EFTI.Talk - Edith Hall Friedheim

EFTI.Talk - Edith Hall Friedheim

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Hi I'm Mike Reid, Dean of the college of Health  and Human Performance at the University of   Florida, which is the home of the Eric Friedheim  Tourism Institute. I'm here today to interview   Ms. Edith Hall Friedheim who helped to found the  institute which is named after her husband Eric,   a giant in the field of travel publishing and  her husband for many years. I think you'll find   it fascinating Edith has a great story to tell so  we warmly welcome you on behalf of the institute   to this interview. Well as you know I  was born and raised in Canada in Toronto,   and from the age of five I wanted  nothing else but to be a concert pianist.   And that began when I went to a movie  my friend's father took us to a movie   and I was five years old we were both five,  and I came home from the movie and my mother   asked me how how was it how did you like  your first movie and I burst into tears   and I was inconsolable. How sad. My poor mother  thought it was violence or something in the movie,  

but apparently through my tears I said "the music  was so beautiful". So my mother called the movie   theater and asked what the soundtrack was of  the movie that they were showing in those days   you could reach someone at the movie theater.  It turned out that the soundtrack was the   Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto. Oh lovely.  So my mother knew she had a weirdo on her hands,   and I started piano lessons and that's what I  did. And what I wanted to do. Then when I was   14 my piano teacher asked me to get a copy of the  Chopin a tunes, I was ready to begin playing some   of the easier ones. And I got an edition a Shermer  edition that was the famous yellow [yeah yes   yes of course] and there was a name across  the front cover Friedheim, and that was Arthur   Friedheim. Who was a very very well-known pianist  a great pianist yes a student of France list  

and he had edited these Chopin a tunes. Each  a tune had a paragraph that he had written,   and I was so impressed and so in awe of his  insight into these very obtuse abstract pieces   right. Yes and I knew that he was some kind of a  genius, so I started to research him and found out   about his career and so forth he lived in New York  he taught he concertized and so forth, and so on.   And I went about my business and became a concert  pianist, moved to New York because that was where   you had to be if you wanted to make a living  in the arts, and I moved there when I was 18. Was that move a shock? Was the culture in New York  very different? No it was like my home. Really.  

My parents were very um keen on the arts they  were they both played the piano quite well,   and they were great museum goers  and concert goers and theater goers.   So every Christmas we went to New York for about  10 days, and I was going to do this yeah yeah   and all I wanted was to move there eventually. But when I was 17 I was accepted as a student  at Tanglewood, and that was a very very big   honor of course. And while I was at Tanglewood  I met a composer and his wife who was a pianist   they were Canadians, and they were involved  with the Manhattan with the Mannes College of   Music in New York. And they said to me you  really need to come to Mannes in the fall.   New York is definitely where you want to be.  And I said my parents have already enrolled me   at Oberlin in Ohio, and they've already  paid you know put a huge down payment.  

And they said well you've got to come  to New York, so after Tanglewood I went   back to Toronto and announced to my parents I  wasn't going to Oberlin after all. My goodness   how did they handle that? did they put up with it  all right? Because I was a very rebellious kid. I and my brother both. We we we just  did what we what we felt we had to   do and I knew I had to go to New York.  So they accepted it and I went. Anyway   eventually I ended up in Cleveland, and I loved  it I taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music.   Yes wonderful school. I got married there and I  had a child. And by and by we moved to New York.  

I had already lived in New York gone to  Cleveland and then moved back to New York.   My husband was an artist he was a full professor  at Pratt Institute in the art department. And I   was teaching and playing in New York, so it was  a very very rich life. You know the story about   my working for Isaac Stern I'm sure. Yeah but I  think we need to hear that for this recording.   I think we need to hear that story. Isaac Stern  needed um an administrative assistant part-time,   and I was hired. And my job was to [wait wait  wait wait how did you just happen to know Isaac  

