Consulted by many celebs; Sun-Times ran column 32 years
Chicago Sun-Times, Jan. 4, 2003
BY BRENDA WARNER ROTZOLL, STAFF REPORTER
Astrologer Sydney Omarr, whose column appeared in the Sun-Times for 32 years, was in grade school when he taught himself how to read and interpret the movements of the heavens.
He self-published his first book of horoscopes at 15, was the official astrologer of the U.S. Army in World War II and rapidly became the most popular astrologer in the world. His syndicated column ran in more than 200 newspapers worldwide.
Mr. Omarr died Thursday at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., of complications following a heart attack. He was 76.
Geraldine Saunders–Mr. Omarr’s ex-wife, longtime friend and assistant–said Friday she would be continuing the column under his name.
Politicians, movie stars and just plain folks all over the world looked to Mr. Omarr’s interpretations of the movement of the stars and planets and their relationships to human activities. His monthly and annual horoscope books sold 50 million copies.
For the last five years, he produced his columns, books and recorded horoscopes for a 900 number while blind and paralyzed from the neck down by multiple sclerosis. Assistants would read to him from tables showing daily positions of the planets, and he would work out in his mind their probable influence on people born under any one of the 12 signs of the zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.
Then, one assistant would turn on the tape recorder, another would tap him on the shoulder, and he would start dictating a two-minute talk. Ten seconds before time was up, an assistant would tap his shoulder again, and Mr. Omarr, a former wire service and CBS radio correspondent, would conclude the talk.
Saunders said Mr. Omarr predicted to within two weeks the date of his death.
She said that about six months ago, television interviewer Larry King asked the astrologer what he would want his epitaph to be. Mr. Omarr wrote of himself: “He was handsome and erudite. He enjoyed boxing. His star rose when he fought the good fight for astrology.” Saunders said Mr. Omarr asked that the epitaph appear Jan. 14, 2003.
“He had a way of really helping the world have the right attitude about the [astrological] aspects we’re under,” she said. “He believed what you imagine you made happen. If people would imagine things when they had a certain aspect, they would also make it happen.”
Saunders said movie star Angie Dickinson was one of many celebrities who “didn’t make a move without asking him” about it.
Nancy Reagan made headlines when it became known she consulted Mr. Omarr about scheduling public events for her husband. “President [Ronald] Reagan had his horoscope done long before he ever met Nancy,” Saunders said.
“Sydney always had the boyish charm of the man of the hour,” Mr. Omarr’s assistant and friend Paul Smalls told the Los Angeles Times. “He was always the Leo surrounded by adoring women and fans.”
“About those adoring women,” Mr. Omarr liked to say. “It’s the astrology they’re in love with, not me.”
Mr. Omarr was born Sidney Kimmelman in Philadelphia, and at 15 changed his name after watching a movie called ”Shanghai Gesture,” starring Victor Mature as a character named Omar. He changed the spelling of his first name and adopted Omar as his last name, adding a second ”r,” in accordance with what he said were numerological formulas.
At 17, he enlisted in the Army, was sent to Okinawa and became the only soldier assigned to work full time as an astrologer. His weekly Armed Forces Radio program, ”Sydney Omarr’s Almanac,” predicted the outcomes of professional boxing matches, horse races, and the date–the right one–when the war would end.
After the war, he studied journalism at Mexico City College and became a reporter for United Press. One of his first assignments was to interview Goodwin Knight, California’s Republican governor. In 1984, he told a Sun-Times reporter that they became close friends when Knight said he had been following Mr. Omarr’s horoscopes and advice for years.
Sun-Times readers reacted in outrage in 1970 when the newspaper introduced computer-generated horoscopes. The paper soon gave up the computer and signed up Mr. Omarr. A former editor recalled that any day when his column failed to run or contained wrong dates, the switchboard was clogged with calls from readers, some of whom literally refused to get out of bed until a staff member would read that person’s horoscope.
Mr. Omarr was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1971, but he continued his work and appeared on television talk shows hosted by Mike Douglas, Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin.
He is survived by his sister, Leah Lederhandler.
SYDNEY OMARR: 1926-2003