is TCA #1 in my Book!"
by Rich Tackenberg
post date 7/27/01
is one thing to meet and work with your idol (I've been doing
that for two years with Sid Caesar, and it's been amazing),
but it is wholly another thing to see your other idols also
idolize Sid Caesar. That happened to me close up and in person.
Saturday night was the Television Critic Association's annual
award dinner where Sid was nominated for a lifetime achievement
award. My partner Peter asked me to attend on behalf of Creative
Light. Normally I would jump at the chance, but considering
that my fiancée Genevieve and I are less than two weeks away
from our wedding, I really wasn't in the mood for "working"
on the weekend. The deciding factor was it would be a chance
to spend the evening with not only Sid's wife, Florence, and
his eldest daughter Michelle, who I already know very well,
but also their son Rick and their youngest daughter Karen. Rick
had come down from Portland, Oregon with his girlfriend just
for the award ceremony. Karen and her husband Tim live in the
L.A. area, but I've never had the chance to meet them.
the cocktail reception before the ceremony I finally had the
chance to talk with them a little, but I was preoccupied, trying
to figure out how to introduce myself to documentary filmmaker,
Ken Burns. Ken's latest series, Jazz, really blew me away, and
his decade of work was clearly one of our inspirations when
we went to work on our documentary about Sid, Hail Sid Caesar:
The Golden Age of Comedy. Do I say this to him? I didn't want
to come off as fawning. Turned out I didn't need an excuse,
because Ken came up to Sid, embarrassed, nervous and unsure
of himself. It turns out Ken is a huge fan of Sid Caesar, and
idolizes him. I stood by listening as Ken praised, stammered
and, well, fawned. Watching "Ken the fan" was much more illuminating
and revealing than any conversation I could have had with "Ken
the cocktail party was filled with a few of the television stars
whose shows were up for awards, such as the cast of The West
Wing. Sid's kids loved checking out The West Wing cast. While
the rest of the party guests were probably pointing and talking
about Aaron Sorkin's drug bust and the cast's salary negotiations,
it was such fun to sit and laugh with Sid's family, including
Sid and Florence, point to Josh, C.J, Toby and Donna and share
our favorite moments from our favorite drama.
made it all the better when the tables turned during the actual
awards ceremony. Sid won the lifetime achievement award and
absolutely killed during his acceptance speech. The crowd was
rolling with waves of laughter. This was not surprising to me
because I've seen Sid kill at many award dinners. What made
it a great moment was seeing The West Wing cast nearly falling
out of their seats laughing. I think the whole family really
appreciated the fact that the cast that they most enjoy watching
most enjoyed watching their father.
Sid's award was third in the evening's lineup we all thought
that his role in the dinner was over. But we were way off on
that one. Sid had made such a strong impression on the television
critics and the television producers who were winning the awards
that his presence dominated the evening. Sopranos executive
producer David Chase spent most of his acceptance speech praising
the work of Sid Caesar. So did Ken Burns, Lorna Luff and Linwood
Boomer, the executive producer of Malcolm in the Middle. Critics
were wowed by his presence and presenters didn't deliver their
preplanned jokes because Sid had stolen the evening.
the ceremonies, those same executive producers came to our table
to thank Sid for the many years of entertainment that he had
provided and for his influence on comedy. While the group couldn't
have been more different, the common thread of all these people
was their clear lack of B.S. Above all they believed in quality
work, and it shows in the television series they currently produce,
just as strongly as it shows in their appreciation of our mutual
idol Sid Caesar.
never gets tiring. At the Showtime premiere of Laughter on the
23rd Floor a few months ago, I had had the opportunity to watch
one of my all-time heroes, playwright Neil Simon, talk to Sid
like a little kid seeking his dad's approval. And when Sid gave
it, well... I've never seen Neil Simon smile that big.
none of the stuff I've talked about even closely compares to
the highlight of the evening. For me, the rest of the audience,
and most importantly, his children the true unforgettable moment
was after Sid's acceptance speech, after he had left the podium,
was helped down the stairs, and got to his seat, all to a thunderous
standing ovation. It was then that something struck Sid's fancy.
He turned around, was helped back up the stairs, and walked
all the way back to the podium. He approached the mike and continued
speaking with, "…and I also want to thank…" as if he never left
the stage. Everyone remained standing, not sure of what to do,
but eagerly anticipating the next joke out of Sid's mouth. What
he said was very far from a joke. He simply wanted to thank,
more than anyone else, his wife Florence. He wanted the crowd
to understand that for all he did in his life, without her he
would have done nothing. He said quite simply, "she is my guts."
is amazing that the seemingly impossible act of writing, producing
and starring in a live 90 minute show every week, 39 weeks a
year, for ten years can so easily be dwarfed by the seemingly
more impossible feat of keeping a marriage strong for fifty-eight
final standing ovation Sid received after thanking his wife
sounded noticeably different from any applause I had ever heard.
It was the fever pitch of hands clapping together as hard as
they could. The audience was actively trying to increase the
volume of their response because they could not show enough
appreciation and devotion to Sid. They were praising him for
what he did in the 50's, and for what he still can do in his
70's. And they were sharing in the love that Sid felt for his
his family, coming as far as Portland just for this night, it
was a touching way to see Sid. Not Sid Caesar the comedian,
but Sid Caesar the father. And for myself , a man less than
two weeks away from getting married, it reminded me that what
truly matters in the twilight of your career isn't the awards
you won but the people you spent the time with along the way.
I don't think I was the only one who learned that lesson Saturday
night. Even my idols can learn a thing from Sid Caesar.