Franz Lidz
BornFranz Ira Lidz
(1951-09-24) September 24, 1951 (age 72)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation
  • Journalist
  • memoirist
  • American professional basketball executive
Alma materAntioch College
Notable worksUnstrung Heroes (1991)
Ghosty Men (2003)
Fairway To Hell (2008)
SpouseMaggie Lidz (1976–present)
ChildrenGogo, Daisy

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

A New York Times archaeology, science and film essayist,[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8] Franz Lidz created the newspaper’s archaeological column "Lost & Found".[9][10][11] He's a former Sports Illustrated senior writer,[12][13]Smithsonian magazine columnist[14][15][16] and a onetime vice president of the Detroit Pistons.[17][18] His childhood memoir Unstrung Heroes was adapted into a Hollywood film of the same title in 1995.[19][20][21][22]

Early life

Lidz was born in Manhattan, to Sidney, a Jewish electronics engineer who designed the first transistorized portable tape recorder (the Steelman Transitape),[23][24] and Selma, a homemaker. His father gave him early exposure to authors like Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Eugène Ionesco.[25][26]

At age nine, still named Stephen before later legally taking Franz as his first name, he moved to the Philadelphia suburbs.[27][28][29] Lidz attended high school in Cheltenham[30][31] and college at Antioch College,[32] where he was a theater major.[33]

Career

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.[34] He later became an editor of Johns Hopkins University Magazine.[35]

In 1980, he joined the staff of Sports Illustrated,[36][37][38][39][40] even though he had never read the magazine[41] and had covered only one sporting event in his life – a pigeon race in Shapleigh, Maine.[42][43][26] Lidz remained on the writing staff for 27 years.[44] In 2007 he jumped to the short-lived business monthly Conde Nast Portfolio, and then WSJ. magazine[45] before landing at Smithsonian in 2012. His first feature story in The New York Times, on making the second descent of the Zambezi River, appeared on January 30, l983.[46]

Among his most controversial features are essays on Neanderthals;[47] the effects of climate change on glacial archaeology;[48] Hannibal;[49] the 2002 Paris-to-Dakar Rally;[50] George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees' line of succession;[51][52][53][54][55] the hijinks of onetime Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling;[56][57][58] and a 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.[59][60][61][62]

Notable works

Unstrung Heroes

Unstrung Heroes is about Lidz's childhood, with his mother, father and his dad's four older brothers.[26][63][64] He had previously written about two of the uncles in Sports Illustrated.[65][66]

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."[67] 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."[68] The Village Voice called Unstrung Heroes: "Astonishing, hilarious, angry, poignant, always pointed."[69]

In 1995, Unstrung Heroes was adapted into a film of the same title.[19] 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".[70] 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."[71] 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."[72]

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.[73] The book also recounts the parallel life of Arthur Lidz,[74] the hermit uncle of Unstrung Heroes, who grew up near the Collyer mansion.[75]

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."[76]

Fairway to Hell

Fairway to Hell is a 2008 memoir centering on Lidz' unusual golfing experiences: encountering nudists, llama caddies[41] and celebrities like the heavy metal band Judas Priest.[77][78] 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."[79]

Collaborations

Lidz has written numerous essays for The New York Times with novelist and former Sports Illustrated colleague Steve Rushin.[80][81][82] 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,[83] and was a guest film critic on the syndicated Siskel & Ebert, following Gene Siskel's passing. The segment did not air.[84] He also appeared on David Letterman's show.[30]

Personal life

Lidz lives in Ojai, California[85] with his wife, Maggie, an author and onetime historian at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware.[86][87][88][89] They have two daughters.[90][91][92][93]

