Franz Lidz

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Franz Lidz
BornFranz Ira Lidz
(1951-09-24) September 24, 1951 (age 67)
New York City, United States
OccupationJournalist, memoirist, American professional basketball executive
Notable worksUnstrung Heroes (1991)
Ghosty Men (2003)
Fairway To Hell (2008)
SpouseMaggie Lidz (1976-present)

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

A former senior writer for Sports Illustrated,[1] he's a Smithsonian magazine columnist, a New York Times film and TV essayist, and the Vice President of Communications for the Detroit Pistons.[2][3][4] His childhood memoir Unstrung Heroes was adapted into a Hollywood film of the same title in 1995.[5][6][7][6][8]

Early life[edit]

Lidz was born in Manhattan, to Sidney, an electronics engineer who designed the first transistorized portable tape recorder (the Steelman Transitape).[9][10] His father gave him early exposure to authors like Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Eugène Ionesco.[11][12]

At age nine, he moved to the Philadelphia suburbs.[13][14][15] Lidz attended high school in Cheltenham[16][17] and college at Antioch College,[18] where he was a theater major.[19]


Lidz was a novice reporters 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.[20] He later became an editor of Johns Hopkins University Magazine.[21]

In 1980, he joined the staff of Sports Illustrated, even though he had never read the magazine[22] and had covered only one sporting event in his life - a pigeon race in Shapleigh, Maine.[23][24][12] Lidz remained on the writing staff for 27 years.[25] Among his most controversial magazine features are essays on the feud among the children of onetime Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss;[26][27][28] the 580-pound Hawaiian-born sumo wrestler Konishiki;[29] George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees' line of succession;[30][31][32][33][34] the hijinks of onetime Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling;[35][36][37] new scientific evidence related to Hannibal's epic 218 BC march with elephants across the Alps; [38][39] 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.[40][41][42]

Notable works[edit]

Unstrung Heroes[edit]

Unstrung Heroes is about Lidz's childhood, with his mother, father and his dad's four older brothers.[12][43][44] He had previously written about two of the uncles in Sports Illustrated.[45][46]

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."[47] 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."[48] The Village Voice called Unstrung Heroes: "Astonishing, hilarious, angry, poignant, always pointed."[49]

In 1995, Unstrung Heroes was adapted into a film of the same title.[5] 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.”[50] 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."[51] 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."[52]

Ghosty Men[edit]

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.[53] The book also recounts the parallel life of Arthur Lidz,[54] the hermit uncle of Unstrung Heroes, who grew up near the Collyer mansion.[55]

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."[56]

Fairway to Hell[edit]

Fairway to Hell is a 2008 memoir centering on Lidz' unusual golfing experiences: encountering nudists, llama caddies[22] and celebrities like the heavy metal band Judas Priest.[57][58] 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."[59]


Lidz has written numerous essays for The New York Times with novelist and former Sports Illustrated colleague Steve Rushin.[60][61][62] 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,[63] and was a guest film critic on Roger Ebert's syndicated TV show.[64] He also appeared on David Letterman's show.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Lidz shares a six-acre farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania with his wife, Maggie Lidz (an author and onetime historian at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware).[65][66][67][68] They have two daughters[69][70][71][72]


