The Grand Prize: When I met Sy Rosen
March 1, 2023 at 12:00 a.m.
If you ever read the print version of Northwest Prime Time way back in the olden days when our pages ran hot off the presses (our final edition arrived on the stands one year ago this month), then you are familiar with Sy Rosen.
Sy’s column, The Funny Side of Life, first appeared in Northwest Prime Time nearly 20 years ago. Sy looks for the humor in getting older by plucking ideas from his everyday life and observations. His articles are hilarious and self-deprecating. He’s like that in person, too.
Sy knows funny. He worked for over 30 years as a writer and producer for television shows such as The Bob Newhart Show, The Wonder Years, MASH, Sanford, Rhoda, Taxi, Maude and Frasier, to name just a few. He also produced The Jeffersons, Sister/Sister and The Wonder Years.
I can’t tell you how many times readers would tell me that Sy’s was the first column they read as soon as they picked up a copy of Northwest Prime Time. “I love that guy,” was a familiar refrain. His column, “Reading the Obits” caused longtime contributor Suzanne Beyer to declare that Sy’s obit will read, “Funnier than Hell” (or – as my mother would have said – Funnier than Heck). My mother was a big fan of Sy’s – a BIG fan, all five feet of her. Each time I brought over the latest edition, even before she bothered to say hello to me, she’d snatch the paper from my hands and open it to Sy’s page. (The same two-page spread contained other favorites, including comics, The ongoing, life-affirming adventures of Rose and Dawn. and Pat D'Amico's humorous light verse.) “That Sy,” she’d chuckle, while still not saying hello to me.
Reading his columns, you can’t help but suspect that Sy comes by his funny bone naturally. “I was brought up in Brooklyn and my relatives were, to say the least, a little eccentric,” he remarked. Every once in a while, he’d feature family members in his columns – these glimpses led me to picture his extended family all sitting around trying to outdo each other in the humor department.
I remember one column when he denounced an online IQ test because it somehow didn’t recognize his genius. (Something to keep in mind: in real life, Sy is quite humble). Anyway, Sy writes, “Before I go into my actual score, let me say that I was brought up to believe that I was a genius. Actually, my whole family considered themselves geniuses. Even my Uncle Hy, who thought that spider monkeys came from the mating of a monkey and a spider, was considered a genius.”
Another time, talking about dysfunctional families, he writes, “I can relate. My Aunt Gussy and Aunt Flora didn’t speak for forty-five years – ever since the day Gussy claimed she was the one who looked like Jackie Kennedy and Flora (who was wearing a new pillbox hat) was just putting on airs… Someone once told my Uncle Harold that he looked like Clark Gable, and he used every opportunity to remind people of this. For example, if my aunt asked him if he wanted more potatoes, his reply was always, ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.’”
After leaving television behind, Sy had several of his plays produced. Then, before the pandemic put a stop to it, he began writing and producing short films offering comedic, sometimes poignant, looks at growing older. These award-winning films, along with Sy, appeared at film festivals around the country and in Europe.
Sy’s first short, The Matchmaker, became the prize in a Northwest Prime Time contest. I had asked Sy if we could premiere his film for the winning group. Not only did he say yes, but he offered to travel to Seattle to present the film in person!
That’s how I met Sy Rosen. He was the Grand Prize.
I accompanied him to the film premiere, plus chauffeured him around Seattle on a brief sight-seeing excursion. Then we went to the KING 5 studios where he was interviewed by Margaret Larson for her show, New Day Northwest. To say that was an interesting day is an understatement. First, there was the great pleasure of hanging out with Sy (I highly recommend the experience if you ever get the chance). Then there was chatting with Margaret and the other guests on the show, which included Cisco Morris and Ed Hume. Cisco had already graced Northwest Prime Time’s cover; soon enough Ed Hume and Margaret Larson were destined to do the same. And Margaret is now one of our columnists! Small world. But that’s a story for another day.
I think back to how Sy, the comic genius with deep Hollywood connections, first entered humble little Northwest Prime Time’s realm. He sent a query which fell into my email box along with a mountain of others. Even a small publication like Northwest Prime Time attracted potential writers left and right and I was having trouble keeping up with the avalanche of submissions. Without even reviewing his email, I responded in some offhand, vague manner along the lines of: “Thank you, I will try to take a look when I get a chance, blah blah blah.”
How near did I come to losing Sy Rosen as one of our columnists, let alone all the fun of meeting him in person? Lucky for me and for our readers, I finally took a look at his submission. The rest is history.
Whew. Close call.
In case you missed them, you can catch up on past blog posts with the links below:
- My First Blog Post
- Luck, Pluck and Schemes: On becoming a first-time publisher
- Who Is That Cover Boy?
- Goodbye and Hello
- Our Very Own Field of Dreams
- A Northwesterner’s New York Pride
- The Nun with the Heart of a Newspaper Woman
- You Fool Me Every Time, Old Man
- Call in the Bomb Squad!
- A Parade of Pets
- What's in a Name?