References

  1. ^ "FILM; Sorry, Uma, There's Only One Emma", August 9, 1998 – New York Times
  2. ^ "FILM; The Scenery, Though, He Won't Chew", September 29, 2002 – New York Times
  3. ^ "Biblical Adversity in a ’60s Suburb", September 23, 2009 – New York Times
  4. ^ "Here Lies the Skull of Pliny the Elder, Maybe", February 14, 2020 – New York Times
  5. ^ "At the Sourdough Library, With Some Very Old Mothers", April 11, 2020 – New York Times
  6. ^ "She Fell Nearly Two Miles And Walked Away", June 18, 2021 – New York Times
  7. ^ "What The Ancient Bog Bodies Knew", January 30, 2023 – New York Times
  8. ^ "What To Do With A Bug Named Hitler", December 26, 2023 – New York Times
  9. ^ "Ancient Romans Dropped Their Bling Down the Drain, Too", May 1, 2023 – New York Times
  10. ^ "Put a Bird on It? Ancient Egypt Was Way Ahead of Us.", June 6, 2023 – New York Times
  11. ^ "Now Showing, An Ancient Spell Book For The Dead", October 31, 2023 – New York Times
  12. ^ "Classic Archives: Franz Lidz", – Sports Illustrated
  13. ^ "Jason Collins", May 6, 2013 – Sports Illustrated
  14. ^ "Dr. NakaMats, the Man With 3300 Patents to His Name", December, 2012 - Smithsonian
  15. ^ "Behold The Blobfish", November, 2015 - Smithsonian
  16. ^ "Britain's Lake District Was Immortalized by Beatrix Potter, But Is Its Future in Peril?", May, 2018 - Smithsonian
  17. ^ Detroit Pistons Media Guide: Executive Staff, 2016–'17. (Free PDF download). Use search term "Franz Lidz"
  18. ^ Franz Lidz, Smithsonian magazine
  19. ^ a b "Lost In Translation, September 21, 1995 – Philadelphia Inquirer
  20. ^ Books of The Times; Reality Was Relative and the Relatives Were Nuts, March 4, 1991 – New York Times
  21. ^ Search: Franz Lidz,- New York Times
  22. ^ Film: Unstrung And Calling The Shots, September 3, 1995 – New York Times
  23. ^ Sidney Lidz – Obituary, July 28, 1981 – New York Times
  24. ^ "STEELMAN Transitape portable reel-to-reel tape recorder" on YouTube, 1959
  25. ^ "Beginning at the Ending at the Bates Motel", September 13, 1998 – New York Times
  26. ^ a b c "From the Editor", April 8, 1991
  27. ^ "A Writer's Relative Chaos: How Crazy Were Franz Lidz's Uncles? We're Glad You Asked That . . ., April 7, 1991 – Philadelphia Inquirer
  28. ^ Arn Tellem and Franz Lidz Are Going to the Hall of Fame, Philadelphia Magazine, May 17, 2015
  29. ^ Franz Lidz & Arn Tellem entering Hall together, Philadelphia Daily News, May 27, 2015
  30. ^ a b "Letter From The Publisher" – May 10, 1982 – Sports Illustrated
  31. ^ "Letter From The Publisher" – March 9, 1987 – Sports Illustrated
  32. ^ "Letter from the Publisher" March 26, 1984 – Sports Illustrated
  33. ^ "Lidz weaves a tale of family, life on fringes", February 9, 1991 – Baltimore Sun
  34. ^ "Odds are, these guys are real characters", September 21, 1995 – Baltimore Sun
  35. ^ "Redford movie may be filmed locally", January 23, 1991 – Baltimore Sun.
  36. ^ "GOOD OL' CHARLIE SCHULZ", December 23, 1985 - Sports Illustrated
  37. ^ "What is Jeopardy!?", May 1, 1989 - Sports Illustrated
  38. ^ "From Hair To Eternity", December 10, 1990 - Sports Illustrated
  39. ^ "Meat Bomb", May 18, 1992 - Sports Illustrated
  40. ^ "She's Got Balls", November 2, 1998 - Sports Illustrated
  41. ^ a b "The Sport of Drunken Hairy Scots", May 7, 2008 – Philadelphia Inquirer
  42. ^ "Gil Rogin Resurfaces", September 24, 2010 – AARP, The Magazine
  43. ^ The Virtuoso of the Canorama: Gil Rogin Ran SI at Its Peak, But His Fiction Might Make Him Immortal, September 22, 2010 – The New York Observer
  44. ^ "Almost Famous", August 15, 2016 – Sports Illustrated
  45. ^ "Upstairs, Downstairs and In Between", December 1, 2011 – WSJ.
  46. ^ "The Great Zambezi River Expedition", January 30, 1983 – New York Times
  47. ^ WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW ABOUT NEANDERTHALS?, May, 2019 Smithsonian magazine
  48. ^ As Earth Warms, Old Mayhem and Secrets Emerge From the Ice, November 2, 2021 – New York Times
