David Sidoni Interview
This informal interview with David Sidoni was conducted on November 29, 2002 at Hoff's Hut in Long Beach, CA. It might be noticed by the most astute of readers, that some time has elapsed between now and then. I can offer no excuse for this, I can only apologize sincerely and give you my assurances that I did not merely sit on the interview… I sat on it in a variety of interesting ways.
First, equipment was borrowed in order to take screen captures of Sid from the show, so that this interview might have graphics. However Sid didn't seem crazy about any of the pictures I grabbed (this may be because composite analog still captures from moving images on 10 year old VHS tapes leave a lot to be desired) so I decided not to hold the interview up for pictures, but rather to post it without.
Then, there was some work done with the media in which the interview was recorded. I originally recorded the whole thing on a series of mini audio cassettes, but I thought maybe it might be nice to have it transferred digitally so we could have some audio clips to post with the interview. Unfortunately, the technician transferring the material onto CD played the tapes back on a slightly higher speed - so on the CDs both Sid and I sound a little like whiney smurfs.
Then of course, I had to transcribe the interview for the purposes of editing it for the website. That in itself did take a while, and it was a mere 32 pages upon completion. Even still, all this only took a few months. In reality, between now and then my life got a little interesting, time went away and the more time that elapsed the more I was afraid to come back to this. Sid makes me a little nervous you see, even now.
By request, the format of this interview is a little different than your standard Q&A style that I normally conduct. The original plan was to infuse elements of the evening of the interview; the atmosphere, setting, and so forth into the text and as much as I will still try to do that, my memories of the evening are now 3 years old. For this reason, even older, fonder memories will be included too, as they more easily stand out in my mind and will help to clarify my approach to the questions. I started the tape recorder rolling, and asked my first question:
Adge: Were you a bully?
Sid: Oh that's crap. What are you, Barbara Freakin' Walters? Charging me with all this really really stupid stuff.
Do you remember when I said I was nervous? Even after knowing him for 7 years (10 years now)? Sid is immensely quick witted and intelligent. I never know to expect outbursts of enthusiasm or disappointment, but one is likely to take place. For a first question, I thought I was being clever and cute. He might have too, judging by his response, but he wanted me to know that I wasn't getting away with anything. Continuing with the bully question…
Sid: The answer is no. Not even close. In fact, I was bullied most of my life. I found it very funny that when I got Newsies , they gave me the name “Pie Eater”.
And I asked, “What does that mean?”
They said, “It's the one that eats pies. Meat pies, a nickname.”
Sort of like in Revenge of the Nerds - there's a guy on the football team whose name was “Meat.” That's what “Pie Eater” meant, and I was not used to being the big guy. I got picked on my whole life. As a matter of fact in my childhood, there was a girl that lived down the street from me who scared me. She didn't really beat me up, but she scared us all. She was really scary. I'm sure she runs a women's prison right now, or something.
No, I was too short. My mom and I were talking about this last night – I was 4'11 in 8 th grade – I was 5'2 when I got into high school – I was a small guy. It's been interesting to be the tough guy. People look at me now and think I'm a tough guy and it makes me laugh.
In the midst of this story I asked for the spelling of the girl's name. It was some variation of “Raylene” and even though Sid had preceded his statement about her with “I'll never forget Raylene” he didn't quite remember her exact name. When I asked, I was met with a fair and obvious response, “She was the kid that beat me up, do you think I asked her name?”
Adge: What was your first car?
Sid: Technically, my first car was my grandfather's S.S. Huge Boat. I have no idea what it was. My parents were very adamant about me earning the privilege [to drive]. My grandfather passed away when I was about 12, and they kept his vehicle there. The summer before my 16 th birthday we went out to Missouri and drove the car back. It was this big boat thing; a huge, ugly, hideous thing. I paid my grandma $500 for it, it was a big deal. I think like 6 months later my grandma returned the check.
My parents had two original vehicles that they bought. A 1971 VW Super Beetle, and then a 1979 Cutlass Oldsmobile Supreme. The Super Beetle became mine when I was 16, my dad bought a new car. I had the big grandpa mobile for a month, maybe, not even that. And then I had that beetle, from ‘86 until right before we went to the gulf war in '91. I had it for 5 years, and it was my baby. That car was my identity for a long time. I mean everyone knew Sid and Sid's bug and that's why I bought the new beetle when it came out in '98.
Somewhere in here, Sid suggested we move to a new table for better sound. He was more conscientious of the necessities and aesthetics of the interview than I was. I didn't even really know how to operate the tape recorder. I had the business end upside down, facing the wrong way, which was a source for quiet amusement for Sid.
Adge: What made you decide to be a performer?
Sid: You know, it was so many different influences, so many different things. I don't know if I decided this is something I'm going to do with the rest of my life, I just knew it was something I wanted to do. When I was in third grade my teacher was a very incredible lady. Her name is Mrs. Finefield. And she looks a lot like my mom, which is really weird. She used to read Dr. Doolittle to us in an English accent and hers was one of the only classes that did a play, or a production, or anything dramatic. So I realized, this was pretty much my only shot. She did Joseph and the amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat when I was in third grade, and I was her Joseph. And you know she always told me I was one of her best and bla bla bla, but that's when I figured out that I love this stuff. Later on it was just because I was a spazz. Back then it was because I was a good reader, I spoke well, and I wasn't embarrassed.
