Fried, Stephen 1958-
Fried, Stephen 1958-
(Stephen Marc Fried)
PERSONAL: Born January 19, 1958, in Harrisburg, PA; son of Gerald (a marketing consultant) and Estelle (a homemaker) Fried; married Diane Ayres (an author), October 25, 1987. Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A., 1979. Hobbies and other interests: Basketball, fishing.
CAREER: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, senior writer, 1982-91, editor, 1999-2000; freelance journalist and author, 1991—; Columbia University, New York, NY, adjunct professor at Graduate School of Journalism, 2002—. Cochairperson of Nora Magid Mentorship Prize. Has appeared on television programs, including Dateline, Oprah Winfrey Show, Today Show, Good Morning America, and CBS Morning News.
AWARDS, HONORS: Clarion Award, National Women in Communications, 1985, for “Over the Edge,” an investigative report on teen suicide published in Philadelphia; Distinguished Service Award for Magazine Reporting, National Sigma Delta Chi/Society of Professional Journalists, 1988, for “Boy Crazy,” an investigative report on a pedophile police chief published in Philadelphia; “My Last Paper for Nora,” published in Philadelphia, was named a Notable Essay of the Year, 1991, by The Best American Essays, and “Just Visiting,” published in Philadelphia, was named a Notable Essay of the Year in 1992; cowinner of National Magazine Award, service to the individual category, American Society of Magazine Editors, 1993, for “Simple Pleasures,” a collection of essays published in Philadelphia; National Magazine Award, public interest category, 1994, for “Less Than One Percent,” an investigative series on adverse drug reactions, published in Philadelphia; Clarion Award, National Women in Communications, 1995, for “War of Remembrance,” an investigation of the family that started the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, published in Philadelphia; Notable Sports Story of the Year, Best American Sports Stories, 1996, for Reeling in the Years, published in Philadelphia; National Headliners Award, National Magazine Award for editor in chief finalist, Clarion Award, National Women in Communications, and Medal of Honor, Vidocq Society, all 1998, for “Cradle to Grave,” an investigation into the deaths of a couple’s ten children, published in Philadelphia. Clarion Award, National Women in Communications, 2000 and 2001; Distinguished Journalism Award, Epilepsy Foundation, 2005, for “How Far Would You Go to Save Your Health?”
Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs, Bantam (New York, NY), 1998.
The New Rabbi: A Congregation Searches for Its Leader, Bantam (New York, NY), 2002.
Husbandry: Sex, Love, and Dirty Laundry—Inside the Minds of Married Men, Bantam (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributing editor and music columnist, GQ, 1987-91; contributing editor, Glamour, 1996-98, 2001—; columnist, Ladies’ Home Journal, 2004—. Contributor to Vanity Fair, 1994-97, Rolling Stone, and the Washington Post magazine.
“thirtysomething: A Fun House Mirror on American Men,” from GQ, was published in Our Times 2, edited by Robert Atwan, Bedford/St. Martin’s (New York, NY), 1991; “The Rapist,” from Glamour, was published in Deviant Behavior, 1997-98 (annual edition), Dushkin Publishing (Guilford, CT); “Lethal Drugs’ Side Effects,” from American Health for Women, was published in Women’s Health, 1999-2000 (annual edition), Dushkin Publishing (Guilford, CT); “Addicted to Antidepressants?,” from Glamour, was published in Drugs, Society and Behavior (annual edition), Dushkin Publishing (Guilford, CT), and in Drugs and Human Behavior (fifth edition), Copley Publishing.
ADAPTATIONS: Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia was adapted into an Emmy-winning film for Home Box Office (HBO).
SIDELIGHTS: Philadelphia journalist Stephen Fried has turned his investigative skills on subjects as diverse as suicide and murder cases, a top fashion model addicted to illegal drugs, the misuse of legal drugs, and a synagogue’s search for a successor to its longtime, beloved rabbi. A contributing editor at Glamour as well as a columnist for Ladies’ Home Journal, Fried has also published stories and essays in Vanity Fair, GQ, and Rolling Stone. His magazine articles have drawn acclaim and numerous honors; Fried has twice received the prestigious National Magazine Award. In perhaps his best-known work, the 1998 article “Cradle to Grave,” Fried investigated the strange case of Marie and Arthur Noe, a Philadelphia couple whose ten children had all died in infancy. His account led the police to reopen their files. After the couple was taken in for questioning, Marie Noe confessed to smothering her babies and later pleaded guilty to several counts of murder. For his efforts, Fried became the first journalist to receive the Medal of Honor from the Vidocq Society, an organization of private investigators, law enforcement officers, and security-related professionals.
