Interviews

MEN OF VALUE INTERVIEW : STEVE FRIEDLANDER by James Riordan

Steve Friedlander mastered the very technical and complicated world of integrated digital telephone service just at the right time, as the digital revolution took off.  He worked as an independent agent for Ameritech customizing and streamlining digital phone services for a wide range of customers.  He knew what they needed and he had an extraordinary knack for figuring out the best and least expensive way to give it to them.  When SBC bought the service out they did what most major corporations do in such a situation – they took all the accounts that Steve’s ingenuity and personal service had won for the company and made them house accounts which basically ended up costing him 1,8 million dollars in guaranteed commissions.  That’s right, 1.8 million dollars!  Most people would never recover from that kind of loss and would end up collapsing into their bitterness.  Not Steve Friedlander.  He just moves on to the next enterprise and figures out how to make that work as well.

SteveF1It is this kind of thinking that makes Steve a Man of Value.  He credits his value system to his Jewish faith. “I’m strong in my faith.  I’m Jewish and when things got tough for me, not just financially, but physically as well, I would go to temple six days a week.  I did that for four years.  I felt like I needed something and I think that was a good thing for me.  I not only made some new friends who I still am friends with, but I think going and volunteering and helping out really gave me a sense of what’s important.  Someone once gave me a good bit of advice to practice when you’re stressed out.  We Jews have a lot of names for our God.  One of them is Hashem.  Whenever I feel like I’m stressed out or that something is wrong, I think of myself as being wrapped in the arms of Hashem.  Then, suddenly, I’m totally relaxed.  I know He’s watching me.  I know He’s there taking care of me. Whatever is going to happen may still happen, but I become mentally and physically better able to handle it.”

While Steve credits his faith for teaching the values he lives by he credits his military service for his ability to live those values out in his life.  “Joining the military was, I’d have to say, the single best decision I’ve ever made in my life.  I was starting to get in trouble now and then.  Once I started driving I started hanging out with some of the gangs in high school, which is unusual for a Jewish kid because Jewish kids aren’t usually in those kind of gangs. They were in social clubs where they were mingling with the girls but I was drag racing and stuff like that. I had some friends who’d go to the horse racetrack and I’d get in the car and go with them to the racetrack at night. I started hanging with some of the gangs over on Bryn Mawr and Broadway on the east Rogers Park area.  When I graduated high school, I was the only one of my friends who went into the military. The rest all went to college to have fun and do all their thing and I joined the service. I graduated in ’66 and Vietnam was raging. I joined because I felt that was the right thing to do.  I had made the varsity football team as a Freshman and my mother wouldn’t let me play because she was afraid I’d get hurt, but she let me enlist to go to Vietnam.

Friedlander’s first choice had been the Navy. “My favorite WWII movies were the sub-marine movies, like Run Silent, Run Deep, you know those kind of movies. I was hoping to get in the submarines, the Navy told me they didn’t take people over six feet then.  They just didn’t have the headroom.  Now days they can because the nuclear subs have more space, but they only had two nuclear subs when I was trying to get in.  It’s funny because I realize now that a lot of my fascination with submarines then was based on movies, television shows and science fiction.  Whenever I thought of a submarine, it was like the SeaView from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea with the big window in front.  Real submarines are totally enclosed.  You can’t see all the fish down below.”

SteveF2After realizing he couldn’t get be assigned submarine duty, Friedlander told his mother, “’I’m going to join the army and follow my father and my uncle’s footsteps.’  She said, ‘You’ll have to wait until you’re 18.’ I graduated three months after I turned 17 so I said, ‘I’m not waiting nine months. I want to go mow. What am I going to do?’ She said, ‘No army, no marines. You can pick the navy or the air force and I’ll sign.’ I went back to talk to the Air Force and wound up working on mechanical/electronics for the Top Secret Minuteman ICBM Missile which gave me the foundation for my career.”

Friedlander’s stint in the Air Force also enabled him to fulfill the dream of buying his father a new car. “I had a really fast muscle car back when I went into service. I figured I was going to Vietnam, what do I need that car for now.  So I went over to Mr. Norm’s because it was a dodge and I got a lot of money for the car because it was in mint condition. I drag raced it almost every weekend, but I took care of it. I got enough money to buy my father a 1967 Monaco. It was dark blue with a black vinyl top. I still can picture the car. I called him and said, ‘You got to come with me because I have to sell my car and I’m only 17 and you got to sign papers.’ When we got there I’m like, ‘Oh, by the way, what’s this? I picked it out for him because I was afraid if I just gave him the cash he wouldn’t get it.  He was like a kid and it made me feel so good to be able to do that for him.”