This is a side story… years later, '93 or '94, my mom for my birthday bought me tickets to one of the first runs of the new Joseph. Michael Damian doing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Pantages. I went, and I ended up sitting, I'm not kidding you, right behind Mrs. Finefield and her husband. I figured it out, and we freaked out. It was intermission, and we were in the isle talking. Roundhouse had been on the air for maybe a year, and kids came up to me to ask for my autograph. I couldn't have asked for a better situation, I looked right at Miss Finefield and said, “This is what you started.”
Somewhere around the 6 th , 7 th and 8 th grade the local public school had a really go-getter drama department. Some of the kids were in the parking lot after Church screwing around like kids do, practicing. And I'll never forget this girl Julie Seaborn was practicing, and I was in love with this girl. And I just watched her singing and doing her thing and I just thought, “my god” and I realized my affinity was stronger than my own performance. I loved everything about it. Yet still, when I chose a high school, I chose my local public school because I wanted to be in computers.
I laughed here because Sid is the first one to admit that it takes him 10 minutes to type a four line email.
Sid: And you know, right now, I don't know crap about computers.
It's hysterical, but that's what I thought I wanted to do. When I was 14, I did one semester of soccer, and then I did drama. We had to do an interpretive monologue of a song, and I did a Baptist preacher version of “Let's Go Crazy” by Prince. Which sounds like a sermon - except when he says, “We're looking for the purple banana till they put us in the truck.” But when you scream that like an idiot when you're 14, and like I said I was 5'2 - a little white guy – it's pretty damn funny.
When I was a junior, the director of the high school of the arts said to me, “what do you want to do? Are you going to do the high school of the arts or are you going to play soccer?” And I made the choice. That's when I made the decision of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, because I could have played soccer, gone to UCLA, and gotten my college degree. I decided basically at 17 to give it a shot. Way too difficult a decision for a kid to make. But you gotta do what you gotta do.
Adge: What was your first job in entertainment?
Sid: When I was 18 I did musical theater, more like dinner theater.
Adge: What were some of the shows you did?
Sid: It was a summer stock and I did Around the World in 80 Days andWest Side Story. I think that was my first [entertainment job] and I worked with a dance company and I got paid for that.
What happened was, when I was 18 I made the decision not to go to a four year university because I was taking acting class. And I realized back then in '88 that Beverly Hills , 90210 was exploding and being 18 to play 16 was a huge deal. Because 16 year olds have limitations, they have to go to school they only have so many hours they can work on set. So when I was 18, 19 I really started to focus, I went on a lot of acting auditions and realized I wanted to do musical theater. So then I started picking up ‘Dramalogue' every week and reading it. ‘Dramalogue' was back then, ‘Backstage West'. I worked little jobs here and there, and then I got the Starlight Dinner Theater. $25 a show, Friday, Saturday, Sunday shows. I worked at Ed Debevics during the week and I did Around the World in 80 Days and West Side Story . My favorite role of all time that I've actually played is Action, from West Side Story .
Somewhere in there I had an agent from a friend of mine in high school who got me a commercial for a 976 teen party line, when they were still around. It wasn't like a 976 sex line, it was a party line, like a teen chat line. I went to the Bonaventure Hotel, I sat there in a salmon shirt because it was the '80's, held a phone to my ear and pantomimed doing something. $300, went home. That was the fist time I thought “Oh my god, this is show biz.”
Adge: I did not know that!
Sid: Yeah, there was a reason you didn't know that. Everyone's gonna know now.
When I asked Sid about his first regular job, he said he worked at Baskin-Robbins for a month before he went on an audition at Disneyland when he was 16. I once have had the pleasure of roaming the grounds of Disneyland with Sid giving me the “Peter Pan Tour.” Highlighting all the places that he, as a 16 year old Peter Pan would jump out at people and startle them. At this point in the interview it was realized that working at Disneyland , at 16, would actually qualify as his “first” job in entertainment, predating the summer stock.
Adge: What made you decide to audition for Newsies and how did that go?
Sid: I was auditioning, I was picking up the ‘Dramalogue' every week, and I saw an audition for boy singer/dancers. There were 500 people there, it was the most intimidating thing I had ever done in my life, I almost left when I got there. There were so many people, it was such a mad house, and I had never been to an LA movie-cattle call. I think what helped me was somewhere when I was 18 or 19 I [auditioned for] Cats and Starlight Express. In Cats I got cut right away. I had very little dance experience, they pulled us out and had us do double pirouettes, and I got cut. But inStarlight I was kept. I had been to a couple gigantic cattle calls, but forStarlight I got kinda far, maybe because of my athleticism. I almost got to the state audition, and then I went in and sang for them and they were like, “eh no thanks.” So, I stuck it out [for Newsies ].
Adge: Do you remember what you sang, for Newsies?
Sid: Yeah. It wasn't until the second or third call I sang. “We are the Boys” from Big River.
Adge: Second or third call, so they just had you dancing up until then?