Stern that's not trivial?] I was pretty well known  by that time. The music industry like any other   is such that you get a huge attrition  rate Mike most people drop out. Yep   because for one thing practicing an instrument  is so difficult and so time consuming.   And then getting work is almost impossible, I was  lucky I was a very good teacher and I loved it.   So I always had lots of teaching. But and I  met somebody who was Isaac Stern's manager  

and she hired me. And so I went to work for  the great man you know that he was a very   famous violinist of course of course of course  sure. So I was to type his correspondence,   he got a lot of mail mostly fan mail  and he answered every single letter.   And I had to type from a dictating machine. And  he would come down after a day or two and say   Edith have you got some letters for me to sign?  And I would say i'm working on one Mr. Stern.   And we went to his mother's apartment for lunch he  was lovely to me he really was I met his children   and his wife he worked in his apartment. So  about three weeks into this job he called me  

into his office. And said to me you know  i've had a very serious heart attack,   and I said I know Mr. Stern. And he said and my  doctor tells me I need a full-time secretary.   Oh I can work full-time Mr. Stern. I could  never forgive myself if I asked you to do that,   you have much more important work to do I couldn't  bear it if I stood in the way of your career.   So I left feeling 10 feet tall, and  about two years later I was walking   down broadway and it suddenly hit me  that he had fired me and I didn't even   know. I thought he was making the big sacrifice  for my career it was a great lesson to learn.   In how to do something you know how to how to  how to let somebody go how to fire them and   have them realize it right. So that was that and  um I just you know did my thing, and eventually  

I burned out I didn't want to practice the  piano anymore. Yes I had been doing it all   day every day since I was five years old, I had  remarried, I had met Eric in the most wonderful   way because i had gotten into travel writing again  by chance. I met someone who needed a researcher   to update two books one on New York and one  on Washington and Virginia both for Fromen.   So a very famous publisher and very famous very  very. And so I applied by they told me to write  

a restaurant review, and if they liked it they  would hire me. Well I had a daughter who was a   French trained chef, and had a restaurant in  New York. She went with me to Le Bernardin and I wrote a review, and they liked the review so  I was hired. When [was the review ever published?]   oh yes they're yes in the Fromer books yeah. I  did a lot of restaurants and a lot of museums and   hotels for. So anyway the time came when i  really needed a full-time job. I had gotten  

divorced and I had no money and my children were  in college. It sounds quite dire, it was dire. But   it wasn't the first time it was dire, I had a  lot of dires in my in my yeah because in the arts   it it just is that way as you know probably.  So I met somebody and the woman actually the   woman that I wrote the updates for the Fromer  books for. She said you need a full-time job,   I used to work for Eric Friedheim he owns a travel  magazine for the industry it's called Travel Agent   Magazine. It was a weekly publication which at  one point he had to publish twice a week because  

of the competition coming along and publishing  twice a week it was a very competitive business.   She said would you like me to call him  for you I hear he's looking for a wife. and I would like to get back in  touch with him for my own sake, and you would be the hook. And I said thank you I would  love that that sounds wonderful.   So she called this Eric Friedheim person,  and he agreed to talk to me on the phone. And   I called him and I fell madly in love with him  on the phone because he had a gorgeous voice   very cultured he had been born in  London and he had a little bit of that   patrician speech. Do you know what I mean? Yes of  course very often. He agreed to see me he agreed  

to see me. So I went over to his office and we  had an interview, and he told me that he never   did any of the hiring because he couldn't  bear to fire anybody if it didn't work out. So he had his editor do all the hiring.   And anyway there were no jobs at the  magazine, but would I like to go to dinner.  

And I said that would be very nice. And he said to  me well by the way what did you do before you were   a travel writer? And I said I was a pianist, he  started to say my father was a pianist when I put   it together. Ah yes of course. You know 40 years  later in a different country in a different life   on a different planet here was Arthur Friedheim's  son, the person that I had worshipped all my all   my childhood. It really sounds faded. I think in  I often think that it was faded because there was  

no adjustment period at all when we got married.  It was as if we had been you know together in some   other life. He had been very happily married  to his first wife Betty and she had died very   tragically at the age of 64. He had been a widower  for a number of years, but he wanted to remarry   because she had made him so happy he wanted to  try again you know. So we made a dinner date,   and he was late. And I had a policy of not  waiting longer than 10 minutes for anybody,   so I left the restaurant. I bet few people did  that to Eric Friedheim. Nobody did that to Eric  