Friedlander is a strong believer in the military.  “We have what we call three percenters.  Back in the Revolutionary War only 3% of this country was willing to fight for the freedoms of the United States. Out of the 13 colonies only 3% fought.  Now, today, there’s only maybe 1% of this country that has ever served in the military.  Imagine what would happen if no one was willing to do that.  We’ve been lucky enough to have an all volunteer Military, unlike Israel where at 18, or whatever, the age is, you have to serve your term.  I have another friend of mine who has three kids. He said that if he ever thought that one of them wanted to join the military he would go in the middle of the night and cut off their big toe. He said, ‘I got no problem with the military but not my kids.’  What if everyone had that attitude?”

Like many men of faith, Steve Friedlander is grateful for the blessings he has and feels that being thankful is something lacking in our society. “Imagine how lucky it is to be born in this country.  There’s seven or eight billion people on this planet right now and only three hundred million of them live in the United States. That’s less than five percent.  Not only that, but imagine all the eggs that pass through a woman and your egg was the one that got fertilized. My mother had three miscarriages and was told not to have children. Then she had three healthy children in a row.  We are lucky to even have been born and then we have the privilege of being born in this country. The odds are astronomical. They are beyond what you can ever imagine. “

I asked Steve if he could remember a time when his values cost him something and, like most men with real values, he had such an experience.  “I was consulting for this big company and the COB called me aside one day and told me he wanted to find a reason to fire one of their guys.  Now, I already knew that this guy he wanted to fire was probably the best employee they had.  I told the COB that the guy he wanted to fire was the one guy he really needed to run the plant and he said, ‘I don’t care.  Get dirt on him.’  So, I kind of looked around and followed up on different things to see if there was anything that the guy was doing wrong. Was he stealing, was he having affairs, but the guy wasn’t doing anything wrong he was a class act.  So, a week later I’m supposed to bring in my dirt on the guy and all the big executives are in the meeting including my boss who* says, ‘Okay I want a report on all the dirt.’ I said, ‘Sir, can I please just ask you what it is you’re trying to do?’  He said, ‘Look, we have one country club in this town. His wife doesn’t fit in with the other women so the only way to get her out is to fire him and then they’ll move out of town because there’s no other jobs around here.’  So because his wife didn’t fit in with the women at the fancy country club they wanted to fire him.  So I said, ‘Well, I’ve got bad news for you.’  He said, ‘Oh good,’ thinking I had found something wrong with the guy.  Then I said, ‘No, I’ve got bad news for you.  There is no dirt on this guy.  He is the oil that keeps your machine alive.’  Now, I’m getting the evil eye from my boss and all the rest of the other consultants because they were all senior to me and they’re all giving me a look like, ‘Steve, this is what we’re getting paid to do.’ I just couldn’t do it.  It was wrong.  They told me right there I should find another job.  Then they escorted me to my apartment and made sure I packed and left town.”

“This kind of thing will happen to you if you live by a certain code,” Friedlander continued.  “When the day comes and they put you in the ground all you get to take with you is your reputation. You can’t take your money and you can’t take all your toys.  I’d like to be buried with my Harley but somebody will steal it later on unless I’m encased in cement.”

Like many others, Steve Friedlander is very worried about the direction America has been going.  “I think we’re past the point of no return. I don’t think we can come back.  I honestly think we just can’t.  I think we’ve gone so far overboard.  I think we’re coming to the peak of the Second Amendment.  For the next twenty years the government will be trying to disarm the people.  I’m a Jew and when I think of how Germany did it in the early days of the Nazis, I am resolved as a Jew, that I will never be disarmed.  They will have to find what I have. and take me down. I have a bullet proof vest that can handle anything just short of a .50 caliber.  It’s a Class 4 vest. They don’t make them any stronger. It’s like 3/4 inch solid steel.  Don’t get me wrong.  I pray it will never come to that, but it seems to me we are going in that direction.  It’s all politics.  Look at the word politics.  ‘Poli’ means many and ‘tics’ means blood suckers.  Politics is many blood suckers.  That’s what it is to me.”

