung Heroes (1991)
Ghosty Men (2003)
Fairway To Hell (2008)
SpouseMaggie Lidz (1976–present)
ChildrenGogo, Daisy

Franz Lidz (born 24 September 1951) is an American writer, journalist and pro basketball executive.

A former senior writer for Sports Illustrated,[1][2] he's a Smithsonian magazine columnist, a New York Times film, science and archeology essayist,[3][4][5][6] and a onetime vice president for the Detroit Pistons.[7][8] His childhood memoir Unstrung Heroes was adapted into a Hollywood film of the same title in 1995.[9][10][11][12]

Early life

Lidz was born in Manhattan, to Sidney, an electronics engineer who designed the first transistorized portable tape recorder (the Steelman Transitape).[13][14] His father gave him early exposure to authors like Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Eugène Ionesco.[15][16]

At age nine, he moved to the Philadelphia suburbs.[17][18][19] Lidz attended high school in Cheltenham[20][21] and college at Antioch College,[22] where he was a theater major.[23]


Lidz was a novice reporter at the weekly Sanford Star, where he wrote a column and covered police and fire beats. He left Maine to become a crime reporter and write a column called "Insect Jazz" for an alternative newspaper in Baltimore.[24] He later became an editor of Johns Hopkins University Magazine.[25]

In 1980, he joined the staff of Sports Illustrated, even though he had never read the magazine[26] and had covered only one sporting event in his life – a pigeon race in Shapleigh, Maine.[27][28][16] Lidz remained on the writing staff for 27 years.[29] In 2007 he jumped to the short-lived business monthly Conde Nast Portfolio, and then WSJ. magazine[30] before landing at Smithsonian in 2012. Among his most controversial magazine features are essays on Neanderthals;[31] Hannibal,[32] George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees' line of succession;[33][34][35][36][37] the hijinks of onetime Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling;[38][39][40] and a groundbreaking S.I. cover story with NBA player Jason Collins in which Collins became the first active male in one of the four major North American team sports to announce he was gay.[41][42][43]

Notable works

Unstrung Heroes

Unstrung Heroes is about Lidz's childhood, with his mother, father and his dad's four older brothers.[16][44][45] He had previously written about two of the uncles in Sports Illustrated.[46][47]

In his review of Unstrung Heroes in the New York Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt called the memoir "unusual and affecting... a melancholy, funny book, a loony tune played with touching disharmony on mournful woodwinds and a noisy klaxon."[48] Jonathan Kirsch of the Los Angeles Times likened the memoir to a "miniature Brothers Karamazov. There's not a false moment in the book, and that is high praise indeed."[49] The Village Voice called Unstrung Heroes: "Astonishing, hilarious, angry, poignant, always pointed."[50]

In 1995, Unstrung Heroes was adapted into a film of the same title.[9] The setting was switched from New York City to Southern California, and the four crazy uncles were reduced to an eccentric odd couple. Asked what he thought of the script, Lidz said: "It’s very neatly typed".[51] He was unhappy with the adaptation, but was prevented by his contract from publicly criticizing it. "My initial fear was that Disney would turn my uncles into Grumpy and Dopey," he told New York magazine. "I never imagined my life could be turned into Old Yeller."[52] In a later essay for the New York Times, he said that the cinematic Selma had died not of cancer, but of 'Old Movie Disease'. "Someday somebody may find a cure for cancer, but the terminal sappiness of cancer movies is probably beyond remedy."[53]

Ghosty Men

Ghosty Men (2003) is the story of the Collyer brothers. Lidz has said that he was inspired by the real-life cautionary tales that his father told him, the most macabre of which was the story of the Collyer brothers, the hermit hoarders of Harlem.[54] The book also recounts the parallel life of Arthur Lidz,[55] the hermit uncle of Unstrung Heroes, who grew up near the Collyer mansion.[56]

In his review for the Washington Post, Adam Bernstein wrote, "The Collyer Brothers made compelling reading then, as they do now in this short, captivatingly detailed book."[57]

Fairway to Hell

Fairway to Hell is a 2008 memoir centering on Lidz' unusual golfing experiences: encountering nudists, llama caddies[26] and celebrities like the heavy metal band Judas Priest.[58][59] Bill Littlefield reviewed the book on the National Public Radio show Only A Game, saying "His estimable wit is also evident in Fairway To Hell."[60]


Lidz has written numerous essays for The New York Times with novelist and former Sports Illustrated colleague Steve Rushin.[61][62][63] Three of them appear under the title Piscopo Agonistes in the 2000 collection Mirth of a Nation: The Best Contemporary Humor.

