by SUSAN DEVINS
I moved from the Melbourne, Australia office of Variety to Toronto (via my home town of New York) in 1983. After talking to Don Groves, Sid asked me to become a Toronto stringer, and I planned to meet him at the “Canadian Bureau of Variety” on a summer’s day before the beginning of the Toronto International Film Festival. Dressed in my finest suit, I drove to the address he gave me and entered the bureau at 74 Albany Avenue. It was on a residential street, which I thought was quaint (having come from New York as managing editor of the National Lampoon on Madison Avenue). The Canadian Bureau was reached through the living room, kitchen, down the back stairs, through the playroom, and into a teeny office strewn to the rafters with books on everything from history of film to Brillat-Savarin. There was the original Macintosh personal computer sitting on Sid’s desk alongside a noisy fax-modem. But in this space Sid cranked out the most dynamic stories and scoops on Canadian show business both for Variety and the Toronto Star, giving me generous journalistic tips and encouraging and sometimes demanding me to embrace all things Canadian.
I wound up reviewing scores of Canadian TV shows, local theater, and the occasional Canadian film, in addition to my yearly assignment of obscure festival films from Burkino-Faso. I also worked at the Star as a children’s entertainment columnist for a couple of years on Sid’s recommendation. But the best part of working with Sid was having the privilege of entering his private personal world of Toshiko and the boys, spending New Year’s Day partaking in Toshiko’s sumptuous Japanese feasts, and sharing many meals with the family. They are an extraordinary bunch. Sid was particular about who he let into his circle, but when you were there you had a lifetime connection. I miss his vast intelligence, brilliant and naughty humor, and underneath it all, delicate compassion.