Sid: Well the audition is another interesting story. The first audition, 500 people in groups, they taught [the choreography] to us, and it was quick and athletic, very Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Very big musical theater, barrel turns and stuff like that. And in my audition, they put me standing between Kevin Stea, who had just finished Blonde Ambition tour with Madonna, and Dominic Lucero. I stood between those two. Paula Abdul's number one dancer, and one of Madonna's big dancers, and hey the dork from Orange County - that was me. In the middle of the audition, Kenny pulled Dominic out - the choreographer/director pulled out the guy standing next to me and said, “No this is how you should do it.” Dom did those eight counts, and he had Dom do the barrel jump. So I just went full athlete, I was just a full character. I was always the character “hokey style” dancer anyway. And I got a call back, because of that.
Adge: So what was an average day on Newsies like?
Sid: A typical day was to arrive at 6am. We went to make-up, and got our basic make-up, which was nothing. Got in the costume, and they spray-painted our hands black. That was the big thing everyday, to look like we'd been holding newspapers and dirt. Then we went and had breakfast burritos, everyday. Then we went to our trailers and went to sleep. We waited till they called us when our scene was up. That was a typical day. Usually what happened was we'd get there, get hair and make-up, eat the breakfast burrito, hang out, goof around and talk, then we all head back to our trailers and go to sleep till around ten or eleven, then we'd get up and start playing stickball. Or whatever the day's activity was. We would play stickball, or who can jump over the highest barricade -which I won, by the way-, or kick the can. The kids had to go to school. But usually, that was the day.
Here we got a little into the semantics of filmmaking. Hours worked, how often a production is legally obligated to feed or break its crew, the difference between studio lots and so forth. We talked a little about how quickly “King of New York” came into being in its original form, but Sid addresses that a little more directly just a bit later. The next interesting part would be Sid's recount of dancers' stickball.
Sid: Once, we played a game of stickball where the pitcher was Bill and Peggy - Bill was the assistant choreographer who was an amazing, awesome, great guy - and the pitch had to come in the form of a lift. So they did a lift for the pitch. Then there were four different moves to run around the bases, something like grand jetes to first, chenes to second…
Adge: Are you kidding me?
Sid: No, grand jetes to first, chenes to second, um I can't remember to third and then James Brown home. We were punch drunk at this point. It was 11PM and we'd been there since six in the morning. Mark David, Michael Goorjian, Ivan, me, Peggy, oh my god we were having so much fun. And then an hour later after we ate again, Kenny walks over and throws in an early track of “King of New York”. Gregg Russell wasn't even on the set yet and he was one of the instrumental guys in choreographing a lot of the tap stuff because he's a real big tapper. Mark David started doing his tap stuff, that was all Mark's footwork. Then a couple days later, they brought just a few of us in to the set. That's where me and Dom and a bunch of other people choreographed [that piece] – my little moment of “I choreographed that but I'd never take credit for it.” That was not a typical day, but that was the day that happened.
Here I was so delighted and amused by Sid's Mark Twain style ending to his story, “that was not a typical day, but that was the day that happened” that I failed to notice the tape had run out and we were no longer recording. I was probably also thinking about the time I met the above mentioned Gregg Russell, who told me I had cute dimples.
Once the tape was flipped over Sid volunteered to test the recording by stating “Adrienne's a dumb ass” into the recorder.
Just for posterity, I would like to point out something about Sid here. The few times I had the rare opportunity to see him in person, he was often suffering from some kind of injury due to his assertion into demonstrations of boyish agility. On this night, he had some kind of leg injury that caused him to limp, and I forget the reason for it. However, I do remember some others: one time I met with him, he had a back injury because he had wanted to try a back flip again just to see if he could still do them. He could, but he managed to hurt himself trying. Another time he sprained his ankle when he decided to “run into the Pacific Ocean”. Or at least that's what I was told.
Sid: Adrienne's a dumb ass. That's on tape. Let's continue… <maniacal laughter> One thing I've learned about show business is you have to have a sense of humor.
Adge: Uh huh. <Not a note of humor>
Sid: You can ask me a question if you want to, but I'm just going to keep talking while the tape's running, you better ask me a question.
Adge: Ok…how did you and Ivan set your trailer sink on fire?
Sid: No comment.
Adge: This is a notorious question, this is how we met.
Sid: No comment.
Adge: Who would know that?
Sid: Absolutely no one, just Ivan and me.
It happened, that's all you need to know.
Sid: Did you really think I was going to tell you that?
Adge: After seven years of wondering, yes.
Sid: Not on tape.
Let me catch you all up here. One hundred years ago, when Sid was conducting an online interview hosted by Nickelodeon for the U to U: On the Road project, one of my dear old friends contacted Sid and told him about me, the biggest Roundhouse freak to ever walk the planet. In response to this, out of his big heart and what must have been pure curiosity, Sid emailed me. That is when we first crossed paths and we've been communicating irregularly in the years since, but regardless of frequency, he's been a strong and important influence in my life. Sometime early on, he let slip that he and Ivan almost burned down their trailer on the set ofNewsies, in a fire that began in their sink. I immediately wanted to get to the bottom of this conundrum, of how or why one sets their sink on fire, so I sent him a list of my ten best guesses. Sid, to my extreme delight, sent me a list of his ten responses and his sense of humor seemed attuned to my own. I've been guessing ever since. Even to this day I do not know what happened, and when I stopped the tape here to try once again to extract the information, I did not succeed.