Friedheim. He had behalf of the women in New York  falling at his feet I mean he he dated everyone in   the travel industry in New York. My goodness and I  bumped into him he was coming into the restaurant   and I was he said where are you going? And I said  don't worry about it it's fine I just don't wait   longer than 10 minutes for anybody, but it was  lovely meeting you and bye-bye. Oh no please come   back please, so he cajoled me into going back into  the restaurant and that's how it started. Yeah   so that that your relationship with Eric must  have been extremely rich, it must have had so   many elements to it. What if anything- because  this was obviously a very prominent man and  

you probably knew a lot about him going into the  relationship- what surprised you most about Eric? What surprised me about Eric was the combination  of patrician, elegant, tall, handsome   man and street fighter. He was a real down  dirty kid. He had grown up poor in the Bronx,   he was in lots of fights when he was a kid,  his mother bought him a printing press when   he was eight years old and like I decided to be  a pianist at five he became a writer at eight   never did anything else. Really he wrote a  he wrote a newspaper when he was eight years   old. My goodness and and how did that  get distributed? In the neighborhood.   Then his father was hired in Toronto of all  places to uh start a music school there.   And they lived in a residential hotel in Toronto  and Eric published a newspaper in the hotel   put it under the doors of all the residents there.  And you know Mrs. Jones had a baby last week,   Mr. Smith got a new job you know. So he always  did that never never deviated from that at all. So  

that's another aspect of your history that shared  you both were in Toronto. Very much so but we   weren't there at the same time, and we weren't the  same age. He was a great deal older than I was,   but he was close in age to my mother. They went to  the same school yeah. They didn't they didn't know  

each other I guess? No no. Eric is amazing  Eric was about 10 when he lived in Toronto   and his father was a very difficult man loving  father and husband but a very difficult man.   And he wasn't rehired after the first two years  in Toronto. Really. So they went back to New York,   and that's where he stayed until he joined  the army during the second world war.  

Where did he serve? In Germany and England. I  see. He took the officer candidate training school   program. He had a classmate by the name of Clark  Gable. Another person a few folks know. Right and   he was an officer right from the very beginning.  Yes. He was shot out of a plane in Germany and  

parachuted into a tree they never found the pilot.  Oh my goodness. He was writing Eric was writing   for the um air force newspaper, he was in the air  force, and he was writing for their newspaper. But   he was shot out of a plane he had offered to apply  this mission to report on it to write about it.   He was shot out he parachuted and got caught in  a tree, and there was a password for the allies,   if you were an ally. And the password was hither  and fither because Germans can't pronounce   "th" at all. Really yeah. So hither and fither  is not something any German could possibly have  

used. And that's the password that he used  when he saw an allied troop come along.   And they got him down from the tree, and took  him. They had just blown up a railroad station   and sent him out with the stretcher to bring  the dead bodies back. Oh and he told me that   never ever again did he realize how heavy a dead  body was to carry. Yeah a tough lesson to learn.   He wrote a book about it called Fighters Up it's  a very interesting book it's about that mission,   and about having gotten a shot out of the plane  and that whole story. He stayed in the reserves  

Mike until he was 65 which is a wonderful  move, he was a very practical man and he got   marvelous benefits. From that and the first job  he had after that was as a freelance journalist,   and then after that he got a job as the  advanced man for the freedom train. So tell me   tell me about that train because that's a part of  American history that I'm not very familiar with.   It was a train that carried all of the  documents or U.S. American documents   such as the Declaration of Independence,  the Bill of Rights, the Constitution,   all of the official documents were on this train.  It stopped at every town throughout the south. So  

this was during the civil rights movement this was  in the mid 60s? No this would have been in the 50s   late 40s and early 50s. The war was over in 1945,  so he probably was working for the freedom train   two or three years later than that. And he was  struck by the injustice of the freedom train.   Because the appointments were made in every town  for the white population to come on at a certain   time on a certain day, and the black population  to come at a different time on a different day.  