Lidz has been a commentator for Morning Edition on NPR,[64] and was a guest film critic on the syndicated Siskel & Ebert, following Gene Siskel's passing. The segment did not air.[65] He also appeared on David Letterman's show.[20]

Personal life

Lidz lives in Ojai, California[66] with his wife, Maggie, an author and onetime historian at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware.[67][68][69][70] They have two daughters.[71][72][73][74]


  1. ^ "Classic Archives: Franz Lidz", – Sports Illustrated
  2. ^ "Jason Collins", 05.06.13 – Sports Illustrated
  3. ^ "FILM; The Scenery, Though, He Won't Chew", 09.29.02 – New York Times
  4. ^ "Here Lies the Skull of Pliny the Elder, Maybe", 02.14.20 – New York Times
  5. ^ "At the Sourdough Library, With Some Very Old Mothers", 04.11.20 – New York Times
  6. ^ "How the World’s Oldest Wooden Sculpture Is Reshaping Prehistory", 03.22.21 – New York Times
  7. ^ Detroit Pistons Media Guide: Executive Staff, 2016–'17. (Free PDF download). Use search term "Franz Lidz"
  8. ^ Franz Lidz, Smithsonian magazine
  9. ^ a b "Lost In Translation, 09.21.95 – Philadelphia Inquirer
  10. ^ Books of The Times; Reality Was Relative and the Relatives Were Nuts, 03.04.91 – New York Times
  11. ^ Search: Franz Lidz,- New York Times
  12. ^ Film: Unstrung And Calling The Shots, 09.03.95 – New York Times
  13. ^ Sidney Lidz – Obituary, 07.28.81 – New York Times.
  14. ^ "STEELMAN Transitape portable reel-to-reel tape recorder" on YouTube, 1959
  15. ^ "Beginning at the Ending at the Bates Motel", 09.13.98 – New York Times
  16. ^ a b c "From the Editor", 04.08.91 – Sports Illustrated
  17. ^ "A Writer's Relative Chaos: How Crazy Were Franz Lidz's Uncles? We're Glad You Asked That . . ., 04.07.91 – Philadelphia Inquirer
  18. ^ Arn Tellem and Franz Lidz Are Going to the Hall of Fame, Philadelphia Magazine, 05.17.15
  19. ^ Franz Lidz & Arn Tellem entering Hall together, Philadelphia Daily News, 05.27.15
  20. ^ a b "Letter From The Publisher" – 05.10.82 – Sports Illustrated
  21. ^ "Letter From The Publisher" – 03.09.87 – Sports Illustrated
  22. ^ "Letter from the Publisher" 03.26.84 – Sports Illustrated
  23. ^ "Lidz weaves a tale of family, life on fringes", 02.19.91 – Baltimore Sun
  24. ^ "Odds are, these guys are real characters", 09.21.95 – Baltimore Sun
  25. ^ "Redford movie may be filmed locally", 01.23.91 – Baltimore Sun.
  26. ^ a b "The Sport of Drunken Hairy Scots", 05.07.08 – Philadelphia Inquirer
  27. ^ "Gil Rogin Resurfaces", 09.24.10 – AARP, The Magazine
  28. ^ The Virtuoso of the Canorama: Gil Rogin Ran SI at Its Peak, But His Fiction Might Make Him Immortal, 09.22.10 – The New York Observer
  29. ^ "Almost Famous", 08.15.16 – Sports Illustrated
  30. ^ "Upstairs, Downstairs and In Between", 12.01.11 – WSJ.
  31. ^ WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW ABOUT NEANDERTHALS?, May, 2019 Smithsonian magazine
  32. ^ "How (and Where) Did Hannibal Cross the Alps?", July 2017 - Smithsonian magazine
  33. ^ Baseball After The Boss, 08.02.07 – Conde Nast Portfolio
  34. ^ Portfolio Diagnoses Steinbrenner, but New York Post gives a Second Opinion, 08.07 – New York Observer