Adge: So tell me then about your audition then for Roundhouse.
Sid: My audition for Roundhouse was awesome, because it shows you how much agents suck. My agency was called and asked for the 'bottom of the barrel' because they had been auditioning for so long. I was the last, last, last wave. I was the bottom of the barrel, which shows how much my agency knew about me. Why wasn't I called in earlier to a show where you sing and dance? Because my agency who also represented Barry Lather, brought in the hard-core hip-hop people. But they didn't bring me in. Then when I did go in, I did a flip off the wall at my audition and they freaked out. And I sang a song from a Christian Musical that I did in high school that —
Adge: What was that?
Adge: What song?
Sid: Apparently, Crystal did the tape, which I'd seen a hundred times because the guy who did the summer stock with me was one of the chorus boys, a guy named Noah Benz. I sang the nerd character, Norman J. Pitts. I sang, “Nobody Knows What it's Like to be Alone.” I was always the nerd character in high school. That was like my fun persona to me, I was a spastic nerd. I was king nerd four years in a row at my high school. My senior year they practically renamed it “The Sidoni.” Anyway, it was very nice, toward the end of the audition process. And it's very rare. The Lakers are down, 14 seconds.
I've completely forgotten about this, but judging from his last sentence, there must have been a TV playing somewhere in the vicinity of the restaurant. As always, I admire Sid's ability to multi-task.
Sid: It's rare to be at an audition and to realize “oh my god they were waiting for this” because [my agency considered me] the bottom of the barrel, I knew that they had been sent all the hip-hop dancer kids. No offense, it's an incredible talent. God knows I'm the first one to admit, you know I teach hip-hop now. But the people who were really good and really do that – that one dimensional bravado, ‘this is what I do' - they're just not rounded individuals. And not that I'm incredibly well versed, but the reason I lasted as long as I did was because I'm an eight across the board. I'm not a ten at anything. And you can expand that board, it used to be just three things, singing, dancing, acting. Now it's pop singing, Broadway singing, hip-hop dancing, jazz dancing, musical theater dancing, whatever – I'm still an eight all the way across. They brought in a bunch of twos with a bunch tens. And Rita, when she would say, “read this, do that, do this” and I did everything she wanted, she was very impressed. You can kind of feel it. So it was nice. Mark David wasn't even in yet. Ivan was the great hip-hop dancer who eventually got steered to the boy because you know, Ivan's Ivan. And… I'm watching the Laker game right now.
Tape stops, time elapses…
Sid: I think Dom and I went in together [to the audition]. And we were kind of a package deal at that time.
Adge: You guys were good friends from Newsies?
Sid: Yeah we were best friends back then, Dom and I. It wasn't just Newsies, we were Orange County song and dance kids. We understood each other because we had family in Orange County, and on our days off we went down and hung out with our families. And our families came up to the set. Everyone else is from Minnesota, Arizona, wherever, and on the weekends they went and did the LA thing. Dom and I were like, this is where we live, this is our life, this is our family – whole difference. People don't understand that. Dom got a bad rap from a lot of the dance world.
Adge: Why's that?
Sid: ‘Cause he hung out with his family. They thought he was stuck up because he wouldn't go to the stupid clubs all night long.
Adge: So you're hired. When does it come up that you're moving to Florida , and how does that go, how do you take that?
Sid: Well, the moving to Florida thing came up initially. If you got the job, you were going for two or three weeks, to shoot the pilot in Florida. Rehearse a week here, do a week there, if it goes you're going to Florida, you know that immediately. So it was the December of '91 that we went and shot the pilot. And then we were told we're going to the same stage to shoot 13 episodes, which is exactly what happened. 13 episodes – shoot an episode a week and it wouldn't be forever.
This is when the food came. I don't know if it was bad service or if it took Sid a while to decide if he was hungry. I made a note that he ordered chicken salad of some kind. I don't believe I ate. I think I had a beer or two (It's best I drink a little in these situations, because c'mon, it's Roundhouse, my Mecca. Sid commented once, early on after I moved to LA that I'm conversationally a little uptight unless I have at least a small amount of alcohol.) One thing I do do in abundance in his presence is drink water. This is still an unexplainable phenomenon, the amount of water I consume in his presence. I thought I had managed to hide this from him until he stopped a waiter (probably about 5 years ago now) and asked him to bring me an entire pitcher of water.
Adge: I think you wore more wigs than anybody else on the show. How were the quick wig/costume changes accomplished?
Sid: In Orlando, especially, we had a really good hair and make-up team and there were always people back stage ready to go with a hair dryer to dry the sweat. And so I had a really great team of people helping me out. But also, I was a variety show musical theater song and dance dude, I was used to changing in seconds. Whoever was there behind the stages helped. It was very much like theater. If you had time you went off stage behind the doors and hair and make-up was hanging out there. But it's like anything, we did camera blocking on Thursdays, scene blocking on Wednesdays. And it would be decided, “are we gonna wig this?” “Yes, we are.” Monday, after the table read the prop people would sit around and decide what everything needs. I have a great story about that by the way, which is hysterical. Have I ever told you the story about Mason McGooey, with the pencils?
