Farewell Favorites: Sidney Amber

The Broadmoor, 1499 Sutter Street. Detail
At the time of his death on November 17, 1995, Sidney Amber was the oldest San Franciscan. Celebrated for his longevity, Mr. Amber appeared on The Tonight Show and Letterman, in addition to numerous other national programs. Born in San Francisco on January 26, 1886, Mr. Amber was 20 years old during the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. His family was displaced from their home at Post and Leavenworth on the second day of the disaster. Among his careers, he was an amateur boxer, a tuxedo salesman, sign painter, display artist and manager, retail wrapper, graphic artist, and shopkeeper. The active, vital centenarian even worked as a maitre d' at Sears Fine Food during the last of his many experiments with retirement. Mr. Amber lived for many years at 2002 Pacific Avenue with his second wife, Ruth, before the Ambers moved to the Broadmoor, a retirement hotel on Sutter Street, in 1982. Mrs. Amber died in 1992 at the age of 97. Mr. Amber credited his longevity to daily doses of Worcestershire sauce. Tony Perez, a former room service waiter at the Broadmoor, remembers, "I used to ask Sidney Amber what was the secret to living so long. He said he didn't know, that he used to drink, smoke, gamble, and chased women for 40 years before he cleaned up his act." 

(Along my travels and travails, I also worked briefly as a room service waiter at the Broadmoor. Mr. Amber was a lovely, lively guy. Heaven help the uninitiated waiter who failed to bring Worcestershire sauce at the start of dinner! The Broadmoor is a storied place that has shed its skin more than once. Esther Williams lived there when she performed with Johnny Weissmuller in the Aquacade review in the 1940s. San Francisco was a big swim town then. In her memoir, Million Dollar Mermaid, Williams says Weissmuller bedded all the girls at the Broadmoor, but not her. HD)

Copyright 2003 Hank Donat
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