Stephen Fried

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Stephen Fried
Author looks at us
Born Stephen Marc Fried
(1958-01-19) January 19, 1958 (age 59)
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States
Occupation Investigative journalist, non-fiction writer
Period 1975–present
Notable works Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia (1993)
Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs (1998)
The New Rabbi (2002)
Husbandry: Sex, Love & Dirty Laundry—Inside the Minds of Married Men (2007)
Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West (2010)
Notable awards National Magazine Award
Vidocq Society Medal of Honor
National Headliner Award

Stephen Fried is an American investigative journalist, non-fiction author, essayist and adjunct professor[1] at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Pennsylvania. His first book, Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia (Pocket), a biography of model Gia Carangi and her era, was published in 1993. He has since written Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs (Bantam 1998), an investigation of medication safety and the pharmaceutical-industrial complex; The New Rabbi (Bantam 2002), which weaves the dramatic search for a new religious leader at one of the nation's most influential houses of worship with a meditation on the author's Jewish upbringing; Husbandry (Bantam 2007), a collection of essays on marriage and men; and Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West—One Meal at a Time(Bantam 2010), the bestselling biography of restaurant and hotel entrepreneur Fred Harvey. In 2015, he co-authored the New York Times bestseller A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction with Congressman Patrick Kennedy.

Fried is also an award-winning writer, a two-time recipient of the National Magazine Award, and has written for GQ, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Parade, Ladies' Home Journal and Philadelphia magazine, where he was also editor-in-chief in 1999 and 2000. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, author Diane Ayres.

Early life and education[edit]

Fried was born and grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. As a child, he attended Pinemere Camp in the Pocono Mountains.[2] He enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania in 1975, where he wrote for and co-edited 34th Street, the university's weekly magazine. While in college, he also became part of a small network of future journalists, authors and editors taught and nurtured by Nora Magid, a Canadian-born editor and professor whom Fried has referred to as a "one-woman journalism school." The self-dubbed "Nora-ites" — whose ranks include bestselling author and publisher David Borgenicht, ABC News writer and producer Joel Siegel, GQ contributing editor Lisa DePaulo and Eliot Kaplan, editorial talent director at Hearst magazines — created a mentorship prize in Magid's name in 2003.[3] Fried eulogized Magid eleven years earlier in a piece for Philadelphia magazine, in which he shared experiences from her first-ever Advanced Expository Writing class in 1977.[4] He graduated with a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania in 1979.[5]


Fried published his first book, a biography of high-fashion model and AIDS victim Gia Carangi, in 1993. Titled Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia, the book grew out of a lengthy Philadelphia magazine piece and was reviewed positively in The New York Times and The Boston Globe upon its release.[6] Fried's book was optioned by Paramount but was also used as the basis for the 1998 HBO film Gia, which went on to win an Emmy Award and two Golden Globe Awards, including one for Angelina Jolie in the title role.[7] Fried is also credited with having invented the word "fashionista" for Thing of Beauty, which he used as shorthand for anyone involved in the creation and manufacturing of high fashion. His name appears in the Oxford English Dictionary entry for the word.[8]

In 1998, Fried published his second book, Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs. An outgrowth of his award-winning Philadelphia magazine piece "Less Than One Percent," prompted by his wife's serious adverse reaction to one pill of a new antibiotic, the book investigated prescription drug manufacturers, the safety of their products and FDA regulation (or lack thereof). The New York Times Book Review called it "the best popular book on the subject," the American Journalism Review named Bitter Pills one of the fifteen best books in the genre of investigative reporting, and The San Diego Union-Tribune said the book "could save your life."[9] It was also a finalist for the Investigative Reporters and Editors book prize, was named one of the best books of the year by The Philadelphia Inquirer and Men's Health, and was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Dateline.[10]

His third book, 2002's The New Rabbi, combined several years of reporting on the effort to choose a new spiritual leader at Philadelphia's influential Har Zion Temple with Fried's own spiritual search after the death of his father. The book, initially controversial among some clergy, went on to receive very favorable reviews from The New York Times, The Washington Post Book World and The Philadelphia Inquirer, which called it "brave...remarkable...a book about leadership you don't have to be Jewish to appreciate."[11] It was also named one of the ten best spiritual books of the year by Beliefnet, and is used as a seminary textbook and read by congregations preparing to choose new leaders.[12] His following book, Husbandry: Sex, Love & Dirty Laundry—Inside the Minds of Married Men, was a collection of 31 essays about men and relationships, originally written for his Ladies' Home Journal column "Heart of a Husband."[13]