Sid: That go up my nose?
Adge: NO! I mean I know the scene…
Sid: All right, this is a side note - it has nothing to do with the question.
Guy named Erik, was a sweet prop guy, awesome dude. Had a pickle heused to wear for his earring all the time. Hysterical dude and we got along really well. He was a real down-to-earth fun kind of guy, and I always end up bonding with the crew more than I do the cast. I read the script - I'm Mason McGooey, and I put pencils up my nose and in my ear. So I casually, very dude to dude asked Erik to get those eraser tops, that you put on your pencils, and he goes “aren't those kinda pointy?” And I said, “no, just get it and rub it down, it gets round.” Plus it's got those extra lip things, those lip things catch and hold in your nostril.
Adge: <laughs> And you know this from…
Adge: …personal experience?
Sid: Exactly. So that night they're having the production meeting. Producers, music directors, and prop guys. They come to the part where they list what they need to buy. Erik's going down the list and he says, “I have to go buy eraser tops for Mason McGooey,” and Buddy goes, “just put ‘em up his nose.” And Erik says, “Sid said, that's what we need.” And everyone goes, “Ok.” And so a group of like ten people all went, “Sid? All right, well he knows, Ok, that's fine.” Erik tells that story and he cracks up every time. That's who I was in that group, the guy who knows how to put things up his nose. So to answer your question, at the table read on Monday, we're thinking about it. The costume change, the wig change, whatever it was, it was thought about on Monday. And scenes were moved and something I had might have been given to Mark or Bryan to give me enough time to put this or that on, or to change.
Adge: Anne wanted to know why the closing dance changed for the second season – and then didn't change again.
Sid: My assumption was Barry thought some of the steps got dated, and then didn't think they were dated after that. Cross color hip-hop was very specific in '90-'92. It was a very specific dance style: Running Man, Roger Rabbit. Then in the mid ‘90s it became this mesh, funk hip-hop, and that was when the whole second run was.
Adge: How were the parts distributed? What was the table read like?
Sid: The parts were distributed by the writers at the beginning, they decided who they wanted. The table read was enjoyable some weeks and some weeks it was an audition. You'd realize the writers were stretching to see if you could pull this off and your first impression better be good. You forget with a group of 14 or 16 or 12, or however we changed it was a lot of auditioning. It was a lot of, “I deserve to be the person who gets this part,” so, a lot of times the table read was kind of stressful. The writers really loved it because they got to see their stuff come to life.
Adge: If you could step up your involvement in the creative level of Roundhouse, would you; write a sketch, write a song, choreograph a dance bumper, or direct?
Sid: Oh well, so much of who I am is… obvious in that it would be, direction. I would have made executive decisions. I would have said, “Keith, can we get a vocal piece here,” I would have said, “John Crane this would be funny write something here,” I would have said, “Ivan I would like to incorporate music and dance here.” I know my vision would have been the only thing I could have contributed to that talented of a group. The only thing that would have had any impact. I choreograph a lot today, but with that group of people, no. What are you gonna do when you're sitting on the bench with the all-star team — you sit on the bench. I'm not gonna go in, I'm not gonna be better than Shaq and Kobe. I'm very understanding of where I am and I think that the only thing I could have contributed is I would have enjoyed putting back some of the stuff that they had right in the first season. The integrated music and dance bumpers - Al & Sey did it once, “Hip hop it's a Roundhouse attack ……the next act.” I would have integrated more of that, I would have taken more time working on that than working on the song trying to make the end song be a Mariah Carey…
It didn't make sense and it happened a lot. The only time the [Mariah Carey thing] made sense was when Crystal did it. That would have been my input, from a director's standpoint.
The tape recorder is turned off here for some undetermined reason. Of course I cannot tell if it's operating properly, so I give it to Sid for his input. He assures me the reels are moving. In the moments following, when asked if he has favorite sketches, he confides that he doesn't like to watch the show by himself, he prefers to watch it with Mark (who's been in New York for years). So there are many things he's forgotten, and couldn't pick any favorites. Judging from his reaction in saying that I have “poopy face”, I apparently am unhappy with this news.
Sid: You have to remember too, for you a scene is a few moments, for me it's a week's worth of work, so when I see it for the first time, it's like seeing it for the sixth time. ‘Cause I worked on it, memorized it, sat in my room and debated over it - and I watch it and I'm criticizing myself. I'm not finding the moments of joy, I'm saying I could've done that better, I could've done this better. Here's a perfect example: I LOVED doing the three man band with Ivan and me and Mark. I saw it, and I was disgusted with myself. Because I made these really ugly faces too close to the camera. And I looked really stupid. But that's life, that's the way it goes. I thought I looked like the devil. I hated it.
Adge: Which did you like best; Bing!, U2U: On the Road, Wheel 2000, or Mad Libs?