  1. ^ "Jason Collins", 05.06.13 - Sports Illustrated
  2. ^ "Franz Lidz", Sports Illustrated
  3. ^ Detroit Pistons Media Guide: Executive Staff, 2016-'17. (Free PDF download). Use search term "Franz Lidz"
  4. ^ Franz Lidz, Smithsonian magazine
  5. ^ a b "Lost In Translation, 09.21.95 - Philadelphia Inquirer
  6. ^ a b Books of The Times; Reality Was Relative and the Relatives Were Nuts, 03.04.91 - New York Times
  7. ^ Search: Franz Lidz,- New York Times
  8. ^ Film: Unstrung And Calling The Shots, 09.03.95 - New York Times
  9. ^ Sidney Lidz - Obituary, 07.28.81 - New York Times.
  10. ^ "STEELMAN Transitape portable reel-to-reel tape recorder" on YouTube, 1959
  11. ^ "Beginning at the Ending at the Bates Motel", 09.13.98 - New York Times
  12. ^ a b c "From the Editor", 04.08.91 - Sports Illustrated
  13. ^ "A Writer's Relative Chaos: How Crazy Were Franz Lidz's Uncles? We're Glad You Asked That . . ., 04.07.91 - Philadelphia Inquirer
  14. ^ Arn Tellem and Franz Lidz Are Going to the Hall of Fame, Philadelphia Magazine, 05.17.15
  15. ^ Franz Lidz & Arn Tellem entering Hall together, Philadelphia Daily News, 05.27.15
  16. ^ a b "Letter From The Publisher" - 05.10.82 - Sports Illustrated
  17. ^ "Letter From The Publisher" - 03.09.87 - Sports Illustrated
  18. ^ "Letter from the Publisher" 03.26.84 - Sports Illustrated
  19. ^ "Lidz weaves a tale of family, life on fringes", 02.19.91 - Baltimore Sun
  20. ^ "Odds are, these guys are real characters", 09.21.95 - Baltimore Sun
  21. ^ "Redford movie may be filmed locally", 01.23.91 - Baltimore Sun.
  22. ^ a b "The Sport of Drunken Hairy Scots", 05.07.08 - Philadelphia Inquirer
  23. ^ "Gil Rogin Resurfaces", 09.24.10 - AARP, The Magazine
  24. ^ 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
  25. ^ "Almost Famous", 08.15.16 - Sports Illustrated
  26. ^ "She's Got Balls, 11.02.98 - Sports Illustrated
  27. ^ Coach selection, and the Lakers' future, is in owners' hands, 05.19.11 - Los Angeles Times
  28. ^ The Busses try to keep the franchise rolling, 06.10.11 - Los Angeles Times
  29. ^ "Meat Bomb", 05.18.92 - Sports Illustrated
  30. ^ Baseball After The Boss, 08.02.07 - Conde Nast Portfolio
  31. ^ Portfolio Diagnoses Steinbrenner, but New York Post gives a Second Opinion, 08.07 - New York Observer
  32. ^ The Journalist Who Revealed How Ill George Steinbrenner Was, 07.13 - AOL'
  33. ^ How's the Boss? Steinbrenner Looks Dreadful Archived 13 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine, 08.03.07 - Gothamist
  34. ^ The Nack: Great Reporting, Vivid Writing, 12.15.08 - Bronx Banter
  35. ^ "Up and Down in Beverly Hills, 04.17.00 - Sports Illustrated
  36. ^ Donald Sterling Has Been Lost In Another Century For Some Time, 04.27.14 - Chicago Sun-Times
  37. ^ "Sterling's offensive behavior was no secret for years, 04.30.14 - Sports Illustrated
  38. ^ How (and Where) Did Hannibal Cross the Alps?, July, 2017 - Smithsonian
  39. ^ How Hannibal, his Army and their Elephants Crossed the Alps, 07.06.17 - WNYC
  40. ^ "Why NBA center Jason Collins is coming out now, 04.29.13 - Sports Illustrated
  41. ^ "The story behind Jason Collins' story: How it happened, 04.29.13 - Sports Illustrated
  42. ^ How Sports Illustrated Broke the Jason Collins Story, 04.29.13 - New York Times
  43. ^ SUMMER FILMS: CREATURE FEATURES; The Ongoing Adventures of Moose and Squirrel, 04.20.00 - New York Times
  44. ^ To Our Readers", 09.25.95 - Sports Illustrated
  45. ^ "My Uncle, The Collector: A Hobbyist on a Shoestring", 01.25.87 - Sports Illustrated
  46. ^ "Uncle Harry Never Lost A Fight But He Never Really Fought One, Either, 12.20.82 - Sports Illustrated
  47. ^ Books of The Times; Reality Was Relative and the Relatives Were Nuts, 03.04.91 - New York Times
  48. ^ The Unlikely Heroics of Unstrung Heroes, 02.20.91 - Los Angeles Times
  49. ^ "Unstrung Heroes", February 1991 - Random House
  50. ^ The star and author of 'Unstrung Heroes', 09.22.95 - Entertainment Weekly
  51. ^ Undone Heroes, 09.18.95 - New York magazine
  52. ^ In a Higher State of Being (That Is, Dying), 01.10.99 - New York Times
  53. ^ The Paper Chase, 10.26.03 - New York Times
  54. ^ A Trashy Read / Hoarding hermits? A typist's true tale, 11.02.03 - Newsday
  55. ^ Author delves into his inner hoarder His eccentric uncle led him to write about the Collyer brothers, 05.16.04 - Philadelphia Inquirer
  56. ^ If Anything Should Inspire..., 01.04.04 - Washington Post
  57. ^ Heavy Metal Rockers Find Peace And Quiet—and Rock Fans—on The Links, 11.27.86 - Sports Illustrated
  58. ^ "Fairway to Hell", April 2008 - ESPN
  59. ^ Books In Review, 05.30.08 - Only A Game, NPR
  60. ^ We Know What You'll See Next Summer.., 11.15.98 - New York Times
  61. ^ Here A Comic Genius, There A Comic Genius, 01.30.00 - New York Times
  62. ^ How to Tell a Bad Movie From a Truly Bad Movie, 08.05.01 - New York Times
  63. ^ News Briefs, 11.19.98 - The Tuscaloosa News
  64. ^ A Shot at Thumb-Wrestling With Roger, 04.16.00 - New York Times
  65. ^ Requiem For A Jumble of Artworks, 02.21.10- The New York Times
  66. ^ The Amazing Costumes of Downton Abbey, 02.18.14- Slate
  67. ^ The duPonts: Houses and Gardens in the Brandywine, December, 2009 Delaware Today
  68. ^ Meeting Maggie, February, 2009 O, The Magazine
  69. ^ "Introducing Miss Daisy, 06.23.03 - Sports Illustrated
  70. ^ Where the wild things are - inside the tent 11.21.04 Los Angeles Times
  71. ^ Gogo Lidz: Staff Writer, Newsweek
  72. ^ Daisy Lidz, Thor Ritz, 07.23.10 - New York Times

External links[edit]