Through the years the Cheltenham suburb of Philadelphia has been called home by personalities as diverse as Ezra Pound and Reggie Jackson. Somewhere between those two extremes lies staff writer Franz Lidz, Cheltenham High '69. Lidz moved back to Philly from New York two years ago and soon entrenched himself as home run king of his Wiffle Ball league, which makes him the straw that stirs a very small drink.
Lidz, whose story on Boston Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque begins on page 36, claims to have a particular connection with the eccentric Pound. "I once interviewed Hugh Kenner, a Pound scholar at Johns Hopkins," Lidz says. Kenner had visited Pound at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington. Pound told him, 'You have an obligation to visit the great men of your time.' "
Lidz himself has met and profiled for SI a wide variety of people—indeed, he is one of our most versatile writers—from Philly schoolboy sprinter William Reed Jr. and fighters Bobby Czyz, Jeff Chandler and David Bey to artists LeRoy Neiman and Charles Schulz. But it was Pound's advice to Kenner that led Franz to meet Gore Vidal.
"My wife, Maggie, and I vacationed in Europe a couple of years ago," Lidz says. "We were in Ravello, Italy, and I knew Vidal lived there. We found his villa and buzzed. Just when we thought no one was home. Vidal opened the door and asked what he could do for us. I told him that we were on a world tour of the homes of everyone we had ever seen on The Merv Griffin Show. It worked. He laughed and invited us in, and we spent the afternoon with him.
"Why do so many things appeal to me? I'm a born dilettante. I suppose, and I'm interested in aberrations. A good part of the time I find myself writing about people society has nudged aside but who continue to warble and whine with an addled integrity."
Franz and Maggie have a daughter, Gogo, 2, the latest in a long line of one-of-a-kind Lidzes. Readers of this magazine may remember Franz's uncle Arthur, who appeared in his story on Uncle Arthur's shoelace collection (SI, Jan. 19, 1987), as well as his equally unusual uncle Harry (SI, Dec. 20, 1982). Franz recently signed a contract with Simon & Schuster to write a book (tentatively titled Unstrung Heroes) about his unique family. "My uncles alone would make a great sitcom," says SI's Lidz.
Says staff writer Jaime Diaz: "Franz has a talent for humor, but he is a really careful writer. He makes sense of things that confuse you. He has a way with the declarative sentence."
Franz gives a lift to daughter Gogo, the latest in the unusual Lidz line.