  49. ^ "How (and Where) Did Hannibal Cross the Alps?", July, 2017 - Smithsonian magazine
  50. ^ "Off-Road Warriors", January 21, 2002 - Sports Illustrated
  51. ^ Baseball After The Boss, August 2, 2007 – Conde Nast Portfolio
  52. ^ Portfolio Diagnoses Steinbrenner, but New York Post gives a Second Opinion, August 7, 2007 – New York Observer
  53. ^ The Journalist Who Revealed How Ill George Steinbrenner Was, July 13, 2007 – AOL
  54. ^ How's the Boss? Steinbrenner Looks Dreadful Archived 13 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine, August 3, 2007 – Gothamist
  55. ^ The Nack: Great Reporting, Vivid Writing, December 15, 2008 – Bronx Banter
  56. ^ "Up and Down in Beverly Hills, April 17, 2000 – Sports Illustrated
  57. ^ Donald Sterling Has Been Lost In Another Century For Some Time, April 27, 2014 – Chicago Sun-Times
  58. ^ "Sterling's offensive behavior was no secret for years, April 30, 2014 – Sports Illustrated
  59. ^ "Why NBA center Jason Collins is coming out now, April 29, 2013 – Sports Illustrated
  60. ^ "The story behind Jason Collins' story: How it happened, April 29, 2013 – Sports Illustrated
  61. ^ How Sports Illustrated Broke the Jason Collins Story, April 29, 2013 – New York Times
  62. ^ "Jason Collins, 10 Years Later: Progress Made, but There’s Work to Be Done for LGBTQ Athletes", April 25, 2023 - Sports Illustrated
  63. ^ SUMMER FILMS: CREATURE FEATURES; The Ongoing Adventures of Moose and Squirrel, April 20, 2000 – New York Times
  64. ^ To Our Readers", September 25, 1995 – Sports Illustrated
  65. ^ "My Uncle, The Collector: A Hobbyist on a Shoestring", January 25, 1987 – Sports Illustrated
  66. ^ "Uncle Harry Never Lost A Fight But He Never Really Fought One, Either, December 20, 1982 – Sports Illustrated
  67. ^ Books of The Times; Reality Was Relative and the Relatives Were Nuts, March 4, 1991 – New York Times
  68. ^ The Unlikely Heroics of Unstrung Heroes, February 20, 1991 – Los Angeles Times
  69. ^ "Unstrung Heroes", February, 1991 – Random House
  70. ^ The star and author of 'Unstrung Heroes', September 22, 1995 – Entertainment Weekly
  71. ^ Nancy Jo Sales (18 September 1995). "Undone Heroes". New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. p. 58.
  72. ^ In a Higher State of Being (That Is, Dying), January 10, 1999 – New York Times
  73. ^ The Paper Chase, October 26, 2003 – New York Times
  74. ^ A Trashy Read / Hoarding hermits? A typist's true tale, November 2, 2003 – Newsday
  75. ^ Author delves into his inner hoarder His eccentric uncle led him to write about the Collyer brothers, May 16, 2004 – Philadelphia Inquirer
  76. ^ If Anything Should Inspire..., January 4, 2004 – Washington Post
  77. ^ Heavy Metal Rockers Find Peace And Quiet—and Rock Fans—on The Links, November 27, 1986 – Sports Illustrated
  78. ^ "Fairway to Hell", April, 2008 – ESPN
  79. ^ Books In Review, May 30, 2008 – Only A Game, NPR
  80. ^ We Know What You'll See Next Summer.., November 15, 1998 – New York Times
  81. ^ Here A Comic Genius, There A Comic Genius, January 30, 2000 – New York Times
  82. ^ How to Tell a Bad Movie From a Truly Bad Movie, August 5, 2001 – New York Times
  83. ^ News Briefs, November 19, 1998 – The Tuscaloosa News
  84. ^ A Shot at Thumb-Wrestling With Roger, April 16, 2000 – New York Times
  85. ^ The Uses of Irreverence, Fall, 2020 - Ojai Quarterly, pgs. 38-41
  86. ^ Requiem For A Jumble of Artworks, January 21, 2010- The New York Times
  87. ^ The Amazing Costumes of Downton Abbey, February 18, 2014- Slate
  88. ^ The duPonts: Houses and Gardens in the Brandywine, December, 2009 Delaware Today
  89. ^ Meeting Maggie, February, 2009 O, The Magazine
  90. ^ "Introducing Miss Daisy, June 23, 2003 – Sports Illustrated
  91. ^ Where the wild things are – inside the tent November 21, 2004 Los Angeles Times
  92. ^ Gogo Lidz: Staff Writer, Newsweek
  93. ^ Daisy Lidz, Thor Ritz, July 23, 2010 – New York Times