Fried's fifth book, titled Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West, was published in March 2010. The product of five years of cross-country research, the book is the first-ever full-length biography of restaurant and hotel mogul Fred Harvey, his innovative family business, the Harvey Girls, the Santa Fe railway, and the America they helped create. The book draws on newly discovered datebooks and letters of Fred Harvey and his son, Ford (who actually ran the company much longer than his father), which had been in family hands for decades. In support of the book, Fried embarked upon a train tour along the old Santa Fe route from Chicago to Los Angeles, visiting many of the classic mid- and southwestern cities where Harvey establishments thrived from the late 19th century well into the 20th.[14] He was also interviewed by Melissa Block of NPR's All Things Considered, and the book won accolades from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal upon its release — the second of which complimented Fried's "crisp prose and delightful detail" and praised the book as "sweeping social history populated with memorable characters."[15][16] The Wall Street Journal also named the book one of its Ten Best of the Year for 2010.[17] It earned the same honor from The Philadelphia Inquirer, was named one of the ten best business books by and won the Athenaeum of Philadelphia Literary Award, a prize given to Philadelphia-area writers since 1949, for non-fiction.[18][19][20]

Career in journalism[edit]

Fried first became known as a writer for Philadelphia, where he began in 1982, worked full-time until 1989 and remained for another decade as a contract writer and editorial consultant. During that time he was also a contributing writer and music columnist at GQ from 1987 to 1991, a contributing writer at Vanity Fair from 1994 to 1997, a contributing editor at Glamour from 1996 to 1998, and a regular contributor to The Washington Post Magazine, Rolling Stone and others. In 1999, he began a two-year stint as the editor-in-chief of Philadelphia, after which he returned to writing, editorial consulting and teaching. He returned to Glamour as a contributing editor from 2001 to 2008, was a contributing writer and columnist at Ladies' Home Journal from 2003 to 2008, and in 2003 began teaching magazine writing at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He currently[when?] writes for a variety of publications.

Fried's best-known[citation needed] magazine piece is "Cradle to Grave", the April 1998 Philadelphia cover story that led the biggest maternal homicide case in history to be reopened and solved. In it, he investigated the family tragedy of Art and Marie Noe, a Philadelphia-area couple who lost ten infant children from 1949 through 1968 to undetermined causes. Fried explored whether the Noes might have been responsible for those deaths, and his investigation led the Philadelphia homicide unit — which had officially closed the Noe file three decades earlier — to begin reexamining the deaths.[21] One day after his story ran, the police interrogated Mr. and Mrs. Noe and received a confession from Marie that she had suffocated eight of her own children (two died of natural causes), leading to a guilty plea and a controversial sentence — which was to include house arrest and probation, along with her cooperation in an unprecedented analysis of her medical history and actions by top experts in fields that study post-partum violence (an analysis which was never carried out). For his work on the Noe case, Fried became the first journalist to receive the Medal of Honor from the Vidocq Society, an elite international group of criminologists, pathologists and police investigators.[22] The piece was also part of his winning entry for the 1999 National Headliners Award for Outstanding Feature Writing, won a Clarion Award from national Women in Communications, and was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting.

Among his earlier notable magazine stories are "Over the Edge" (Philadelphia, October 1984), an investigation of a series of teen suicides in a small town in Bucks County, which won a Clarion Award and was a finalist for the Livingston Award, and "Boy Crazy" (Philadelphia, November 1987), about a homosexual pedophile police chief in a community nearby to Philadelphia, which won the national Sigma Delta Chi/Society of Professional Journalists award for Magazine Reporting.[23] His January 1989 Philadelphia story "The Three Mrs. Lymans", about the battle over the estate of singer Frankie Lymon, inspired the Warner Brothers film Why Do Fools Fall in Love.[24]

In 1993 he won his first National Magazine Award in the field of Special Interest as one of the writers on a Philadelphia feature about the simple pleasures of life in and around the city. Fried's contribution, an essay on returning to fishing after many years' absence, was later expanded into a 1995 Philadelphia feature called "Reeling in the Years", which was selected as a notable story of the year in Best American Sports Stories.[25]

The next year, Fried won his second National Magazine Award in the field of Public Interest Reporting for a series of three stories in Philadelphia on the prescription drug Floxin. The first piece in the series, titled "Less than One Percent" (April 1993), chronicled his wife's adverse reaction to a single dose of Floxin and examined the FDA's regulatory process for prescription drugs. Parts two and three called for (and later prompted) tougher FDA rules on antibiotic drugs.[26]

