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Me and Sidney

written by: Drew Fuller

I don’t usually write about my movie career, but I don’t think Sidney would mind me telling this story.

I was working with Sidney Poitier and in the scene he was working and having a conversation in a yard. When the conversation was over, he was to walk out of frame. When he did this, he walked right to where I and a make up artist were standing. As he walked out of the scene, he was rolling up the cuffs up his sleeves. He stopped in front of us and I said “Sidney, I really appreciate the way you made wardrobe such a big part of the scene.” He looked at me and replied “It’s because you are the finest costumer I’ve ever worked with before.”

The make up artist and I looked at each other to see if we both heard the same thing. Since we both had the same expressions on our faces… I looked back at Sidney and he just raised his hands slightly, as in what do you have for me? “Sidney, I got nothing.” Including an idea of what I was going to say next. “If I were to say you were the best actor I’ve ever worked with, I’ve only been doing this like 15 years. It wouldn’t carry half the weight of your compliment. I’ve got to work on this.” He lowered his hands and said “Fine.”

Not to get into movie protocol, but I was his costumer and I saw him all day long. Every day. I felt a little pressure. Then a flash of inspiration. I got the idea of naming a tree after him.

My neighbor happened to be the city arborist, so I called him to find out the process was about a year long. The city being involved was out. But I knew a great oak tree and I knew the people who owned the property. They were agreeable. Our film was about brick making, so I spoke with our brick experts about firing some bricks with lettering on them. They were agreeable. I was also working on my house and one of the workers was from Jamaica. He told me they were cousins of Sidney, but Sidney didn’t much claim that branch of the family tree. Still, I asked him to let me take a picture. He agreed.

Not long after we were working nights when the tree owning family came to the set. They brought with them the bricks that proclaimed the tree to be the Sidney Poitier Tree. They also had pictures of the tree and the ceremony we had with his cousin when the tree was named. I introduced them and explained why they were there and that the bricks would go back to the tree as the marker. I told him it had to be a big tree with wide branches, the kind kids will be swinging on for years.  He accepted the compliment.

I told him as a bonus I could see that tree every time I walked out my back door. And in the future, when I go out there with my coffee and paper, I’m going to say “Good morning, Sidney.” He said with a smile “In spirit, I’ll be saying good morning back.”

Good morning, Sidney.

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