Fried has expanded some of his articles into books, as was the case with his debut work of nonfiction, the tragic story of Gia Carangi, a young model who became one of the first women in the United States to die of AIDS-related complications. Fried originally wrote about Carangi for Philadelphia in 1988. The article was later published in Cosmopolitan and evolved into Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia, published in 1993 and excerpted in Vanity Fair. The author interviewed many of Carangi’s friends and family to reconstruct the brief span of her twenty-six years. Commenting on Carangi’s life and background, Karen Heller wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer that “Gia was the girl next door, if the girl next door was gorgeous and a lesbian.” The product of a dysfunctional family, Carangi, by the late 1970s, had experimented with drugs and was involved in the homosexual culture of Philadelphia. In a stroke of good fortune, Wilhelmina Cooper, the head of one of the world’s most prestigious modeling agencies, discovered her in 1978. Carangi soon left Philadelphia, where she had toiled in her father’s sandwich shop, opting for the glamorous life of a fashion model in New York City.
As Fried recounts in the biography, Carangi quickly attained success as a model, appearing in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and modeling on the runways of Europe. Drawing from the model’s diary and datebooks, Thing of Beauty depicts the behind-the-scenes details of the fashion industry and dissects the disastrous results that followed Carangi’s early fame, hefty paychecks, and glamorous jet-set lifestyle. She continued to use drugs and soon acquired an infamous reputation for tempestuous behavior, as Fried learned from interviewing photographers and other personnel who worked with her. By 1980, just as her career was peaking, she had begun to use heroin. Her problems were compounded when her former mentor, Cooper, died of cancer that same year, leaving Carangi few allies in the business. The physical ravages of her heroin addiction, combined with Carangi’s increasingly erratic behavior, made her a liability to work with, and her once-enormous earnings began to drop dramatically. She returned to Philadelphia and her fortunes took an even sharper downturn. Carangi resorted to larceny and prostitution to support her heroin habit, yet had attempted a drug treatment program before being diagnosed with AIDS. To recreate this period of her life, Fried relies heavily on interviews with Carangi’s family and members of her drug treatment program, as well as the former model’s last lover.
Some critics faulted Fried’s approach to the biography. Carol Kramer, contributor to the New York Times Book Review, thought the work left many questions unresolved. “Bulked with details,” Kramer wrote, “it’s short on insights.” Other reviewers, however, praised Fried’s methods and accomplishment. Philadelphia Inquirer reviewer Heller commented that “Fried has a nice clean style that moves the story right along, a talent for recreating the mood of the time and, yes, the good sense to include a delicious helping of the back-biting that is as common to fashion as hems.” Voice Literary Supplement reviewer Corey Sabourin remarked, “Stephen Fried offers more than a scandal sheet of Gia’s short, volatile career. Half the biography covers Gia’s premodeling teenage years and later rehab attempts in Philadelphia.” Sabourin concluded that “Thing of Beauty is practically a text book on how all that seventies me-stuff blew up in the eighties.” And Heller found that “Fried makes a convincing case … that fetching eyes and a killer body are not enough. This is a chilling tale that every pretty stupid young thing should read.”
Fried was moved to investigate problems with pharmaceuticals in Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs after his wife, writer Diane Ayres, experienced debilitating side effects from one dose of the antibiotic Floxin. After Ayres took the pill to treat a urinary tract infection, she began to have insomnia, delirium, and distorted vision, and she developed manic-depressive illness. Fried looked into other instances in which people had suffered extreme complications from various medications, and he also scrutinized the workings of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) drug approval process. In the book, he reports that many of the side effects caused by pharmaceuticals do not come to light until after the drugs are FDA-approved and in widespread use. The reasons, he says, are that most clinical trials use participants who are in good health and therefore unlikely to experience difficulties, and that most of the information given to the FDA comes from doctors and scientists who work for pharmaceutical companies and therefore have a vested interest in the products’ success; Fried calls for an increase in independent research. He also makes a case that doctors and managed care organizations are sometimes too quick to prescribe drugs, while knowing too little about them, and that both doctors and patients are unduly influenced by advertising.
