If you knew nothing about Steve Friedman, it would only take you about two minutes of listening to his long-running, Philadelphia-based talk-radio show to know that he LOVED movies. It just shined out of your radio speakers how much he loved films, loved talking about them and loved hearing what callers had to say about them. Always upbeat, he never derided anyone for their cinematic choices, often pointing out that every movie is someone’s favorite.
After 25 years of broadcasting, that voice has been silenced, as Friedman passed away at his home in the Philadelphia suburbs just a few short hours after finishing his Saturday night broadcast.
Friedman got his start in radio while working as manager of on-air promotion for Philadelphia television station WCAU channel 10. Known around the station for his prestigious movie knowledge, he was asked by WCAU-AM host Wally Kennedy to appear on his program to talk with listeners about film. Friedman’s easygoing manner so impressed the radio station’s management that he soon found himself hosting an eight-hour, over-night show once a week. Kennedy nicknamed Friedman “Mr. Movie,” a name Friedman always seemed to be a bit embarrassed by.
In addition to his radio show, Friedman taught film classes at Temple University and Rosemont College, lectured at other colleges in the region and had lectured several times at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
I first stumbled on to Steve’s show in the late 80s, while attending college. I had come back to my dorm room one late Saturday night and was tuning through the dial for something to listen to while falling asleep. I stopped when I heard an announcer talking about movies, and talking about them knowledgeably. I stayed awake for as long as I could, but didn’t make it to Friedman’s, at the time, 6:30 am sign off. But I was back the following week and remained a fan over the next two decades, following his show to various different stations and different time slots, calling in now and again. I’ve often said that the best part of my education in college was his show.
I got a chance to finally meet Steve Friedman last fall when he spoke to a writer’s group in West Chester, PA, during which he through an open invitation out to every there to appear on his show. Although I did chat with him for a few minutes after his talk, I never took him up on that blanket invite, though I pondered it once or twice. Now I wish I had, if only to have had the opportunity of spending a few more minutes talking about movies with him.