Lullaby of Tiny Tim

Tiny Tim deserves a permanent speaking forum. Many of the national TV podiums from which he performed in the late ’60s have cast him aside, regarding him as a “charity guest.” He struggled for two decades before hitting the big time as a singer/pop aberration, then hit the Vegas bandwagon for resuscitation. He became a great American fad before having a chance to nurture his cult status as a unique artist and musicologist of early 20th century popular song, a virtually forgotten era—save for Tiny’s determination to sing its glories. He is also a most extraordinary connoisseur of women.


Nellie and Her Sons.

Nellie Hatt and her sons Ned, left, and Carl on farm at Baileyville, Me., where all were born. If crops are bad, Ned said, “We make do, then. We don’t ask nobody’s help.”

The above caption and photo ran on page 37 of The New York Times, July 2, 1974. It has haunted me ever since. It was taken by Arthur Grace, for a story called “Maine Farmers See Aid in Beef,” by Alden Whitman. The dateline was a town called “Meddybemps,


Can Anyone Stop This Man From Writing?

My father, Bruce Jay Friedman, was saddened by the news that Philip Roth is gone.He found it disturbing, unexpected, and doesn’t think there is anyone around who will fill his shoes. Roth gave his entire life to what he did.

The BJF vs. Roth trope was a slightly annoying subject in my family. Or at least, I’ll speak for myself. It was grating to hear Roth’s name come up, automatically, when someone praised my father. What does Roth have to do with it? They have nothing to do with each other. Why must I hear that echo? A petty annoyance, probably not worth mentioning.


Shirley Temple Meets Mr. Death.

Forty years later, I detect an embarrassing undertone of boyhood crush in this Soho News fluff interview I did with Laraine Newman. I brought a handful of Famous Monsters mags for her to pose with. They ran the cover line “Dracula Turns Me On.”

Reprinted from The Soho News, May 18, 1978


Eight Million Stories.

There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.

The greatest legacy of Naked City is its location footage. This police procedural, which ran between 1958-1963, is chock-full of New York’s real streets. Breakfast at Tiffany’s/West Side Story-era New York. The year 1962 takes my breath away–because it hovers innocently in the middle of the American century, suspended from the ‘50s, just a hop, skip and gun blast away from the assassination and the Beatles.

Naked City was nearly the only location show shot in New York. We visit the fabled St. Nicholas Arena fights on 66th Street. It would be closed in a year. We take in the vista from the elevated subway at 161st Street looking out on Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds. We enter the old, cigar-hazed Madison Square Garden at 50th Street, and cross the Bowery where Lower East Side kids run amok and play stickball. Children play alone on sidewalks and playgrounds.