I was saddened to hear of the passing of the great film director/actor SYDNEY POLLACK this past Memorial Day 2008(May 26th) in his home at Pacific Palisades CA. Mr. Pollack fought a courageous battle with stomach cancer which was diagnosed 9 months prior. He was 73. When I had first started playing piano at DESTINO RESTAURANT(851 First Ave, NYC) in April 2006, not long after Mr. Pollack visited us for dinner a few times. On one particular Thursday evening, I spotted Sydney at the Destino bar dining solo--enjoying a simple marinara pasta dish and I introduced myself as the pianist at this venue. He was instantly gregarious and we began chatting. I told him I was also an actor and that "I came at a much cheaper price tag than Tom Cruise"(as I gave him my business card)--my memory was that Sydney was sipping his glass of red wine as I said this and almost spewed it across the bar as he chuckled. It struck me that this giant of Hollywood was so accessible and friendly. He said that he'd be back to Destino as he had a NYC residence right around the block from the restaurant. When I asked him what his current projects were, he spoke with avid interest of his foray into the documentary film world, and began describing in detail one of his then-current films. After his story we shook hands and I went to the piano and he stayed for my first set. He waved goodbye an hour later...but this would not be the last time I would see him... On another Thursday evening(August 17,2006), once again I noticed Sydney at the intimate Destino bar about to have dinner. I greeted him again and he instantly remembered me and was once again gracious. After a brief chat, I told him "I had forgotten to do something the last time we met"--and said I'd make up for it now. He looked at me quizzically and I then headed for the piano. I then played and sang "The Way We Were", the theme song of the film which he directed, and followed that with the theme of his Academy-award winning film "Tootsie", the Stephen Bishop song "Maybe It's You". He smiled several times as he looked over and at one point lifted his wine glass in the air, "toasting" my renditions. What a great honor it was to tribute him in that manner, and as I look back on the memory I realized that I never saw him again after that evening. But those moments with the great Sydney Pollack will forever stay with me--rest in peace Sydney and thank you for your great work in the film industry--and the gift that you were to all of us. For more about the man, check out these links: http://news.aol.com/entertainment/movies/movie-news-story/ar/_a/famed-director-sydney-pollack-dies/20080526212209990001 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Pollack http://www.emulsioncompulsion.com/tag/sydney-pollack