When the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence,” Friedlander continues, all fifty-five of them put themselves at risk and a lot of them were killed or made bank-rupt over signing that document.  Some were hung. From that time to the two hundred and some years until now, this world has had the most dramatic change because of the technology and the industrial revolution of the United States. If the United States had never been born as a country of freedom the world would not have advance. Without capitalism this world would still be throwing sticks and stones at each other.  We might have better stones and better sticks but we sure wouldn’t have what we have today. We would have never have landed on the moon, we wouldn’t have electric cars. We wouldn’t have anything that we have today. There was a sudden leap forward throughout the entire world from the time the United States was founded.

Yes, Steve Friedlander has strong opinions because he has strong beliefs.  That’s what makes him a man of value.

 

 

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The Author

James Riordan

James Riordan

Rare is it that any author will have one of his books described as the definitive work on a particular subject, but such a distinction has been bestowed by critics on no less than four books written by James Riordan. The New York Times Bestseller Break on Through, Riordan’s biography of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, has not only been called “the most objective, thorough and professional Morrison biography” by the Times Book Review but also named as one of the Ten All Time Best Rock Biographies by Amazon.com. Riordan’s The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco) was called “One of the best how-to books ever written” by the Los Angeles Daily News and “The ultimate career book on the music industry” by Recording, Engineer & Producer. Critics described Riordan’s The Bishop of Rwanda as “one of the most important books you’ll ever read.” and The Coming of the Walrus, Riordan’s novel about the 60s as “the definitive book on the era” and “a hilarious tale of a harrowing search for the greatest truth of all”. With the release of A Well Thought Out Scream and Madman in the Gate, Riordan pushed the boundaries again with poetry/song lyric books that contain hundreds of stunning, beautiful and poignant images from artists and photographers from all over the world. In the summer of 2013 a new edition of The Coming of the Walrus was released to rave reviews followed by The Kill Switch. The author of thirty-three books, James Riordan’s career began in the music industry where as a songwriter, manager, producer and concert promoter he worked with several well known artists. In 1976 he began writing a newspaper column, Rock-Pop, which he later syndicated. Riordan soon became one of America’s premier rock journalists with articles reaching millions of readers including those of Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Circus, Musician, and newspapers like The Chicago Daily News and The Kansas City Star. His reputation for relating on a one-to-one level soon led to interviews with George Harri-son, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Zappa, The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Mandrell, Crosby, Stills & Nash and countless others. His first book, The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco in 1980) became the largest selling book ever written about the music business. The guide to “succeeding in the music business without selling your soul” was praised by Variety ,The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Las Vegas Sun, The Minneapolis Tribune, Billboard, Record World and many more. The Platinum Rainbow became an industry-wide phenomenon and interviews with James Riordan were aired on over 1200 radio stations and numerous television talk shows. Next Riordan collaborated with Pulitzer Prize winner Jason Miller on a mini-series for network television (The Irish) and a movie of the week for CBS (Bless Me Father). In June 1991, William Morrow & Co. published Break On Through to outstanding sales and reviews. Riordan worked as a consultant on Oliver Stone’s film of Morrison’s life, The Doors, which led to his writing Stone’s biography. Published by Hyperion /Disney in December 1995, Entertainment Weekly called STONE “an unflinching biography... enough spectacle to fill a month of daytime-TV talk shows.” The New York Post said reading the book was like “the sensory overload of watching all of Oliver Stone’s movies back to back.” Riordan was interviewed by Inside Edition, People Magazine, The Tom Snyder Show, and many others. From 1997-2000, Riordan created and co-starred in a local television program, Kankakee Valley Prime Time, which won six Crystal Communicators, three Tellys, and earned Riordan a Chicago/ Midwest Emmy Nomination for Writing the program. In the summer of 1999, James Riordan wrote, directed and starred in Maddance, an hour long dramatic project which won Crystal Communicators for Drama, Writing, Acting and Directing. On April 9, 2000, James’ 16 year old son, Jeremiah, was killed as a passenger in an accident that involved three drunk drivers. Shortly after this, James founded Make it Stick which works to warn teens of the dangers of substance