Sid: I liked the money on Wheel 2000. Bing! and U2U were me experimenting and figuring out what I was doing with the whole hosting thing. I really enjoyed Mad Libs. I enjoyed going to work, I enjoyed doing six shows a day, I enjoyed being the man and being able to do it. ButBing!, by far, was the best.
Adge: How did Nickeldeon approach you about doing Bing! ?
Sid: Robbie Rowe, who was one of the original producer folks at Nickelodeon called me, and said he had a new show that he was offering me, Bing!. There's nothing that [compares] if you asked me what's my favorite thing I've ever done in my life… I interviewed Wayne Freakin' Gretzky. Best thing I've ever done.
Adge: Were you nervous?
Sid: <laughs> Heck yeah!
Adge: I remember it was so cute, the little girl… after the interview you said, “Somebody carry me home!” And the little girl goes, “I don't think so!”
Sid: She was awesome.
I'm sure I'm talking to seasoned Roundhouse fans here, folks that would know easily that we are talking about the time when Sid interviewed Wayne Gretzky on Bing! and played street hockey with him and a group of kids. But in case you didn't, that's what we are talking about. It should also be noted that Sid adores hockey, and is often seen in a Kings jersey.
At some point around here Sid (again, good at multi-tasking) took notice of a group of well-dressed and high-spirited older ladies in the restaurant. Sid lit up instantly and stated that they must be some kind of theatrical group. He would look over at them from time to time trying to catch any part of their conversation that might confirm his suspicions.
Adge: If you could not be an actor or be involved in the industry in any way, what other profession might you have chosen?
Sid: Would teaching drama or choir be [considered entertainment industry]? That would be the one thing I would do. But if you want to say totally not involved in the performing arts, I would be a history teacher. I've always been a huge history buff. Always.
Adge: What did your mom want you to be when you grew up?
Adge: Happy, that's great.
Sid: Mom and dad were pretty adamant about me going to college, getting a degree. They saw me, I was going to class from 9AM till 1PM, and then doing homework until rehearsal from 5 to 7, then I took a nap and went to work at Spires restaurant from 9PM to 4AM, then went to bed and started all over again… they knew that at least I wasn't slacking. So they were Ok with the decisions I made.
Adge: What is your favorite book?
Sid: My favorite author is Richard Bach, and my favorite book is probably Bridge Across Forever.
Adge: Oh Really?!
I asked for clarification here because I was under the impression that Illusions:The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah was his favorite book. I had read both books mentioned here on Sid's suggestion. I'm quite sure that I didn't see in them quite what I was supposed to, and I've since come to realize that I have difficulty, in Richard Bach's case, of differentiating the author from the speaker (I'm a literature student) but despite what must have been my disappointing interpretation of both novels, I now have a distinct fondness for Cessnas and biplanes.
Sid: Actually, yeah. Illusions is fun philosophy, and it's fun to play with, depending on where you are in your life. But Bridge Across Forever is a nice, fun, fictional read that's just enjoyable and keeps me happy. I'm also a huge Twain fan. And I also love, A Catcher in the Rye. My high school term paper - my big Advanced Placement English, with the baddest teacher in the land term paper - was on how Holden Caulfield is Peter Pan.
Adge: That sounds like a college dissertation.
Sid: Now I'm a huge Clancy fan. I call it airplane literature.
I always hate it when magazines ask this in interviews, and the person being interviewed names some random literary achievement to show he's well read or interesting… “Oh, that would be Thomas Paine's Common Sense.”
Adge: Richard Bach is a little bit pop.
Sid: It's better than saying... a little bit pop yes.
Adge: Well you know I've read these books, you recall.
Sid: <laughs> yes. [ Jonathan Livingston ] Seagull is pop. Bridge Across Forever is not pop. Bridge Across Forever' s not known… Seagull is ‘70s superpop.
Adge: It's the same author. He wouldn't betray himself too much, would he?
Sid: Years of difference… no, years of difference. Would you have written the same thing 12 years ago?
Adge: Well, no.
Sid: All right.
Adge: Favorite music?
Sid: Billy Joel. Everything Billy Joel. I do a little Earth, Wind and Fire, I do a little Prince. I listen to lots of Musical Theater, a lot of my ‘80's crap. Real Big Fish is one of my favorite bands, Cowboy Mouth is one of my favorite bands.
Sid: Top three: Singing in the Rain, The Princess Bride, Ferris Bueler's Day Off.
Adge: TV shows?
Sid: Law and Order, Friends, and I'm really liking CSI right now.
Adge: Which one?
Sid: Any, but I like the first one best.
Interruption. Sid elaborates here about cooking because I prodded him in such a manner that he considered to be facetious and he accused me of as much. I do not know why I turned into a brat on the subject of cooking, I can only say that years and years of slipping into total brat-mode completely unnoticed produced a safe sense of brat-clandestine that I assumed would go unnoticed with Sid as well. Naturally, he called me on it, and I feigned shock that I had even slipped out of character. This simply reminds me that he misses next to nothing.
Sid: Italian. I like to cook. I've kept many an ex-wife and girlfriend very happy. I'm a good cook. I've been a better cook than every person I've ever been in a relationship with. It started when I was in Newsies . A girl that was a friend of mine got really excited about the fact that I went to work and came home and cooked for myself. And I just trial-and-error experimented for six months in my little apartment by myself. I learned how by throwing stuff in a pan and eating it. If it tasted like crap I didn't do it again the next time.
