Tosan's childhood with filmmaker dad immortalized in book

March 3, 2014

Kipp Friedman jokes that he wrote his childhood memoir just to fit in on his own bookcase.

"In my attic, behind my computer, there is a shelf with books written by every member of my family," Friedman said.

His mother, Ginger Howard Friedman, and brothers, Drew and Josh Alan Friedman, are collectively published on music, art and acting. And his father — novelist, playwright and screenwriter Bruce Jay Friedman, known for his colorful and comedic work, including the novel "Stern" and films "The Lonely Guy," "Stir Crazy" and "Splash" — could probably use a shelf all his own.

"But there was no Kipp Friedman," Friedman said. "Now there is."

A Tosa transplant, by way of Oconomowoc and Madison, Friedman's "Barracuda in the Attic" reflects on his childhood in New York City. It's a story Friedman almost didn't write, believing instead it might be better penned by his dad.

"My father was a great storyteller," Friedman said. "He came home from a party once and said, 'Norman Mailer bit me.' He rolled up his sleeve, and I saw this big, angry bite mark on his bicep. And he said to my mother, 'Maybe I ought to have it checked for rabies?' And my mother said, 'Did you at least bite him back?'"

After his parents divorced, Friedman moved in with his father, sharing an east-side Manhattan duplex for about 18 months before going to school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"He took me with him on business trips. I met a lot of writers. We went to a Knicks game with Peter Falk, who was in 'Columbo' at the time," he said. "It stabilized me."

Later, Friedman told his father how special that time had been.

"He said, 'Yeah, that was a great story.' And I said, 'I can't wait to see what you write.' And he said, 'No, you should write it."

Ten years passed before Friedman, a former newspaper reporter, would begin what started as a short story — "Life with Father: 1977-78" — and grew into "Barracuda," named for the razor-toothed fish his father brought home and kept in his attic office after an assignment in the Bahamas.

"It sort of was a gift to my dad," said Friedman, who wrote the story in his own attic office, a man cave-type space in his east Tosa bungalow — a home he and wife, Anne, a nurse, chose so their son, Max, now an architect, could attend Wauwatosa East High School.

"I love living in Tosa," Friedman said. "It's sort of like living in the Shire. You know, from the 'Lord of the Rings'? We live in a 1926 bungalow with sage colors and leaded glass china cabinets and arches. I didn't even know what a bungalow was until I moved to Wauwatosa. You just feel like Bilbo Baggins, like you're going to walk out with tufted feet."


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