So he often said to me the worst thing that can  happen to you is to be born black in this country.   Yeah it made a very very terrible  impression on him that that happened.   It's so impressive that he was a strong voice for  that in equity so early in in our country's life.   He really was he was just struck by that and never  got over it because he said it often during the   late years that we were together. Yes do you  think that it influenced his writing or his   his publications in any way? I don't think so  no I don't think so. He was strictly you know  

a an industry a travel industry writer and that's  what he did. He founded the Society of American   Travel Writers SATW, he was on the advisory board  of the president of the United States' caucus on   tourism that's really what he did and he traveled  and that's what he did. And it was competitive and   he had you know he had to be very very watchful,  somebody set a fire in his office one time.   Really and why was that? One of the competitors  he's pretty sure or it was an inside job.   It comes back to your your comment that he was a  real scrappy guy. He was a scrappy guy, but a very  

but a very fair guy and and a very  decent man. You know but he had this   low down journalist streak you know where he  would walk over the dead bodies to get the story.   With everything absolutely everything.  And the journalists that worked for him   the ones that walked over the dead bodies  after the assassination were the ones that   he liked and hired too. Yeah because that's what  makes a journalist. Absolutely. Right so then a   couple of years after that he found out that  a magazine called Travel Agent was for sale,   and it had been started in the 40s and this was  1951 and he decided to try to buy that magazine.  

Okay good. And he had no money he  bought it with other people's money,   but he did buy it and turned it around and  made it you know wonderfully successful   for many many many years until abc capital cities  bought it in the late 90s. Oh my goodness so he   he published that magazine for many decades? Yes  he did from 1951 until I mean he was still the   editor in chief when he was dying. Oh bless him.  So he had sold it and the an abc capital cities   took it down the tubes. So they hired a  consultant at $50,000 to tell them what to do,  

and the consultant studied the situation and told  them to get free time back running the magazine.   So $50,000 later they hired Eric back the  editor-in-chief, and the magazine was up   and running again. What a fantastic story that is  just terrific. It really is and it was a wonderful   magazine, but there was competition. He and  the main his main competitor had a falling out,   didn't speak, and this was difficult  because they ended up at the same   dinners every night you know the travel industry  is a very big entertainment industry. They didn't   speak a word they were seated together  all the time, but they never spoke a word.

After a few years they were at a luncheon and Eric  turned to Robbie Robinson and said would you mind   telling me why we're not speaking? Could you would  you mind telling me? And Robinson said I'm damned   if I can remember. And then they became very good  friends and we saw a lot of them in Florida. They   eventually moved to Florida. Oh that's terrific.  Yes and his magazine was Travel Weekly which was   another very very successful magazine. Yeah  yeah yeah what a great story. But of course  

he isn't with it anymore. Yeah and Eric his  wife died his first wife died quite young,   and one of the people he dated was a movie  star named Piper Laurie. Yes sure very famous.   She was in a movie or two with Paul Newman, and  after we got married she called him she didn't   realize he was married. She lived in California,  but she spent a lot of time in New York.   So she didn't realize he was married and  she called and I answered the phone and said   you know is Eric there? I said yes who's calling  she said this is Piper Laurie. So I put my hand   over the phone I said Eric Eric it's Piper Laurie  the movie star, invite her over invite her over.  

And so he got on the phone and talked to her  she was calling to tell him that she had a   new grandchild, and she was going to be in New  York, and could they get together and so forth.   And he told her that he was married and she  wished them well, but he didn't invite her over.   No and I never forgave him for that. Well I'm sure  poor Piper Laurie would have been brokenhearted to   realize the competition to which she lost. Right  I think she would have handled it very very well. So in in your relationship with Eric did your  work as a travel writer was that an important   part of y'all's relationship since you both  really were in the same industry? Eric was   terrified of being accused of nepotism. Oh yeah so  he would never give me an assignment ever. I had   to go behind his back and deal with the different  editors, the Europe editor the Caribbean editor   you know, and I would ask them for assignments.  And I was very good at what I did and I loved it.  

