by ANTONIA ZERBISIAS
Sid hired me as Montreal stringer for Variety in 1981 and, later, when he became entertainment editor of the Toronto Star, as TV columnist. But he was not only an editor, he was also a friend, mentor and counselor, eager to hear about and advise me on my life and loves as well as my work.
Without him, I would not be where I am today. I owe him a lot.
Many of you knew Sid from cruising the Croisette or sitting at fine restaurant tables with him. But I worked for and alongside Sid, daily, for many many years and so got to experience an exacting side of him that was at once infuriating and inspiring. He would take our copy and make us shake it until all the excess words came out. He loathed the non-declarative sentence. “That’s not Star style!” he would bark. But, when you did good, you knew it because he would always leave you a scrawled note in your inbox praising you and copying higher management.
Under his aegis, the Star’s entertainment section was the best in the country. Nobody ever beat us on the news — and Canadians could count on us to support their own. Which is why, when he retired (against his wishes) in 2002, I had more than enough ‘clips’ from actors and producers and writers willing to pay tribute to him. (You can read it on my blog here.)
Shortly after, at a star-studded tribute to him, he was given, among many other generous gifts, including a top-of-the-line laptop I often wondered if he learned to use, a lifetime gold pass to the Toronto International Film Festival. After all, he was as much a founder of it as anybody on its board or executive.
Sid was secretive, and very selective about who he would draw into his inner circle. I was one of the very few at the Star invited to his home. I got to know and love Toshiko, watch the boys grow up and actually see Sid at his beloved Keppoch in Prince Edward Island last summer at Mio’s wedding. It was a joy and a great privilege.
Sid would disappear there for 6 weeks every summer and, the first thing he would do when he returned to the Star is take me out to lunch and pump me for all the news and gossip. Sure, I would be gloriously fed, but I would also be wrung dry at the end of it. I suspect he had a number of people he would do that to. He had to catch up and fast.
But Sid was never really behind.
Now he’s gone and he leaves a tremendous gap in Canadian entertainment, culture and journalism — as well as in the lives of so many of us.