ON SATURDAY August 2 at 5:00 p.m. St. Anna’s will offer a full solemn votive funeral mass for Sid Lambert. The community is invited.
In 2003 I arrived at St. Anna’s Church and Sid was, at that time, a tried and true member. I owe Sid a lot. There are a few people in each person’s life that have deep and long lasting impact upon them. Sid is one of those people. In fact, there are few such people in my life and I will admit that Sid never knew this. Perhaps he does now. I came to St. Anna’s basically straight, WASP, male from the suburbs. While I was not homophobic and did not live in fear of “the gay agenda” I was, however, moderately conservative and just so on the issue of human sexuality. Those that know me now might wonder at this revelation but it was true. I did not believe that same sex couples should marry. For me it was a reliance more on tradition than anything else. There were several men that impacted me greatly and opened my eyes to see, my heart to hear, and the Gospel to be read anew. Sid Lambert was one of those gentle souls that helped open a new and truer way to be a priest.
Sid was a bundle of energy. He buzzed about where so ever he went. He did have quiet moments of reflection but I suspect that generally most people did not see that. I rarely knew of Sid with anything but a smile, yet, an occasional frown would shape his face when he was presented with dilemmas. I suppose what I am saying is that, like most of us, he was not singular but generally affable and utterly human. He could have his moments.
Sid was always a reminder that gay is not just the province of cities. Sid always retained his deep south Mississippi accent salted just a bit with flights of fancy. In the kindest way his vocals were somewhat reminiscent of Gomer Pyle. But Sid was smart, very smart indeed and nobody’s fool. Early on in his life in New Orleans he bought a shotgun house in a tax sale. Over time and with great industry he repaired it, nurtured, it and eventually hosted great and celebrated parties in it. Most notably were his Radical Fairies parties. He loved his St. Anna’s parade (nothing to do with the church and everything to do with New Orleans).
I will never forget a spring day during my first year at St. Anna’s. As I said I was not homophobic and it was, I am sure, the Holy Spirit that told me to “shut up” and “ask questions.” I was curious and Sid was my first foray into what it is to be gay. So he and I sat on the stoop at 1313 Esplanade and I simply asked, “When did you know and was it hard?” I am not sure if anyone had asked this of Sid. He sat back and stared off for a moment. He got serious and a sort of calm came over him that I shall never forget. You see, Sid was usually outgoing and gregarious so this was a distinct shift for him. I think he wanted to answer fully and wholly and he understood that I genuinely wanted to know out of curiosity and inquiry. Like so many stories I have heard since, Sid told me that very early on he knew that he was different. Later he knew that he was gay. For a time it was confusing and even uncomfortable. What would people think? Then one day in a meadow in the country he sat beneath the sun and looked through the leaves of a green, green tree. He knew that God loved him and that he loved God and from that day forward he never looked back at who he was. He spent a lot of time in nature, that gift that assured him that he was of God’s creation. He was a Park Ranger in Mississippi for a long time. My guess is that he was a good at it and visitors would enjoy the bubbly talkative Ranger who would welcome them. Sid will be for me a man that helped open my eyes with his honesty, his sincerity, his passion for his faith and his gentleness and above all for me with his patience. He helped shape me in those moments on that stoop.
I am not sure how he got to New Orleans and I am even less sure how he got to be a set dresser but I know that he loved his craft. As I vaguely recall it was an accident having to do with feeding people during a movie shoot. Being a set dresser was Sid Lambert. But back in those days work was hard to come by. We saw a lot of Sid Lambert at church. He sang and loved to sing. He and I loved one song that we shared, “What if God was one of us” sung by Joan Osborne. It was a theme from a show Joan of Arcadia but what a song. It meant a lot to him and to me as well. It was a source for a sermon and I would see Sid nodding and smiling and even getting excited during worship and jumping and saying “Whoo hoo!” That is who Sid is and was and I shall always remember. Vicki, my wife, remembers that he was the first man that she had met who painted his toe nails. After a time they would compare colors. That too was Sid. During his inactive days he would always send out a circular e-mail announcing spring and usually refer to the harbinger of such in New Orleans – termites swarming. That too was Sid. He would always sign his e-mails “Simply Sid.”
After Katrina we saw less and less of Sid. The movie industry took root and he began to work. He worked on some classic and high end films like “Benjamin Button.” I suspect that because he lived on the financial edge during those hard years he wanted to garner as much work as possible. I also think that he had a fear of being poor and destitute and so he worked ceaselessly. I would guess that was one of the reasons for his early demise. He worked himself literally to death. But he did love what he did. He always remembered St. Anna’s during his working frenzy. At the end of a shoot the church would get a call and he would bring over tons of food, or furniture, or some set pieces … he never really left St. Anna’s though he did not visit much after Katrina.
For me it was enough to know that Sid was in the world being “Simply Sid.” This is a little interesting place, perhaps just a bit less fun, and certainly with one less good heart with Sid’s passing. For me New Orleans is still New Orleans but for today and at least tonight as I write this a little less glitter shines on our streets. It is a little quieter and little less Sid. Thank you, Sid Lambert for making me the priest and person that I am today and I will be forever grateful. You will always be “Simply Sid.”
Sidney J. Lambert October 15, 1961-June 28, 2014 May Light Perpetual Shine Upon Him.