  35. ^ The Journalist Who Revealed How Ill George Steinbrenner Was)), 07.13 – AOL'
  36. ^ How's the Boss? Steinbrenner Looks Dreadful Archived 13 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine, 08.03.07 – Gothamist
  37. ^ The Nack: Great Reporting, Vivid Writing, 12.15.08 – Bronx Banter
  38. ^ "Up and Down in Beverly Hills, 04.17.00 – Sports Illustrated
  39. ^ Donald Sterling Has Been Lost In Another Century For Some Time, 04.27.14 – Chicago Sun-Times
  40. ^ "Sterling's offensive behavior was no secret for years, 04.30.14 – Sports Illustrated
  41. ^ "Why NBA center Jason Collins is coming out now, 04.29.13 – Sports Illustrated
  42. ^ "The story behind Jason Collins' story: How it happened, 04.29.13 – Sports Illustrated
  43. ^ How Sports Illustrated Broke the Jason Collins Story, 04.29.13 – New York Times
  44. ^ SUMMER FILMS: CREATURE FEATURES; The Ongoing Adventures of Moose and Squirrel, 04.20.00 – New York Times
  45. ^ To Our Readers", 09.25.95 – Sports Illustrated
  46. ^ "My Uncle, The Collector: A Hobbyist on a Shoestring", 01.25.87 – Sports Illustrated
  47. ^ "Uncle Harry Never Lost A Fight But He Never Really Fought One, Either, 12.20.82 – Sports Illustrated
  48. ^ Books of The Times; Reality Was Relative and the Relatives Were Nuts, 03.04.91 – New York Times
  49. ^ The Unlikely Heroics of Unstrung Heroes, 02.20.91 – Los Angeles Times
  50. ^ "Unstrung Heroes", February 1991 – Random House
  51. ^ The star and author of 'Unstrung Heroes', 09.22.95 – Entertainment Weekly
  52. ^ Nancy Jo Sales (18 September 1995). "Undone Heroes". New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. p. 58.
  53. ^ In a Higher State of Being (That Is, Dying), 01.10.99 – New York Times
  54. ^ The Paper Chase, 10.26.03 – New York Times
  55. ^ A Trashy Read / Hoarding hermits? A typist's true tale, 11.02.03 – Newsday
  56. ^ Author delves into his inner hoarder His eccentric uncle led him to write about the Collyer brothers, 05.16.04 – Philadelphia Inquirer
  57. ^ If Anything Should Inspire..., 01.04.04 – Washington Post
  58. ^ Heavy Metal Rockers Find Peace And Quiet—and Rock Fans—on The Links, 11.27.86 – Sports Illustrated
  59. ^ "Fairway to Hell", April 2008 – ESPN
  60. ^ Books In Review, 05.30.08 – Only A Game, NPR
  61. ^ We Know What You'll See Next Summer.., 11.15.98 – New York Times
  62. ^ Here A Comic Genius, There A Comic Genius, 01.30.00 – New York Times
  63. ^ How to Tell a Bad Movie From a Truly Bad Movie, 08.05.01 – New York Times
  64. ^ News Briefs, 11.19.98 – The Tuscaloosa News
  65. ^ A Shot at Thumb-Wrestling With Roger, 04.16.00 – New York Times
  66. ^ The Uses of Irreverance, Fall, 2020 - Ojai Quarterly, pgs. 38-41
  67. ^ Requiem For A Jumble of Artworks, 02.21.10- The New York Times
  68. ^ The Amazing Costumes of Downton Abbey, 02.18.14- Slate
  69. ^ The duPonts: Houses and Gardens in the Brandywine, December 2009 Delaware Today
  70. ^ Meeting Maggie, February 2009 O, The Magazine
  71. ^ "Introducing Miss Daisy, 06.23.03 – Sports Illustrated
  72. ^ Where the wild things are – inside the tent 11.21.04 Los Angeles Times
  73. ^ Gogo Lidz: Staff Writer, Newsweek
  74. ^ Daisy Lidz, Thor Ritz, 07.23.10 – New York Times