LAST Friday the sky may have seemed a tad brighter as the principal purveyor of stars, Sybil Sands, shrugged of her mortal coil. No opening night in Cape Town will be the same again without the presence of this small giant. Sands was the first actor’s agent in the city and a pioneer in her field. She was a founder member of the Personal Managers Association of which she was a Life member and the National TV & Video Association.
Suzanne Boje a fellow agent who joined her agency in 1997 and owner of Stella Talent recalls her impact on her professional career. “What I have learnt from her I cannot put into words. She taught me to make lists on anything. Till slips, a tissue, an old rooibos tea box. Her zest for life, her immense pride. It is almost unthinkable that I have to write this as past tense. But Sybil, you were a real lady, and a real lady always knows when it’s time to go.”
Sands was the recipient of several Lifetime Achievement Awards which acknowledged her contribution to the sector. These were bestowed on her by the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards, the Cape Film Commission and the Kayoscars. She was also the recipient of the Johann Nell Theatre Award from the Players Club of Cape Town and the Imbongi award from the Cape Film Commission. It was the beaded wire stars that she bestowed upon actors that were the most sought after award in the industry however. Jonathan Roxmouth was one of the those who was awarded five gold stars and says, “I became a Sybil Sands platinum star actor. It is an accolade I hold higher than anything I have so far.” A stalwart of opening nights in Cape Town, I doubt there was a single one that she didn’t attend, her presence will be sorely missed. If you were fortunate enough to be seated near her you were assured a steady supply of confectionery as she shared her ever present bag of sweets.
Actors, dancers, producers and directors have been remembering her fondly in recent days. Francis Chouler, actor and one of her younger clients remembers,”I never forget meeting Sybil in her eclectic Camps Bay home office. I was so nervous, a friend who was on her books put in a good word, my mom drove. I was 16, but determined. She sat me down, fetched me something fizzy from the kitchen and not only did she take my awkward-looking 16 year old self on as an actor, but despite two years of auditions before I booked even a commercial, she came to watch my class 12 school play, even bringing along her agents.”
Yanga Mkonto, another recipient of several of her stars said, “She was a true legend, icon and as much a star as those she kept on sharing with all artist, particularly actors. She always wanted nothing but the best for actors and presented her star with these words, “keep on shining and never stop doing the great work, wherever you go be the best and shine like a star.” Brent Palmer recalls her fondly. “My over-riding feeling or memory was that whenever you spoke with her you felt like you were the most important person in the room.
Her son Russell Sieff remembers her. “My memories of mom are always about the little things. She handed so many stars out in her life that she had her own constellation. She had a wide web of people she loved and knew well and whom she shared and put together to advance their careers and personal lives. She was a match maker a magician. She was a mother to all, unconditional loving, giving, sharing generosity - a lady I was so proud to share with the world and was so privileged to be able to give back in her final years. I wish her an astonishing journey and peace where she will most certainly will add untold value to all in her next life.”
Fahiem Stellenboom, Marketing Manager at the Baxter recalls, “Sybil was a tiny giant in the local theatrical universe. Her commitment to the artists is unprecedented. She always handed out a wire star to the performers and team on an opening night which, to me, became her signature blessing of any production.An arts angel has left us to watch over and care for us from heaven.”
An arts angel indeed and one whose memory will always be cherished. She is survived by her children Russel Sieff and Rozelle Abramson, grandchildren Alexia Abramson and Tai Abramson and a dynasty of stars.