Sid Adilman, former entertainment editor for the Star and Canadian editor of the show biz bible Variety, died yesterday of heart failure at age 68. His wife Toshiko and sons Mio and Nobu were at his side.
Sid was my friend, my mentor, my guide. But, more importantly, Sid was the entertainment journalist who refused to allow the American cultural and celebrity juggernaut to crush Canadian TV, movies, music and theatre. He always stuck his stupid little pencil nubs in the cultural dike.
I owe him my job at the Star, and much much more.
But many other people, including household names, owe him even more than that.
Unfortunately, I can't find it online so I reproduce it here in full: My column from when Sid retired from the Star in November 2002.
Adilman's watchful Eye --- Canadian culture would not be the same without Star columnist
IF YOU enjoy Canadian movies, music, television, theatre, art or books, you owe at least a small debt of gratitude to The Star's Sid Adilman.
If you create Canadian culture, you should know you owe him a lot.
And if you write about it, you probably owe him your job. Without Adilman on the scene boosting and battling for homegrown art and artists, most Canadian critics would have had to find another beat, because these pages would likely be dominated by U.S. wire copy about Hollywood productions and Broadway shows.
Last week, Adilman, 65, left the building, retiring from daily journalism after 42 years of covering entertainment. He first joined The Star in 1960 as a summer intern and then general reporter, moving to the now-defunct Telegram in 1963. But, after the Tely folded in 1971, Sid returned with his "Eye On Entertainment" column, becoming both Canadian editor of the trade paper Variety in the 1980s and, from 1986-91, editor of this section.
Long the most influential cultural journalist in Canada, he never stopped writing his column, giving boldface to those who struggled mightily against the American entertainment behemoth that always threatened to crush Canadian showbiz. He helped to build this industry, as surely as those moguls who grew rich from it.
As Toronto Life magazine wrote in an expansive profile in 1985, Adilman "is a must-read for the city's entertainment community."
King CanCon is how I very fondly think of him, the slight, skittish guy with the big glasses. He helped put Canada on the world's cultural map. So, when word of his retirement spread, everybody remarked on how it's the end of an era. He'll be freelancing - but it won't be the same.
"It's going to be weird not having him there; I mean he's always been there," said Chum/City guru Moses Znaimer. "He isn't one of those guys who write in newspapers who like to pretend they live in New York. He is a genuine supporter of things Canadian."
"Sid's constant interest, support and very vocal criticisms have kept us all on our toes for years," said movie producer Robert Lantos. "Nothing escaped him: We have a better industry today because of his attentive eye and critical insight. One of the finest cultural journalists ever, (he) deserves tremendous respect because he was always on the job, whether or not we liked it."
And sometimes they didn't like it at all.
Sid always had the inside scoop on who was doing what to whom and with whose money - often the taxpayers'. He'd confront TV execs about their less-than-enthusiastic commitments to Canadian programming; harangue cultural bureaucrats who weren't performing; kick butt if anybody messed with Canadian talent; and complain long and loud if something or someone did not live up to expectations. He was the only entertainment writer in the country who consistently obsessed over government funding decisions for Canadian production, federal task forces studying cultural matters and the fate of the National Film Board.
Nobody was safe. From Izzy Asper to Moses Znaimer, all were in his sights. Even in his final column yesterday, he lobbed verbal grenades at CBC suits who don't give on-air personalities the star treatment Sid feels they deserve.
"I know people he's written not great things about, and that's okay; sometimes you have to do that," said Stratford's My Fair Lady Cynthia Dale. "But he's always been a champion for the cause of Canadian talent."
Said Alliance Atlantis chief Michael MacMillan: "I could never get angry with him (because) his fundamental purpose was always good."
Sid's nose for news was notorious. If you didn't specify something was not-for-attribution, you'd find your casual cocktail party conversation reproduced in 100-point type. But, if you told him something was off the record, it went into his vast and impenetrable mental vault.
"He could drive you crazy with his information, but he never divulged his sources - not ever," said Lantos.
Sid's note-taking style made me crazy. He'd hurtle through the newsroom, hot on the trail of some headline, and empty his pockets of scraps of napkins, coasters, placemats, ticket stubs and matchbook covers upon which were scrawled the names and deeds of his subjects - or victims. From these he would construct columns.
No wonder he is legendary for some of his mistakes.
Sometimes even his corrections had corrections.
"The facts were sometimes wrong, but the point was generally right," said MacMillan.
Probably his most infamous gaffe came in 1984, when Sid wrote that, during a play at the Theatre Passe Muraille, cast members were smoking marijuana on stage. They weren't. It was actually strawberry tea. The theatre threatened to sue. The Star apologized.
Sid could also be punishing. In the mid-'80s, when veteran press agent Gino Empry gave a scoop to The Globe and Mail instead of The Star, Sid ordered our reporters and critics to boycott him and his clients for 90 days.
But that's because getting the news first mattered more than anything to Sid. He'd often complain that too many entertainment writers were into being critics and not reporters. As he groused to Toronto Life in 1985, "They feel that their opinions are worth something, even though they've been in the business only half an hour."
That commitment to news made him difficult to work with sometimes, mostly because he expected all of us to care as much as he did. So he could be a pain, running on too many double espressos and doting excessively on his Triple A idols: Anne Murray, Anne Of Green Gables and the late Al Waxman.
Relentless and secretive - we had to sneak this column by him - Sid was Sid to the end, quitting without saying goodbye. That's okay because he'll always be around, at this weekend's Gemini Awards, at Tuesday's Giller Prize gala, at next year's Toronto International Film Festival.
Because, after all, where would they be without Sid?
UPDATE: Joe Clark wrote some kind words about Sid here.
ONE MORE: Could not have said it better myself.
AND ANOTHER: By Nobu Adilman.