Howard "Chip" Silverman, one of the original "diner guys" who chronicled life and coming of age in 1950s and 1960s Northwest Baltimore and later became director of the state Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration, died Thursday evening of melanoma at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. He was 65.
Dr. Silverman, an addictions clinician and behavioral health consultant, had lived at Harper House condominiums in Cross Keys since 2003.
From 1970 to 1975, he coached Morgan State's lacrosse team, which gained national recognition during his tenure.
"I've known him since 10th grade homeroom. It's been that long. If I was to look at Chip's life in movie terms, he'd be George Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life. And like George Bailey, he affected people in so many ways," said Barry Levinson, director of the 1982 movie, Diner.
"Chip was a funny and sarcastic person. He loved writing about people and characters in the community. A lot of people knew him. He knew how to make a friendship special and personal," Mr. Levinson said. "At the end of the day, he had a great love of life and truly enjoyed his time."
Dr. Silverman was born in Baltimore, the son of a grocer and a homemaker, and grew up on Queensberry Avenue in the city's Pimlico neighborhood.
"We lived three blocks away from Pimlico racetrack and we loved telling people that we had stables. It was a family joke," said a sister, Harriet Silverman of Tucson, Ariz., with a laugh. "What was important to us growing up in those years was the Queensberry Playground. It was central to our lives."
Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, founder of the old Merry-Go-Round clothing chain, first got to know Dr. Silverman when both were kids.
"I was at the Towanda Playground and we'd play Queensberry. I really got to know him when we were teenagers and later at Forest Park High School and at the Hilltop Diner on Reisterstown Road, where Chip, Barry and me were fixtures," said Mr. Weinglass. "I have to say, he was always very funny - even way back then."
Mr. Levinson's 1982 movie Diner immortalized a group of friends who on late nights at the Hilltop discussed life, girls and sports over platters of food.
"One of the things we did was try and outdo each other with our dates, which we called a `great post,'" Mr. Levinson said.
Dr. Silverman explained the term in his 1989 book, Diner Guys.
"A great post was a blue-eyed, blonde shiksa, at least 5'6", that no one in Northwest Baltimore had ever seen," he wrote.
While Dr. Silverman's character is not delineated in Diner, he does make a cameo appearance, playing a guy selling pants out of the trunk of his car, Mr. Levinson said.
Recalling those years, Dr. Silverman told The Sun in 1989, "I don't live in the past, but there was something special about this group of guys in Northwest Baltimore. Many of them have stayed close to home and we've stayed friends."
In Diner Guys, Dr. Silverman wrote about the real-life characters in the group and used their names. In the book's foreword, Mr. Levinson wrote:
"Chip ... keeps the memories better than anyone else and he just loves to tell stories ... Although Chip wasn't as funny as Ben, as good-looking as Hurd, as smart as Bill, or tough as Boogie or the Gripper, or as uniquely odd as Fenwick and Yussel, he still impacted on the guys. That was because he had a good memory and instigated and initiated a lot of things that happened."
Mr. Weinglass added: "Chip had never-ending stories about everyone and they came from a funny place. He was a great storyteller and never vindictive."
Dr. Silverman attended the University of Maryland, College Park and earned a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Baltimore in 1966. He subsequently earned a master's in public health from the Johns Hopkins University and his doctorate in health care management from Century University in Albuquerque, N.M.
Dr. Silverman taught briefly before going into the health field. In 1970, he joined the state health department, rose to deputy director and was named director of the state's Drug Abuse Administration in 1985.
In 1987, he became the first director of the merged Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration. From 1988 until 1990, he was Gov. William Donald Schaefer's adviser for substance abuse policy.
After stepping down from that post in 1990, he became vice president for government relations and addictions programs for Green Spring Mental Health Services Inc., which later became Magellan Health Services Inc.
He was the recipient of two national awards: The David E. Smith Award for Career Achievement and Pioneering in the Field of Addictions, and the Dole-Neyswander Award for Achievement in the Methadone Treatment Field.
Additionally, Dr. Silverman began the first publicly funded treatment program in the nation for compulsive gambling in 1978.
He retired in the mid-1990s.
While serving as assistant dean and acting dean of Morgan State's graduate school during the 1970s, legendary football coach Earl Banks asked him to assemble a lacrosse team.