"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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:
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."
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."