Fried went on to publish three award-winning pieces about mental health care. "War of Remembrance" (Philadelphia, January 1994), was the first in-depth investigative treatment of the "false memory syndrome" and the Freyds family of Philadelphia, who invented and popularized it. It won a Health Journalism Gold Award and is generally credited with leveling the playing field in the contentious debate over false memory syndrome's validity.[27] His Washington Post Magazine cover story "Creative Tension" (April 16, 1995) was the first major national profile of Johns Hopkins psychologist Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, and the first time she "came out" as having manic-depressive illness – the disease she had devoted her life to researching and treating (laying the groundwork for her bestselling memoir, An Unquiet Mind). "Creative Tension" won a 1995 Easter Seals Equality, Dignity and Independence Award for enhancing the image of people with disabilities, as did Fried's Philadelphia story the same month, "The Incredible Shrinking Institute", about the rise and fall of the nation's first psychiatric institution (and the birthplace of the American Psychiatric Association).[28] In 1999, his final year as a writer at Philadelphia magazine, he received the National Headliner Award for Feature Writing on a Variety of Subjects for his investigation of the Noes as well as "Family Business" (September 1998), the first in-depth story about the family that had built – and was in the process of slowly destroying – the Rite Aid drugstore chain.[29]

While Fried was editor-in-chief at Philadelphia, the magazine was a National Magazine Award finalist for Feature Writing and Profiles in 2000. The same year, it won the Clarion Award for Best Magazine in Philadelphia's circulation category as well as the award for Most Improved Magazine, and Philadelphia earned gold medals from the City and Regional Magazine Association for General Excellence and Excellence in Writing.[30] Since returning to magazine and book writing, he won the Epilepsy Foundation's Distinguished Journalism Award for "How Far Would You Go To Save Your Health?" (Glamour, August 2004), which followed for a year the case of a young woman having a temporal lobectomy — an extreme surgical procedure — as a last resort to stop treatment-resistant seizures.[31]


  • Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia (1993)
  • Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs (1998)
  • The New Rabbi (2002)
  • Husbandry: Sex, Love & Dirty Laundry—Inside the Minds of Married Men (2007)
  • Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West (2010)
  • A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction by Patrick Kennedy and Stephen Fried (2015)


  1. ^ "Author Bio". 2000. Retrieved February 1, 2010. 
  2. ^ Stephen Fried (2002). The New Rabbi. Random House. ISBN 9780553897128. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  3. ^ "The Nora Prize". The University of Pennsylvania. 2010. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  4. ^ Fried, Stephen (May 1991). "My Last Paper For Nora" (PDF). Philadelphia Magazine. Retrieved January 2, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Stephen Fried, Adjunct Faculty". Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. 2010. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  6. ^ Carol Kramer (1993). "Editorial Reviews, Thing of Beauty". The New York Times; The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  7. ^ Ronald Sklar (September 18, 1998). "Gia and the High Cost of Beauty". Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Fashionista". Oxford English Dictionary. September 2002. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  9. ^ Steve Weinberg (June 2000). "Tricks of the Trade". American Journalism Review. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  10. ^ "IRE Contest, 1998". Investigative Reporters and Editors. 1998. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Inside The New Rabbi". Powell's Books. 2003. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Best Spiritual Book of the Year". Beliefnet. 2002. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  13. ^ Hannah Storm (3 October 2007). "Why Men Behave the Way They Do". The Early Show. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  14. ^ Stephen Fried (2010). "One Nation Under Fred". Stephen Fried. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  15. ^ NPR Staff (2010). "How Was the West Won? With Hospitality". National Public Radio. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  16. ^ Jonathan Eig (2010). "Book Review: Appetite for America by Stephen Fried". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  17. ^ Mark Lasswell (2010). "Book Review: Appetite for America by Stephen Fried". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  18. ^ Michael D. Schaffer (2010). "10 notable books reviewed here this year". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved January 2, 2011. 
  19. ^ Amazon editors (2010). "Top 10 Books: Business & Investing". Retrieved January 2, 2011. 
  20. ^ staff (2010). "Athenaeum of Philadelphia Literary Award". Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Retrieved January 2, 2011. 
  21. ^ Stephen Fried (April 1998). "Cradle to Grave". Philadelphia. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  22. ^ Jim Fisher (January 15, 1998). "Serial SIDS as Murder:The Marie Noe Case". Forensics Under Fire. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Society of Professional Journalists Database of Past Winners and Finalists". Society of Professional Journalists. 1996. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Faculty: Stephen Fried". Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. 2010. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  25. ^ Stephen Fried (2000). "Chapter Notes: The New Rabbi". Random House. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  26. ^ Deirdre Carmody (April 21, 1994). "Harper's and Health Lead National Magazine Awards". The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Journal of the American Chiropractic Association" (PDF). American Chiropractic Association. 1994. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Penn's General Honors Program Alumni Newsletter". The Benjamin Franklin Scholars. 1999. Archived from the original on June 5, 2010. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  29. ^ "National Headliner Awards Archives". The Press Club of Atlantic City. 2010. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  30. ^ "CRMA Awards Past Winners" (PDF). City and Regional Magazine Association. 2009. Retrieved January 2, 2010. [dead link]
  31. ^ "Foundation Announces 11th Annual Journalism Award Recipients". The Epilepsy Foundation. 2005. Retrieved January 2, 2010.