Josh Strauss moderating a Q&A with Pam Grier. Photo: Godlis
The Film Society of Lincoln Center family received the sad news on Friday that a member of our programming department, Josh Strauss, passed away after a battle with cancer. Josh was known for his classic Hollywood programs and tributes to stars like Pam Grier, Raquel Welch, and Steve McQueen.
Not long after Josh Strauss arrived at the Film Society of Lincoln Center to handle print traffic, he mentioned to me, very quietly, that he wanted to propose a few programs. I listened, just as quietly. Plenty of people both inside and outside the organization had ideas about programming, but Josh’s were different. He didn’t want to do national surveys or auteurist retrospectives. Josh was, to put it plainly, a guy with show business in his blood and the instincts of an entertainer. I think that such a description would have had him smiling his warm, friendly smile.
Josh grew up in L.A., which surprised me, because he seemed like a New Yorker through and through. He had studied acting, and his comic timing was superb: the guy knew how to deliver a punch line. He was also a terrific mimic. I doubt that anyone will ever do a better Michael Douglas as Liberace.
Not all of his programs got off the ground—the talent wasn’t always available—but the ones that did were very special, and he put everything he had into them. He worked on every angle of every show—the prints, the order of the shows, the copy, the art, the composition of the talent, the tone—and refined it all until it sparkled like a diamond. His Pam Grier and Raquel Welch tributes were high points. With those shows and with his tribute to Steve McQueen (the actor), Josh evoked the allure of an earlier era in movies: the tacky, broad-stroked, full-colored world of commercial moviemaking in the 70s.
Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies (TCM) with Strauss. Photo: Godlis
The news of Josh’s death came to us on Friday, quite suddenly in the late afternoon, and it sent a cold shock wave through the office. We were all thinking of his beloved family, his wife and his son. We were remembering the time we’d spent in his company. And we were praying that his end was a peaceful one.
Josh and I both regularly attended the Turner Classic Movies festival in Hollywood. Last year, at his recommendation, my son and I stayed at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, and Josh stayed there as well. Along with Musso and Frank’s, the Formosa, and Jerry’s Famous Deli, the Lodge is one of the last remnants of the old L.A.—you might expect to see Veronica Lake walking through the front door and taking a seat at the bar next to William Bendix. Josh was in his element there, taking meetings, going to movies, and checking in at his old haunts. That’s how I’ll remember him in times to come, I think—in a sport jacket and tortoise shell glasses, at his ease and talking show business on the boulevard.
We invite you to share your memories of Josh in the comments below.