And they always gave me assignments, but  he never did. As he got older and sicker   I didn't want to leave him, and I kept getting  assignments to places like China, India,   Africa and these were long trips. Yes.  Many press trips are just a few days you   know four or five days, but those were because  of the distances those were much farther and   difficult to be in touch with him. I mentioned  you know I don't want to do this I don't want   to be in China, and he said oh but you have to.  I said no why? Because think how I would feel   if you didn't go, if I were to deny that trip,  think how I would feel how guilty, I would feel.   And he did this all the time. A very selfless man  in that regard. I'd say to him as long as you make  

sure that you have flowers waiting for me when  I get back. And for the rest of his life he did,   every time I went on a press trip  and came back there were flowers.   That is so sweet. Tell me a little bit while we're  on the topic of you and your international travel  

do you have memories or trips that were  particularly formative for you? Memories   that you still treasure? Very much so China of  course was like no other trip right because it's   like no other place in the world. I was there at  the time that they were just finishing up the dam,   and they were relocating all the people  from the ancient villages across the river   across the yangtze to these awful cookie-cutter  apartments it was very very sad. Very poignant.   Then Eric and I had a cruise on  the Amur river which Russia from   Mongolia I think. That was a cruise from hell  Eric told me his first life, but it was very   very interesting because it was the Russian far  east and nobody had ever been there. All had there   were war monuments, so that was a very interesting  trip as well. This was during the Cold War then?  

No this was no no this wasn't your yeah i guess it  was this was in the 90s. All of these trips were   in the 90s. I understand yeah that's that's much  later on then. Yeah and then I mean we were always   traveling always he would get up in the morning  and say let's go to w]Washington for lunch and   we did. Another memorable trip was we went we went  to London often because that was Eric's hometown,   and we booked a tour of Buckingham Palace because   it had not been available for tours it had been  closed to people. But it opened and so Eric was  

very keen to see it. Of course. So we booked  a tour and we were getting up in the morning   to take the tour when the phone rang at 6:30 a.m  in our hotel room, and it was Buckingham Palace   to tell us that the tourists had been cancelled  because Princess Diana had been killed the night   before. How horrible. And so that was memorable.  yes yes. Eric said let's get out of London,   I said well where will we go? I don't know  we'll go to the train station and we'll see   where where they're going. So we went to the train  station there was a train leaving for Brighton   and we went to Brighton, which was a marvelous  place. We saw Lawrence Olivier's home there,   there's the big this big huge building  there, and it's it's very beachy and very   lively we had a wonderful day there. It  must have been marvelous traveling with  

Eric the two of you knew so much about about  foreign countries and foreign culture. Yeah   yeah well he was, but but travel industry  people are not interested in the destination   at all. The destination has no interest for  them it is the logistics of moving the bodies   back and forth that interests them. The train  schedules, the bus schedules, the flights   that's what interests them. Did you take  many cruises with Eric? No he hated cruising.  

Really? He hated it his friends said Gaffin  whom you know [very well] Sid loved cruises   he was a big shot on Holland America and he was  always cruising he was always begging us to go   on a cruise. So Eric finally capitulated for  Alaska the inside passage and we went there,   but he didn't do any of the excursions he  didn't like being confined in a cruise ship.   In in your stories you frequently mentioned  trains, and train station, and train travel   was that a favorite form of travel for Eric?  Yes he was fascinated with trains and schedules   train schedules. I might have told you the  story of our honeymoon where we were at the   Savoy hotel? No no you haven't told me please do.  We got there and we unpacked we flew the concord  

because he was always upgraded. And we got there  after a long lunch- two and a half three hours-   and he said let's go somewhere. I said what we  just got here. He said well let's take a boat   somewhere. And I said where he said I don't  know we'll go down to the thames and we'll   see where they're going. So we went down to the  thames and there was a boat going to Greenwich.  

Yeah sure. So we went to Greenwich remember we  had just arrived in London we hadn't even really   unpacked yet. You must have been jet lagged out of  your socks well not really because the concord is   very easy. Oh you said the concord of course  yeah. It's a day flight and it's very short.  