Sid: Green – Peter Pan.
Adge: What was that?
Sid: Green for Peter Pan. Nothing to do with the shade or whatever I just always answer that question green.
Adge: Sports teams?
Sid: Los Angeles Kings; hockey. Lakers, Chargers, and Dodgers.
Sid: Yeah, American League sucks. Especially…
Adge: Especially what?
Sid: I don't know.
Adge: The Mariners?
Sid: I wasn't gonna say anything.
I'm from Seattle. It's beautiful there. I even drove Sid around there once, in the old Nova. He remarked on how beautiful the mountains were. The Mariners are GREAT. Ok, so sometimes they kinda suck, but in heart and soul – they're GREAT.
Adge: What advice were you given at any time that you value the most or that still applies to your life?
Sid: Well, the man that most influenced my life was the director of my choir and eventually the director of the Orange County High School of the Arts, Dr. Ralph Opacic. He was one of my best friends. He used to say when he was talking about a show, when you're in a group number if you're trying to figure out what to do to make [your performance] interesting, to take it to the next level, don't divert from the choreography, don't divert from the vocals - don't change it but internalize it. Make it your own, make it mean something to you.
Adge: Who then was your favorite teacher and why does he or she stand out?
Sid: Different levels. Third grade: Miss Finefield, the lady who I talked about earlier. She stood out because she was expressive and demonstrative in class and she made me feel good about my [affinity for public speaking]. And then near the end of my year in 8 th grade, the vice principal Mr. Russell got me into history and got me into believing in who I was. After I got on TV, I went back and visited him and his kids, he's cool about that. And then in high school, Mr. Opacic – he was and is absolutely the man who changed my life 100%. He completely gave me an understanding, direction, and belief in who I was and what I wanted to be and he became not only a teacher but a great friend. He taught me to believe in myself and to pursue my dreams, and made me realize that even though I wasn't the best singer in my class I still could make it in the business. At the same time there was Walt Howenstein, who was my history teacher. Now my school had something called “AP” classes – Advanced Placement – it's called something different all over the country. I took AP and my junior year they pulled me out of class and had a meeting about me. I said, “I'm keeping up, why are you getting on me?” And they said, “because you're not living up to your potential.” And I'm like, “I'm B plussing and A minusing all your classes. What do you want from me?” They were always in my face. “I'm 3.8 and I'm the happiest 3.8 you'll ever know. Most of the guys who put this much effort into drama, they're freaking out. The 4.0 people in drama are freaking out not having nearly as much fun as I am. They're stressed all the time. Let it go, I'm happy.” Walt really taught me a lot in my junior year in his AP History class. American history, I had a great time with him in my senior year. High School of the Arts came in and we had an after school program from 3-5 everyday. He was my teacher for the required senior year government class. He pulled me aside and said, “Sidoni, what are you looking for in this class?” I said, “I want an A.” He goes, “A - I need you here five days a week. You'll work and suffer but I need five days a week.” I said, “it's not gonna work.” He said, “Alright you'll get a B+ if you're here three days a week. But every time you raise your hand I get to rag on you for not being here and I'm gonna destroy you.” I said, “Ok.” And he killed me. Killed me. I got an A in the class cause I stayed towards the end of the semester. But the first couple of weeks I played his game and I like went to lunch early and went to rehearsals and did other stuff, but he ruined me in class in front of everyone, which I deserved. That was the dichotomy of my life though… from one person and another.
Adge: The dichotomy of your life?
Sid: Do you have a problem with that phrase?
Adge: No! Don't worry if I laugh… I just…
Sid: I can't ever tell with you.
Sid: ‘Cause it's that stupid nervous thing. I can't tell if you're actually laughing at me or if you're like making fun of me…
Adge: If I was nervous with you I wouldn't laugh at you, now would I?
Sid: Yeah, you have though.
Adge: I'd be like, “oh my God! David Sidoni!”
Sid: Shut up. Next question.
Ok, the insinuation there, that I would ever laugh at him is just appalling. Clearly I idolize him, and therefore admire the phraseology that he chooses to employ. The dichotomy of his life struck me as very poetic, and I repeated it, much like I reread striking phrases in the books I read. Yes, I'm constantly nervous with him, even after all these years. The thing is, with books and other fixed works of art, you can comment on and observe without the art's notice. Here I have a piece of the art observing me observe him – which of course messes up the observation completely. All of it is a surprise to me, because once again, I expect to go unnoticed.
Adge: <laughs> What is the significance of the necklace that you often wear? It's like a little silver fan, I've seen it on Roundhouse and Bing!.
Sid: It's the Jolly Roger.
Adge: Jolly Roger?
Sid: It's the ship from Peter Pan .
Adge: So then are you the boy that won't grow up, is that what's going on?