abuse and publishes a magazine distributed to high school students. In 2001, he founded Jeremiah’s – A Place to be Yourself to give teens a place to hang out away from the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Force to close by its incredible growth rate, Jeremiah’s was recognized as one of the fastest growing and most successful teen centers in the United States. In 2004, Toastmasters International named Riordan Communicator of the Year for Central Illinois, the YMCA gave him their Service to Youth Award and the United Way named him the Outstanding Volunteer of Kankakee County. Returning to writing, Riordan went to Africa to write The Bishop of Rwanda, (with an intro by Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren). In November of 2006, Harper Collins released a new edition of Break On Through followed by The Coming of the Walrus (Image Workshop) in December and The Bishop of Rwanda (Thomas Nelson, Inc.) to rave reviews (“Powerful …plumbs the depths of God’s forgiveness and finds no bottom – Publisher’s Weekly). In 2011, he won the Pledge For Life Harold Award for his work with area youth. In the summer of 2012, Lee and Shane Stanley (Gridiron Gang) optioned Maddance as a feature film followed by Apothecary Films optioning The Kill Switch in 2013 and Omni Films optioning Final Service to film in May. Riordan joined the staff of the Mancow Syndicated Television and Radio show in January of 2014 and is now seen and heard across America on a weekly basis. His biography is included in Who’s Who in Entertainment , Who’s Who in Poetry and Contemporary Authors of America. James Riordan – Works Books The Kill Switch, novel with Andrew Dahlmaine, Stonegate Ink, 2013 The Coming of the Walrus, Trade Paperback Editn, Image Workshop 2012 Springboard To Heaven ( Jojo Sayson Adventure), Image Workshop, 2012 The Elijah Collection, novel collection with Bill Myers, Zondervan, 2011 The Well Thought Out Scream (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 Madman in the Gate (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 The Deadly Loyalty Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Ancient Forces Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Enemy Strikes with Bill Myers (Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 Deception with Bill Myers (Book 2 Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 The Bishop of Rwanda (Finding Forgiveness) Thomas Nelson, March 2007 Paperback Edition May, 2012 The Coming of the Walrus (What Really Happened in the '60s) IW, 2006 Break on Through (The Life & Death of Jim Morrison), Morrow, 1991. (New York Times Bestseller, Published in 5 languages, Hardcover, 5 Paperback Editions, Harper Trade Paperback November, 2006) Stone (The Controversies, Excesses & Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker), Disney/Hyperion,1995. (Published in 3 languages, Hardcover, Paperback Edition). Making It in the New Music Business, Writers Digest Books, 1987, (Second Edition, Revised and Updated 1991, Two Hardcover Editions) The Platinum Rainbow (How to Succeed in the Music Business Without Selling Your Soul) 250,000 copies with Bob Monaco, Swordsman Press, 1980, Twenty-Three Editions, Revised 1988) 25 Year Anniversary Edition, 2005 Capture the Wind (Microphones) w.Tom Lubin, Literary Mouse Press,1989 Private Biography of Russ Kalvin, founder of Kalvin Corp., 1990 Private Biography of Steve Stefano, founder of Joico Hair Products, 1993. Mystery of the Invisible Knight (Book 2 in the BloodHounds Series) with Bill Myers, Bethany House,1997. Matters of the Heart (The Life & Times of Edgar Cullman), Culbro, 1997. The Curse (Book 7 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1997. The Undead (Book 8 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1996. The Scream (Book 9 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1998 The Ancients (Book 10 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1999. The Cards (Book 11 Forbidden Doors Series) with Bill Myers, Tyndale,2000 Films Final Service, co-written with Gary Moore and based on his book, Omni Productions, to be filmed in May, 2014. Maddance, Writer/Director/Lead Actor, Search Engine Films, Simmcomm, 1999. (Winner of 4 Crystal Communicators including Best Drama, Screenplay, Director, Male Actor – Austin, TX.1999) Performance (The Life of Ingrid Bergman), Screenplay, Lancit Productions 1998. Returned to Author when film division closed)Rewritten2009 Shadowdancers, Story & Screenplay, Story with Bill Myers, 1997 Dr. Babylon, Story 1996. Air Guitar, Story & Screenplay, 1994 The Platinum Rainbow, Story & Screenplay, 1993 Television/Video Kankakee Valley Prime Time, Writer, Director, Producer, 1997-2000. (Nominated for Midwest/Chicago Emmy for Writing, 1998, 3 Telly Awards, 4 Crystal Communicators 1998-2000). Angels Among Us (The Amtrak City of New Orleans Train Disaster, Co- Producer, (Telly Award, 2000). River Valley Sports Authority, Producer, 1999-2003. I Hate The World (Hypnoises Music Video), Writer/Director/Producer, Crystal Communicator for Best Music Video Concept, 1998). The United Way (Video) Crystal Communicator for Best Video for a Charitable Organization, 1998.

If it isn't money and it isn't fame and it isn't sex... then what... God?

— James Riordan, 2000

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