The importance of knowing what was going on by taking tours of the community, rather than taking an arms-length view, was never more apparent than during political unrest amid the anti-Vietnam war movement. Conducting outreach to Abbie Hoffman and the Yippie movement was especially important to reduce tensions and reduce the number of street pranks that disrupted the city.
As far as being described as Lindsay's 'burly troubleshooter,' I was a former weightlifter and wrestler, and my personality went along with my body. But I don't make any apologies for my physicality in protecting Mayor Lindsay from the press and aggressive individuals. I was Mayor Lindsay's aide during a very volatile time in our city.
Q: How did you become an enemy of Richard Nixon?
A: Because I served as Mayor Lindsay's political right-hand man, I was an obvious Nixon target. President Nixon had underlying resentment toward Mayor Lindsay because he was originally a member of the Republican Party who wielded significant influence within the party. Lindsay had the clout to motivate party members to vote for Nixon. However, Lindsay switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party, drawing Nixon's ire. As Mayor Lindsay's man-on-the-street, I was in the middle of political maneuvering and had a direct ear to his constituency. By targeting me, Nixon was essentially targeting Mayor Lindsay's political aspirations.
Q: Did you have any idea Nixon or his aides felt that way about you?
A: No. I never had any real ties to Nixon. If anything, I felt that I was in the crosshairs of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller.
Q: You were in the restaurant you owned when the story about the list broke. Can you describe the scene?
A: Jimmy's, the restaurant I opened after my time spent with Mayor Lindsay, was named for famed columnist and friend Jimmy Breslin, and was commonly known as the meeting place of politicos to gather and talk shop. While most bar televisions aired sports, we catered to our political diners and concentrated on airing the news. We were so politically attuned that we installed a tickertape and had the Associated Press wire feed at the restaurant.
That fateful day when I learned that I was on Nixon's 'Opponents and Political Enemies List' started just like any other. The din of restaurant chatter was punctuated by the sudden barrage of phone calls. Simultaneously, people at the bar started yelling 'Hey Sid, you are on TV!' This was a result of the news reporting on John Dean's testimony before Congress making the list public. I was shocked and had no idea what was going on. Jimmy Breslin, with his insider status in the newspaper industry, was able to get the scoop on what was transpiring and called me right away to allay any confusion that I might have had in those initial frenzied hours.
Q: Several of the people on the original list have described their inclusion as an honor. Do you agree?