Saturday, June 30, 2007
THE PASSING OF JOEL SIEGEL
It was with absolute shock and sadness that I learned this morning about the death of movie critic Joel Siegel I had been watching Joel broadcast on Good Morning America over the last twenty-five years. When I read the headlines this morning that a "famed movie critic" had died I had thought it to be Roger Ebert who is also suffering from Cancer. I never knew that Joel was sick. Sixty three years and the father of a nine year old son. Dear God! And colon cancer at that! I can only pray that his young son Dylan will remember this tender and sweet man who could roll in the aisles with his amazing humor and amazing use of the language. I am told that he absolutely had people choking with laughter with one of his last movie critic lines: "There are so many penguin movies lately, they will soon outnumber the penguins" An engaging speaker and masterful storyteller, Siegel has extensive knowledge of films (he watches an average of 200 movies a year), Hollywood and theater, offering audiences an insider’s account of what the entertainment business is really all about. At age 57, Joel became a father for the first time and learned that he had cancer. From what I understand that during this emotional time, he was very open about his illness, publicly discussing his fight against cancer and what it meant to him as a new father. In his book, Lessons for Dylan, Siegel shares all the things he wanted his son to know. He recounts the many chapters of his life, from the inspirational (his path from an immigrant neighborhood to national television; his work in the civil rights movement), to the difficult (the death of his first wife; his experiences with cancer) and the lighthearted (rubbing elbows with Hollywood stars; a glossary of Yiddish words, including 29 words for “schmuck”). Joel Siegel was fabulous!! He charmed our community with his warm personality and wonderful sense of humor.Jewish Community Association of Austin Siegel graduated cum laude from UCLA. Before his career in television, he worked as a radio newscaster, book reviewer for the Los Angeles Times, and freelance writer for Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated. He was also an advertising copy writer/producer, during which time he invented ice cream flavors for Baskin-Robbins. He is President and co-founder (with actor Gene Wilder) of “Gilda’s Club,” a New York based-organization in honor of the late comic Gilda Radner that offers emotional and social support for cancer patients and their families. Joel received a Tony nomination (the only drama critic ever to receive one) for writing the book for The First, a Broadway musical, about legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson. Other awards include the Public Service Award from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith for “distinguished news reporting and commitment to freedom of the press” and the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association Award for “general excellence in individual reporting.” I will miss him and his ever wonderful smile and unbelievable wit. It really makes us mark the days of our lives a lot more carefully!