“There is a need for this complex web of vested interests to be untangled,” remarked Elizabeth K. Barbe-henn, reviewing Bitter Pills for the Lancet. William Beatty, writing in Booklist, observed that Fried’s findings “deserve broad distribution and discussion.” Added Barbehenn: “Fried has done a useful job in bringing together several examples where the drug approval system went awry along with some ideas as to how to prevent history from repeating itself. The question, as always, is: will anyone listen?”
The New Rabbi: A Congregation Searches for Its Leader deals with the congregation of Har Zion Temple, a Conservative Jewish synagogue in Philadelphia’s affluent Main Line suburbs—Conservative Judaism being indeed more conservative than the Reform or Reconstructionist movements but more liberal than the Orthodox form of the religion. The search is necessary because of the impending retirement of Rabbi Gerald Wolpe, who has been with Har Zion for thirty years and is only its third rabbi since the synagogue’s foundation in 1924. Wolpe is loved and respected, and it proves no easy task to find his successor. Fried, who calls himself a “wandering Jew,” covers not only the search but also the role of religion in modern life and his own reawakened interest in his faith.
The search for a new rabbi “does not seem, on its face, to furnish a promising subject for a full-length nonfiction book,” commented Jonathan Groner in the Washington Post Book World. “It is thus to the credit of Stephen Fried that he succeeds in weaving a compelling narrative from this rather unusual and not clearly appealing material.” Boston Globe reviewer William Novak noted that Fried provides “intimate and often hidden details of synagogue life,” such as the interactions among members of the congregation and how Wolpe and his wife, Elaine, have dealt with her serious health problems. More than anything, Novak added, the book is about people “who struggle to find meaning in their lives, and sometimes succeed,” and it offers a “stylish, informed and often witty depiction of American Jewish life.”
In Fried’s Husbandry: Sex, Love, and Dirty Laundry—Inside the Minds of Married Men, the author presents a collection of essays that originally appeared in his “Heart of a Husband” column for Ladies’ Home Journal. In his writings, Fried takes a lighthearted approach to such topics as low-carb diets, locker room nudity, and Valentine’s Day presents, yet he also examines more serious fare, including how men handle loss. “Fried is insightful as well as funny,” wrote a contributor in Publishers Weekly
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 1998, William Beatty, review of Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs, p. 1190; August, 2002, George Cohen, review of The New Rabbi: A Congregation Searches for Its Leader, p. 1890.
Boston Globe, February 9, 2003, William Novak, “Hard Choices at Houses of Worship,” p. D9.
Lancet, October 3, 1998, Elizabeth K. Barbehenn, “Harmful Legal Drugs: Will Anyone Listen?,” p. 1155.
Library Journal, August, 2002, James A. Overbeck, review of The New Rabbi, p. 103; July 1, 2007, Deborah Bigelow, review of Husbandry: Sex, Love, and Dirty Laundry—Inside the Minds of Married Men, p. 107.
New York Times Book Review, May 2, 1993, Carol Kramer, review of Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia, p. 19.
Philadelphia Inquirer, April 13, 1993, Karen Heller, review of Thing of Beauty.
Publishers Weekly, February 8, 1993, review of Thing of Beauty, p. 66; February 16, 1998, review of Bitter Pills, p. 194; July 15, 2002, review of The New Rabbi, p. 69; June 11, 2007, review of Husbandry, p. 47.
Voice Literary Supplement, July-August, 1993, Corey Sabourin, review of Thing of Beauty, p. 8.
Washington Post Book World, September 1, 2002, Jonathan Groner, “Secrets of the Temple,” p. 9.
Stephen Fried Home Page,http://www.stephenfried.com (February 1, 2008).