Inducted into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame, August 13, 2006.
(First of all, I have to be very careful about what I say here tonight because Burt is still my dentist!)
Burt and I go back a long way. He and my late, older brother were good friends in high school. Both were athletes and thespians. Burt far excelled in the athletic department. In school plays, however, my brother usually had larger character roles while Burt was relegated to playing bit parts. This tradition of talent discrepancy in the families has continued through the years.
Although limited in acting ability, Burt has found ways of getting on stage. He has been smart enough to avoid actual speaking roles. For many years Burt would finagle "supernumerary" or "extra" spots in Dayton Opera productions. Once for Sampson and Delilah, Burt and several medical colleagues he'd recruited were literally playing "spear carriers" -- scantily clad in tunics and holding shields and spears. Following the on-stage "death" of the baritone, six of them were required to pick up the 6'4", 230-pound singer and carry him offstage. In their struggle to wrestle the man away, there was much bending over, exposing a bevy of white jockey shorts and leaving the audience convulsed in unintended hilarity. Burt later dubbed the performance, "asses to the masses." And as if it wasn't bad enough that the 2,400-seat Memorial Hall crowd witnessed this spectacle, it also happened to be the night that the arts critic from the Dayton Daily News was present and she subsequently berated them in print for the paper's entire circulation to read.
But Burt has other talents. For instance, for some time he has been writing an arts column for the Oakwood Register, which is weird because Burt doesn't live in Oakwood! As a matter of fact, for a long time no one of Hebrew persuasion lived in Oakwood. The rule of thumb for driving on Far Hills was, "Go directly to Dorothy Lane Market….Do not stop except to receive a speeding ticket." But actually, Burt was an excellent choice for arts columnist:
Burt knows theatre.
- Burt knows opera
- Burt knows music
- Burt knows dance
- Burt is a know-it-all...er, I mean, Burt knows it all!
Among his many talents, Burt is a well-known Dayton epicure. He dines in the finest restaurants in town. Gourmet or gourmand? You decide. On Burt's top 10 list, l' Auberge ranks #2 -- edged out for the #1 spot by the Chili King on North Main Street. By the way, rumor has it that Burt had applied to replace Ann Heller as the Dayton Daily News food critic, but was turned down because everybody recognized him!
Although Burt and I have been friends for a long time, there is one bone of contention between us. Back in 1970, the Dayton Theatre Guild produced a play called The Makropolous Secret. I was playing one of my many prematurely-old-man roles. Well, Burt thought this play was a "stinkeroo" – and he has said so loudly and publicly every time we have been in the same room together ever since! My response has been that maybe the show wasn’t exactly top-notch, but in any case, I was wonderful! This has not deterred Burt, however, and I fully expect his opinion to be carved into his tombstone!
Even though we are honoring Burt here tonight, we should not forget perhaps his greatest moving force…his lovely wife, Alice. Full of grace, intelligence, compassion, and patience...she is herself a valued presence in the arts community.
But tonight, Burt's the guy! Over the years he has been a consistent and avid supporter of Dayton theatre -- in attendance, constructive criticism, and financial support. He sees it all and loves much of it. He has had a positive influence on all the arts in town. He is, without a doubt, a Renaissance patron of the Arts! And he may be the only person here tonight to have actually gotten his money's worth out of his tuxedo!
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the newest member of the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame … Dr. Burton Saidel!
-- Fred Blumenthal
Acceptance speech by Burt Saidel
When I was a lad, I wanted to sing.
I'd heard the robins, Caruso and Bing.
So I opened my mouth and what came out?
My music teachers thought it was a terrible shout!
I kept on learning all the songs and ditties,
But when I sang, all my friends had "fitties."
In college, on our "fight song" I'd have trips
The other guys said, Burt, just move your lips.
I discovered opera – I loved all the stars
I studied the roles from heroes to czars.
But in discussions with Tom, Neal and Charles
They would say, "Don’t even let him hum a few bars."
Then came dancing, moving right and left.
But Miss Jo found that my feet were bereft.
"Let him play baseball, he might do that well"
"He’ll never be featured in my Giselle."
I've asked Dermot and Greg for a ballet role.
To lift a ballerina would make my life whole.
But they have resisted me with force and main.
No dancing for Burt, they made that plain
Two daughters fair and a wife that is charming,
Love me but think that my dance is alarming.
Beth became a dancer well known
But my attempts to foxtrot always made her groan.
If singing and dancing seem far away;
Why not try out for the school play?
All the other kids played pilgrim’s endeavors,
I ended up; you guessed it – the turkey with feathers!
No matter what I tried in the world of the arty,
I was lucky to be invited to the cast party.
Then I discovered the theater seat
A joy which has made my life complete.
Enjoying, thrilling, learning is quite a recompense
I discovered that I was the perfect audience.
All over the world, especially in Dayton
The ecstasy of theater is always waitin'.
My lack of talents was considered redic (ulous)
All that was left to me was to be a critic.
Beautiful Do and the Register Oakwooder
Allowed me to write what was good and even gooder!
I’ve been writing for a decade and a half
About the plays which make me weep and laugh.
Although I have been called a real cheerleader
Occasionally I‘ve been known to stick in a needler.
Those with real talent, they number a nation
Work ceaselessly to bring me complete elation.
And I love every minute, sitting next to Alice,
Every theater becomes, to us, a palace.
So tonight, I'm among giants of a Fame Hall
Before whose talents I can only crawl.
And I'm matched with the beautiful Kay
Her performances always draw a hooray!
So what you sees is what you get
I love you all, that's a winning bet.
As a Hall of Famer, there's no one like me
I know you agree that I'm an anomaly!
-- Burt Saidel