Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The ‘Taxi King’ was once praised by John Lennon and Marvin Gaye
Gene Freidman, the “Taxi King” who once famously contributed his cab fare to the Star Trek series, has died aged 50.
His death from cancer was announced on his personal Facebook page.
The Williams College graduate briefly worked as a teacher in Boston before becoming a taxi cab driver in the 1980s.
During his time working the night shift, he became a syndicated taxi writer, writing hundreds of articles.
One of his best-known works was a 1973 dispatch by a cab driver writing from New York.
The story was such a hit with New Yorkers that it has been adapted into a TV series – and in the past 15 years – a touring play and an opera.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Freidman first drove the cab in 1983
The next day it turned up in a yearbook at Northwestern University and once collected a prize for a taxi driver’s report from the Boston Athletic Association’s annual running race.
‘Two cans of beer’
As the website Walletpop points out, Freidman was also a fan of jazz and on a visit to New York City in 1985, he ended up bailing out a customer who had been denied beer because she had spilled her drink.
“I got them to agree to put two cans of beer in the tank and come back the next day to see the alcohol rating,” he recalled.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Freidman once helped a customer get beer and lager – despite spilling his drink
Rather than being hailed as a hero in the city, the incident took him on a circuitous route through the taxi industry.
He got his first trial as a writer when he was travelling through Boston and was offered a job driving a cab.
As a friend suggested, he began to collect money for road trips to write for four cashiers – and eventually eventually developed the business into a franchise.
In 2000, Freidman left New York, crossing over to Boston to set up a media operation as Gene Freidman Media Group.
“It’s been phenomenal for the rest of the industry to get on board with him because you can’t get money for writing to begin with,” his partner Paula Izenberg told Walletpop.
Although Freidman was known for giving away his cab fare to Star Trek, he also donated a few thousand dollars to several of the school’s athletic teams.
Among the places he donated his cab fare was Harvard University – although that has only recently been acknowledged by the university.
An interesting footnote to the story is that Freidman eventually became a University of Oregon alumnus.
He is survived by his wife, four children and, as Izenberg noted, his family “keep his legacy alive by supporting Gene through his work. That’s the kind of person Gene was.”
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Freidman contributed his tax-free fare to Star Trek: The Next Generation