“Well, here we are,” Sidney Poitier said onstage last night at Alice Tully Hall in New York accepting the 2011 Chaplin Award at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 38th annual Chaplin Award Gala. “You looking at me, me looking at you. What do you see? You see a guy dressed in his best Sunday go-to-meeting-suit and a color coordinated bow tie. I see a cluster of interesting faces wearing a variety of expressions.”
Not to challenge the trailblazing two time Oscar-winning star, but there was one collective look on the sold out crowd’s faces: Profound admiration. After watching over a dozen of Poitier’s friends, peers and devotees (including Ben Kingsley, Bill Cosby, Chris Tucker, Dan Aykroyd, Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte, James Earl Jones, Lulu, Mary Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, Norman Jewison, Quincy Jones, Quentin Tarantino and Ruby Dee) pay their respects to the night’s honoree in their own personal deliveries, Poitier’s incomparable influence on the film industry was laid bare, and the obliging audience naturally delivered a rousing standing ovation as he took to the stage.
Poitier’s beautiful daughter, Sydney Poitier, delivered what was likely the most moving and funny speech of the night in honor of her father. “People often wonder where my dad gets his tremendous tenacity, grace under pressure, dignity and patience,” she said after taking to the stage. “Was it forged from his humble beginnings on Cat Island and being a fifteen year old with less than a dollar in his pocket determined to survive the streets of 1940s Manhattan? Is it because he stood tall in a world festering with racism and refused to see himself as ‘other?’ No… It’s because he has six daughters. Six!!!”
She closed with, “The truth is there isn’t a substance in the natural world that comes close to describing him. So, true to my Poitier DNA, I have used my imagination to invent one. It has the fortitude of platinum, the striking beauty of a diamond, the fluidity of water, the majestic countenance of a mountain range, the commanding force of the wind, the humility of a blade of grass bending under the weight of a fly, the warmth and kindness of the sun, and the most interesting hair I’ve ever seen. And I’ve named it Daddio.”
Below find photos taken at the event: