Sid Week
By Eddy Friedfeld



"Sid Week," as we affectionately dubbed the week Sid came to New York City to promote the "Hidden Treasures" video collection and the new book, began with his auspicious touchdown a tailwind friendly half hour early at Kennedy Airport on Friday, October 31. Sid was charming the flight attendants as he deplaned, where Gene Taft, the publisherís publicist, and I were waiting for him and his family.

Sunday afternoon, after braving New York City Marathon traffic, Sid, his wife Florence, daughters Michele and Karen, Gene and I crossed Central Park, where Sid appeared as the special guest of honor of the 92nd Street Y. The Yís 800-seat auditorium was determined too small for the event and Congregation Rodeph Sholom on the Upper West Side was selected as the alternate venue.

Interviewed onstage by Larry King, Sid regaled a standing room only audience of over one thousand people to applause, laughter, and standing ovations. Larry had to leave promptly for another commitment, and brought me up onstage to continue the question and answer segment from the grateful crowd.

Sid spent most of the week doing print and television interviews, shuttling between the Pierre Hotel and Fox Studios and other broadcast locations, with the stamina of a 25 year old. One of the great treats of the week was sitting in on The New York Times interview with Sid and Florence, and seeing how remarkably funny Florence is in her own right. I have known Florence for three years, and it is evident to anyone that knows her why Sid is still in love with her after over 60 years. Mrs. Caesar also possesses a keen mind and sharp wit, and the banter between Sid and Florence was worthy of Burns and Allen.

It still gives me great pleasure to see the many people who stop in the street to say hello to Sid and the people who roll down their car windows to yell out a warm greeting. It also makes me wonder how many car accidents Sid was indirectly responsible for in New York in the 1950s and 60s.

Wednesday night Gene rewarded all of us with a dinner from The Carnegie Deli, one of the classic New York restaurants that have been naming sandwiches after Sid for over 50 years.

On Thursday evening, Sid received the prestigious Edgar Bronfman Medal from New York University. The programming people at NYU told me that they had never seen such an outpouring of interest and attention over one speaker. (I have told Sid we should form a cult. He was not averse to the concept, as long it had a lot of food.)

The evening was planned as a master class of sketches and a lecture. Also instrumental in developing the program at NYU was Bill Persky, a very talented writer, director and producer, whose extraordinary career credits include The Dick Van Dyke Show (which along with My Favorite Year and Laughter on the 23rd Floor was based on Your Show of Shows and Caesarís Hour), That Girl, Kate and Allie, and The Sid Caesar Reunion Special. He also directed Sid and Dick Van Dyke in a film called Found Money. Sid, Bill, and I developed the topics we wanted to cover that evening. Watching Sid and Bill banter as we went over the outline gave me a first hand look at what the Writerís Rooms were really like.

I introduced Sid to the over 300 students, faculty, and guests at my alma mater that night, and got to thank him publicly for the experience of working with him:

"Fifty-four years ago, a 27-year-old kid from Yonkers, New York, stepped out onto a stage and helped change the future of the world. In 1949, television was a little over a year old. No one knew whether it was going to last, and no one envisioned the impact it would have on society and the world. Before Sid Caesar, television consisted of vaudeville, burlesque, wrestling, and bowling. Sid and his multi-talented cast, writers and crew helped define the medium, developing sketch comedy that was based in truth. For 39 weeks a year, they conceived, wrote, and executed an hour and a half of live television a week, week after week. They did it, because they did not know they couldnít do it. There was no teleprompter, no cue cards, and no second chances. They crafted stories that had beginnings, middles and ends, and helped ensure that television grew into one of the most enduring forces in our society."

"Sid Caesar is someone whom I now not only adore as an artist; he is someone I admire as a human being. Writing a book on comedy is probably fifth on the list of books Sid could have written. His expertise could have easily allowed him to author a book on European history, a book on physics, one on how to still be in love with your wife after sixty years, or another book on how to be a loyal friend and mentor. He can still entertain with a glance with style and dignity, and he can impart a sense of warmth and security that is palpable. In addition to his other many skills, he is a natural born teacher, who is fiercely passionate about the product, the process, and the people with whom he works."

The program began with the "The Five Dollar Date," the first sketch Sid ever performed on live television, digitally remastered, on the 30-foot screen of the Cantor Theater in Greenwich Village. As soon as the lights went up, Sid was brought up onstage to a thunderous standing ovation.

Sid thanked everyone in his signature doubletalk, French, German, Italian and Japanese. The evening was a true lecture on comedy. Sid explained how he learned to doubletalk in his hometown in Yonkers. He talked about the development of his own comedic style, based upon his influences of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and W.C. Fields.

Classic sketches were shown in their entirety, including "The German General," "The Haircuts" (both the 1955 and 1967 versions)" "Progress Hornsby," and "This is Your Story." In between the sketches, Sid shared funny, poignant and hysterical insights into the shows, the sketches, the relationship between comedy and music, and the art of being a performer.

Sitting in the audience was radio and television talk show veteran Joe Franklin and Saturday Night Live original cast member Jane Curtin. During the program, Bill introduced Jane, who stood up and shared her experiences in live television with the audience and her affection and admiration for Sid and his work, which Sid reciprocated.

The program lasted for almost three hours, and people came over to me at the end and told me that they would have gladly stayed for another hour. Sid did not get up out of his chair until the last person got their book autographed or shared a moment with him.

Sid, Florence, Michele and Karen left for Los Angeles early Friday morning. Spending the week with Sid and his family on the book tour was certainly the culmination of "my favorite years."