It's interesting because you go through the sound  barrier you break the sound barrier. What was that   experience like were you aware of it on the plane?  Yeah because you had a television set that showed   you the atmosphere it was very very interesting.  Yeah yeah yeah and only about a three-hour   flight back then? Yes right. Amazing. It was  wonderful. It was too expensive to maintain,   and so it eventually folded. People couldn't  afford it and British Airways and Air France   couldn't really afford to sustain these aircraft  you know so it did fold. Then the next day we  

got up and we had breakfast and Eric said let's  go to Edinburgh i've never been to Edinburgh. So he went to London, but didn't go to  London he went everywhere but London.   So I said well we just got to London why  don't we spend a few days in London? No I   really would like to go. I said why? He said  because there's a wonderful new train there   called the Royal Scotsman and it does Edinburgh in  five hours or six hours and it's supposed to be a   wonderful ride. All right I said well how long  will we stay in Edinburgh? He said one night. And I said Eric I don't think I  want to ride 12 hours in a train   for one night. He said okay we'll fly one way.

So it's just as you said, he cared as  much about the travel and logistics   as he did about the destination. Logistics  he was really not interested in Edinburgh,   but in that Royal Scotsman. And we did the  same thing in the islands. We took a train   through the highlands it was just wonderful.  It's a beautiful part of every town it's   gorgeous. And every town is more gorgeous than  the last one, and that was really quite wonderful.   Then of course we went to all the SAT conventions  all the travel industry conventions. We went to   Cairo, and we went to Taipei, I'm one of the few  people Rachel knows here who's been to Taiwan.  

That's fantastic yeah what an exotic life you've  lived. Yeah it was fine I have no complaints   absolutely none none whatsoever it was it was  a magical life. We are. In ways it still is.   Well and we are delighted to have you with us to  help us with all the work that we do and to hear   these marvelous stories, but we're also honored  to have this institute named for your husband.  

I'm so grateful for that and to Sid Geffen and Hal  Herman and you. I'm so grateful for that it would   have been so meaningful to him mike because  travel and tourism was his entire life. Yes   Edith tell me what it's like to play on stage at  Carnegie Hall? It's very scary it's very scary.  

What was it a full public recital? Was it a part  of a public? It was a two-piano recital I had a   two-piano team and it was a two-piano recital and  the problem with performing Mike in Carnegie Hall   or anywhere else is memory. Pianists are the  only people who have to memorize the music.   And you have no idea how scary that is because  you trust something that's called muscle memory   which doesn't exist. It really doesn't. You  inevitably are going to have a memory lapse.   Yeah. Nobody doesn't, everybody does. Yeah but  that knowledge is just enough to paralyze you.   And yet you had a career and yet you were  successful in that regard that's fantastic.   Well because I loved what I was doing and I loved  teaching I loved teaching. That was I was I felt  

so lucky to have done that all my life and I  was so good at it you know I was a very very   can you good teacher. Can you tell us a  little bit about that because you did teaching   one-on-one with students in New York, and then  you went to Cleveland and you were on faculty.   Right right that was one-on-one too  yeah. I taught piano and chamber music,  

and I loved it I never lost a student. And  I taught everybody from the age of about   six to eighty. My goodness. You know I would  have an adult student who asked me one day   when can I play the rock modern off concerto?  And I said how's never it's never good for you.

I teased them a lot you know and it  worked. I was I was a very happy teacher.   Well you must have been patient if you  taught people at such extreme ages.   I wasn't patient at all I would say to them  hey it seems like i'm doing all the work here.

This is a partnership you know. Before we go  you've been an educator, you've been a travel   writer, you've been involved in the industry  at the very highest levels. I wonder what   advice would you have for our students in our  college. What what would you recommend to them?   You mean in tourism travel hospitality? exactly. I don't know as I would have any advice.  I would say to them you are the luckiest   person alive because you are studying  and preparing for the most fascinating   field. There is nothing but nothing  more all embracing, more global, than  

this field. It's wonderful and i really feel  that it's a privilege to be able to work in it.   And there are so many different aspects  and so many different opportunities. And you just have to choose one, and I mean  that for me it was travel writing I loved it.   And I didn't choose it, it chose me really. But  I think hotel management, I think hospitality is  

wonderful. I think cruising would be wonderful  now especially yes because as you know the   cruise ships are in deep trouble, and now they're  doing cruises to Singapore and cruises you know   unusual ones and I think it's a good  time to be in that business. Very good. Watch, you'll see it's changing drastically.   Few people have led such interesting lives  and have such wonderful stories to tell.   Thank you so much Edith. It's a pleasure.  And for me a pleasure great pleasure Mike.

2021-01-21 15:52

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