SIDNEY POITIER, R.I.P
Even though Academy Award-winning actor, Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee, and humanitarian, Sidney Poitier, was ninety-four-years-old when he died recently, it was still a shock. He seemed like someone who would live forever. And we all wanted him to.
I first saw his wonderful British film, To Sir With Love, when I was just a little girl, and I thought that Sidney was that teacher. As I saw it time and time again through the years, I realized there has never been a more perfect marriage of actor and role. He just may be the classiest man to have ever made it into the public eye.
Little did I know way back then that I would be fortunate enough to not only see him in person a few times in recent years, but to actually meet him. And to have a conversation with the legend, which ended with him kissing my hand! How lucky can a girl get?!
Mr. Poitier was everything I expected him to be, and more. What a lovely, lovely man. And he was also brilliant, enthusiastic, and full of charm and grace. And let’s not forget gorgeous! But most importantly, he was kind.
The event at which I met Sidney Poitier six years ago was the Brigitte and Bobby Sherman Children’s Foundation Christmas Gala and Fundraiser; he was the honoree and recipient of the International Leadership Award for his ongoing commitment to the organization, which raises money to bring quality education to students in Ghana.
The speech he made that night was a thing of beauty. He spoke so eloquently, and it was all off the top of his head! I met him later on in the evening, and told him how impressed I was that he could do that so amazingly. That’s when he took my hand and kissed it! I was so overwhelmed by the entire experience that I wound-up crying all night. And, of course, I did not wash that hand for a while! (I wish I had thought of lifting a lip print from it! But that would have been crazy, right?)
I was further impressed that Sidney and his wife, Joanna, stayed at the gala for the entire evening!!! That is beyond-rare at Hollywood events. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen stars slip away as soon as their portion of an event is done. So that one of the most revered people in the business saw fit to stay till the end of this one is really to be applauded.
I had first laid eyes on Sidney Poitier in person earlier that year, at the opening night of Motown, The Musical at the Pantages theatre in Hollywood. When the show was over and most people had already left, I was standing in the inner lobby, just chatting with someone, when all of a sudden, there he was! As much as I wanted to meet the man, I just could not bring myself to join the crush of fans trying to get a quick pic with him. So I was extra-grateful to be afforded that better opportunity, with private one-on-one time with him, a mere seven months later.
And then a year and a half after that, in the summer of 2017, I was lucky enough to lay eyes on Sidney Poitier one last time. It was in Santa Monica, at the opening night of Born For This, a new musical about the Winans, and there was Sidney again, sitting just two rows in front of me. I held myself back from greeting him again because I considered myself uber-lucky to have had that experience even once in my life. So I was content to just be in his sphere that extra time.
After that trifecta of sightings, I really just assumed they would continue indefinitely. Sidney Poitier was no age in my eyes; he was timeless. So I thought we had many more moments with him in the world.
Now my heart goes out to his family, friends, fans, and the entire world, actually; his passing is a major loss for all of us.
One last private observation about Sidney Poitier’s influence in my life. I grew up in a time when absolutely everyone in my orb, (and, very sadly, most of the world,) seemed to be racially biased. Everyone except my family, that is. My mother was such a fan of Sidney, including him being her one celebrity “crush,” that when I was in my teens, it seemed totally normal to me to first date one African-American, and later on, have another black guy become my serious boyfriend for years. I credit part of that non-discrimination to my mother’s complete love and respect for Sidney. And I thank them both for that. I just hope she’s now getting to finally meet him in heaven.
And I thank the man himself for so much entertainment and class throughout my life. He was a beacon of humanity.
R.I.P., Sidney Poitier.