Sid Sheinberg's Longtime Assistant Spills All: "He Was Hysterical. He Would Bark at Me Like a Dog"

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Sid Sheinberg

Melanie Chapman spent the last 20 years lugging coffee (an eighth of a cup at a time) to the legendary Hollywood mogul, who died Thursday at 84. She'd do it for another 20: "He was amazing."

Most people knew Sid Sheinberg as a titan of the movie industry. I knew him as the guy who asked me to get him a tuna sandwich and an eighth of a cup of coffee. And Sid used to do that — he’d literally ask me for an eighth of a cup of coffee. It was hysterical.

I was Sid’s assistant for the last 20 years. I got the job after I saw an ad in the back of The Hollywood Reporter. Other people interviewed for it and when we met for the first time, Sid said he didn’t think there’d be enough for me to do. But I told him I also wanted to have a life and I think that sealed the deal. He’d also got to the point where he wanted to have a life. I think his greatest regret was not having spent more time with his children when they were younger. And I think he was doing everything he could to make up for that. That’s why he set up The Bubble Factory with his sons [after leaving MCA-Universal in 1995]. It was a film production company and a record company, but at its core it was a way to spend more time with his children. 

Maybe his demeanor was a little hard for some people to navigate because he didn’t pull his punches. He expected everybody to be as committed as he was. But even if it wasn’t always a pleasant encounter, people respected him immensely for standing up for what he believed. And as he got older — and maybe had less of the MCA power running through his veins — he got a bit gentler. 

In this #MeToo era, it’s important to say that Sid was committed to his wife. And he was also very strong with me and other women in the company. He really advocated for women not to be afraid to speak their minds and to stand up for themselves. I worked for him for 20 years and I don’t think anybody is going to come out of the woodwork with a #MeToo story about Sid. He was so intelligent, such a bright mind. But also playful with a super dry sense of humor. He used to come out from his office to my desk and bark at me like a dog. That was his humor. He would literally go, "Ruff!" He was so amazing.

I remember a long time ago, before [Lew] Wasserman passed, Sid told me a story about how Paramount or some other company had tried to lure him away from MCA. He told them he would never leave Lew Wasserman. That’s who Sid was. When I heard that, I thought, "You know what? I am never going to leave Sid Sheinberg." And I kept my word.