The death of a friend of monumental proportions.
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It helped that he married a beautiful girl I never had the pleasure of knowing, and then, when she passed away, that he married the most elegant woman I have ever known, Martha Schwalberg Dauman.
To say that Sid and Martha were an elegant couple is like saying that Mount Everest is fairly good tall. They lit up the room anywhere they entered. Sid always perfectly dressed in his fabulous suits and shirts and red ties, Martha in her Chanel suits. To my wife and me, they defined grace and style. They knew all the right restaurants, all of the right hotels, all of the nightclubs. My wife and I used to go hear Bobby Short at the Café Carlyle. Martha and Sid were pals of Bobby Short.
But they also far transcended the superficial world of style and fashion and café society. They were real people. They had come up from the streets. They knew what was real and what was not. They had a wisdom, an insight, a way of seeing the truth of a situation that you rarely find inside such fine clothes. I think we Jews call that Sechel, but I may have that wrong.
It is funny but I studied economics and yet Sid knew the way business and money worked far, far better than I ever will.
I can recall reading that one of Sid’s neighbors, one of his fabulously rich neighbors, had seen his business go into bankruptcy. I said, “Well, I guess he’ll be moving out of Beverly Hills.”
Sid laughed affectionately and said, “His business is bankrupt. He’s not bankrupt. That’s the way business works in Beverly Hills.”
He had an amazing ability to sum up a situation in a few words just as he could sum up a personality in a few lines of a sketch.
Once, when I met him at Morton’s, I passed a number of homeless people on the way over and expressed my outrage about it. Sid put me in my place very quickly and affectionately by saying, “Oh, so Monsieur has seen some homeless people on the street. How droll.” It was his way of very rightly noting the fact that I said something about it but did nothing.
Another time, when I had written something very sharp about a major player in finance, one of the people at the dinner table said, “That man doesn’t care what Ben wrote about him. That man is a billionaire.”
Sid very aptly said, “I don’t know. Does the king care if someone calls him an idiot?”
But there was so much more to Sid. Endlessly encouraging. Endlessly supportive. When my parents would come out and visit and express dismay at my lifestyle of extravagance, Sid would say, “He’ll be fine. That’s who he is.”
But Sid was elegant and glorious as a father, too. The boys and Susie don’t know it but maybe they do know it, know how much Sid and Martha cared about them, how proud he was of them, how their welfare was always his highest concern. Claude did this. Jason did that. Susie did this. Always so proud, always so concerned.
Not a Hollywood father, only concerned about image, not a Wall Street father for whom the trade always comes first. No, a father like from Father Knows Best, a real father.
Alex and I really only spent five years of concentrated time with Sid and Martha before Martha went off to eternity. Dinner night after night at Morton’s and Mr Chow and Spago and Chasen’s, with Sid and Martha and their pals.
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