Sid: When I tell people that I like Peter Pan, a lot of people want to read into it. (Especially since that book about the Peter Pan syndrome.) I think overall, if you psychoanalyze it from a Freudian aspect, [Peter Pan's] got a lot of problems with his denial in his life. But one thing I do like is the end of Peter Pan the television show, or the animated movie. You'll see the dad is a dual character. He's the same voice as Captain Hook. It's basically saying the dad represents this grown up evil. We all remember what it was like to think that you flew out the window and had this adventure. And that, to me, is what theater is. People come to see my play, my show, watch my television show; to me they're releasing the idea of reality. They paid for that ticket, they're walking in that door saying, “I'm letting it go.” And they're totally enjoying life with no cares about anything else. No responsibility, no nothing. And that to me is what theater represents. What the art form represents. That's the good thing about Peter Pan. He takes people who are caught up in everything and just says “no.”
There is a long discourse here about what the style of the interview should be. I'm for a formal structure and Sid is for an evolved abstract entity. What actually came to be is something in between the two. I'm expecting some disappointment from the Sidoni camp about this, but that wouldn't be anything altogether new. Especially after I begged him to do the interview immediately, and then sat on it for three years. I'm just not talented enough to pull off an abstract anti-structuralized narrative. But here's part of that exchange that I found interesting:
Adge: All right, I just don't want to give away too much about you either.
Sid: Why not? No, the minute you pressed 'record,' anything I said is fair game. What I would prefer you to do is like in Almost Famous, just make us look cool.
Adge: Ok. You're not gonna like it.
Sid: You keep saying that. You have no idea what I'm gonna like.
Adge: I actually do.
Sid: No you don't.
Adge: Because every time I say you're not gonna like it, I tell you what it is, you don't like it.
I had to leave this stuff in because it is so entirely amusing. Perhaps we never saw each other that often over the years because we naturally lapse into this argumentative dialogue. I can only say I was usually scared to death of what his opinion of me was, and the few moments when my attitude leaked through it was probably because I could take his guff no longer.
Adge: So if you could change the last ten years of your life, what would you do differently?
Sid: Oh that's terrible. I wouldn't change anything.
Adge: No regrets?
Sid: That's a terrible question.
Adge: If a genie landed right now and gave you three wishes would you take ‘em?
Sid: Of course I would.
Adge: You would? Well is it not the same…
Sid: Three wishes to change the last ten years or three wishes...
Adge: At all.
Sid: Yeah, why wouldn't I?
What occurs after these lines is pretty much a full blown argument. Discussed is whether the nature of the interviewer should be passive or conversational. I took it all a little personally, because I have a lot of stock invested in this interview, so to speak. The questions are important to me. This will not be published in any magazine, but it will be read by my mother and his. I changed the question from “last ten years” to “genie with three wishes” when I was told the question sucked. The genie question did not fare any better. Sid believed that I was specifically addressing some known negative aspect of his life. Again, I'm not smart enough or mean enough to be so pointed, but I appreciate his confidence in my ability. Regardless, I didn't think any of these questions were unfair, and I even went to great lengths to avoid unfairness. Sid got up to use the restroom and to break up the conversation for a few minutes. During the interval, an elderly gentleman approached me and asked me if I was interviewing the young man. I told him I was, and the gentleman started telling me about his days conducting interviews during the heyday of investigative journalism. Investigative journalism is a sharp contrast to what I was doing, but the man's honest enthusiasm and nostalgia for a lost time is something directly along the lines of what Sid and I were trying to capture. Sid caught the tail end of the man's story on his way back, and the tone from that point on lightened considerably, and came back to what we both had intended.
Sid: I've been blessed. To me, all a genie is, is an audition. It's an appointment, it's whatever I'm going to do tomorrow. Am I gonna go to the gym? Am I gonna go to class? Am I gonna rehearse? Am I gonna practice my voice? Am I gonna do whatever I want? I am my own genie of the future, but my past I would never go back and touch it.
Adge: I agree with you.
Sid: Well that's why your question was stupid. I'm sitting here being interviewed by someone. Someone thinks somebody cares about my life. Why, would I want to mess with a life that somebody actually might care about? I couldn't have asked for anything more and if I did then I'm not appreciative of what I have and I'm really dumb.
Adge: So, what then, is in the future for you?
Sid: The easiest way to say it is that before Newsies, I wanted to do musical theater. Newsies happened, the Pepsi commercial happened, the Michael Jackson video happened, and someone said, “well what are you gonna do now? Are you going to be a professional dancer?” And I didn't have the background to really do that, I was just riding the wave. And I've been riding the wave for a while. I got into hosting and what I've realized is the current wave I'm on has pretty much closed - it's white wash and heading towards the shore. And now I'm turned around looking back out and I see the next set coming and there's three or four different waves, and it's my choice where I want to go next. It's my choice which [to take], of all of them, and I'm very fortunate. Sitting in a nice four to six, with a nice left, and a good break, tubes are there. I'm not sitting in a one to two white washed crap where everybody's walling out. It's good. The surf is good, I just have to chose the wave. And that decision is still forth coming.
The evening went on for another hour or so, but I had stopped recording. The absence of electronics relaxed things quite a bit. Before the end of the night Sid took one last look at the high-spirited ladies and said, “They are Long Beach Playhouse people. I'll bet you a billion dollars. I would love to interview them.”