Astrologer Sydney Omarr dies at 76


Published: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 3, 2003 at 10:49 p.m.
LOS ANGELES - Astrologer-to-the-stars Sydney Omarr, whose horoscope column in newspapers across the country was one of the first things many readers turned to in the morning, has died at 76.
Omarr, blind and paralyzed from the neck down by multiple sclerosis, died Thursday at a hospital in Santa Monica.
His own horoscope for that day was upbeat: "You will beat the odds, much to the astonishment of experts," read the six-line forecast that Omarr had dictated three months earlier.
His column, which is owned by the Tribune Co., appears in more than 200 daily newspapers. He had a following among politicians, sheiks, celebrities and the general public.
"The column itself was general, but he had a system for doing it," said Valerie Barbeaux, his companion and editorial adviser. "We often kept letters; they said (the horoscopes) were right on."
Defending astrology as both a science and an art was a lifelong passion for Omarr, who was known to friends as a true Leo personality - the zodiac sign symbolized by the lion - for his sharp mind, chivalrous manner and love of fine dining and cigars.
Born Sidney Kimmelman in Philadelphia, Omarr changed his name at 15 after watching the movie "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, but added a second "r," in accordance with certain numerological formulas.
Omarr became fascinated with numerology and astrology as a teen. He wrote a book called "Sydney Omarr's Private Course on Numerology" and sold copies for $2.
He also started analyzing the horoscopes of movie stars such as Edward G. Robinson for magazines.
He wrote 13 books - one for each of the 12 signs of the zodiac and one for the entire year. The books were updated annually. He has sold 50 million copies nationwide.
He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1971. He lost his sight a decade ago and his crumbling health required him to rely on attendants around the clock. But Omarr worked until suffering a severe heart attack on Dec. 23.
An article last month in the Los Angeles Times depicted Omarr and Barbeaux at work - he, lying in bed with his head propped up on pillows, she, poised before an old IBM Selectric typewriter prepped with a blank sheet and carbon paper.
"Syd, this is for Friday, Dec. 6 ... moon in Capricorn. Aries," said Barbeaux.
"Expect some changes in connection with business, career," replied Omarr in a monotone. "Written word plays major role; get ideas on paper."
"We need another line, Syd," prodded Barbeaux.
"Flirtation begins innocently but could become hot and heavy," he divined after a brief pause.
The Times said arrangements were being made for his assistants to continue producing the column under Omarr's name.
Survivors include a sister.
After enlisting in the Army at 17, Omarr was sent during World War II to Okinawa, where his weekly Armed Forces Radio program, "Sydney Omarr's Almanac," made him the first and only GI assigned astrology duty.
After the war he took journalism courses at Mexico City College. His first job after college was for United Press as a news reporter.
Omarr later spent a decade as a CBS radio newsman before becoming a full-time columnist and astrological consultant to Hollywood stars.

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