Syd

syd

by PETER BESAS

Sime’s grandson, Syd (not to be confused with his father, Sid aka Skigie) was born January 23, 1932, the son of Sid and his wife Marie Saxon Silverman. From an early age he knew he was destined one day to take over the reins of the family paper, and even while attending Princeton he’d sometimes come into the New York office to get some hands-on training in running VARIETY.

After a stint as a lieutenant in the Army, Syd took over the duties of publisher in 1956, aged 24. Abel was editor-in-chief and Harold Erichs handled all financial questions. But after Abel’s death, Syd, aged 40, fully took over the operations of the paper, trying to keep expenses down as much as possible, and expanding operations overseas. Even in Sime’s day VARIETY had an office in London and stringers in Paris and Berlin. But Syd now began to open bona fide offices in Paris, Rome, Sydney, Copenhagen, Munich and Madrid. After the death of Arthur Ungar, Syd had earlier hired Tom Pryor to run the Daily, giving him virtual autonomy in the operation. Other bureaus were maintained in Chicago and Washington.

The European expansion paid off, generated hefty incomes and gave the paper a unique international prestige. Syd was a family man, and lived in White Plains with his wife, Jan, and four children, three of whom were gradually brought in to work on the paper. Even though he was more interested in cars than journalism or show business, he kept the paper running at its previous high standard, himself coming in each day to edit copy, or lay out the paper or see it through the press in Brooklyn each week. His hands were literally on the nitty gritty of running the sheet. But in the evenings he’d usually return home to White Plains, NY, rather than hit the niteries and gala film openings and social functions the way Sime and Abel had.

In those days Syd still smoked a pipe in the office, and was wont to put away a dram of Dewar’s after lunch at the Gaiety Delicatessen on 47th Street or at the Roxy Bar & Grill down the street from VARIETY on 46th Street where the first big Cannes issue was first suggested. He sat on the same dais (aka the “poop deck”) that Sime had sat on, first with Abel Green, later with others such as Bob Landry, Bob Hawkins, Frank Meyer and Mark Silverman. His secretary, Norma Nannini, (who had also been Abel’s gal Friday) was installed on the third floor of the walk-up building.

After the sale of the paper in 1987, and the move to Park Avenue South under the new corporate management, Syd put in ever fewer appearances at the office, and finally stopped coming altogether. Upon ankling definitively from the sheet in 1992, he dedicated his time to vintage car racing and launched his own mag on that subject.

He presently spends about half the year in the New York area and the other half in Boca Raton, Florida in company of his new wife, Joan Hoffman, whom he married after Jan’s death in 1997.