Siegel, Joel 1943-

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SIEGEL, Joel 1943-

PERSONAL: Born July 7, 1943, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Robert and Libby (Kantor) Siegel; married Jane Kessler (a film editor), November 21, 1976 (died December, 1982); married Melissa Nina de Mayo, August 27, 1985 (divorced); married Ena Swansea (a painter), June 21, 1996 (divorced, 1998); children: (third marriage) Dylan. Education: University of California, Los Angeles, graduated (cum laude) 1965. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Public Affairs, 250 West 57th St., Suite 1321, New York, NY 10107.

CAREER: Writer, actor, and film and book reviewer. Director of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s voter registration drive, Macon, GA, 1965; Carson & Roberts Advertising, Los Angeles, CA, copywriter and producer, 1967-72; joke writer for Robert F. Kennedy, 1968; KMETFM, Los Angeles, news anchor, 1972; Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), New York, NY, correspondent, 1972-76; American Broadcasting Companies (ABC), New York, NY, correspondent and film critic, 1976—, with Good Morning America staff, 1981—. Appearances in television specials include Whatta Year: 1986, ABC, 1986, Our Kids and the Best of Everything, ABC, 1987, Diamond on the Silver Screen, American Movie Classics (AMC), 1992, Sports on the Silver Screen, Home Box Office (HBO), 1997, Inside Hollywood: The Pictures, the People, the Academy Awards, ABC, 1999, and Joel Siegel's Road to the Academy Awards (annual), ABC; appeared as himself in the film Deathtrap, Warner Bros., 1982. Cofounder, with Gene Wilder, of Gilda's Club. Military service: U.S. Army Reserves, 1967-73.

MEMBER: American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Dramatists Guild, Drama Desk.

AWARDS, HONORS: Public service award, Anti-Defamation League, B'nai B'rith, 1976, for distinguished news reporting and commitment to freedom of the press; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, 1982, for The First; New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association award, for general excellence in individual reporting; recipient of six Emmy Awards and numerous nominations, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.


The First (play), first produced on Broadway, 1981.

Lessons for Dylan (memoir), Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to periodicals, including Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, and Los Angeles Times.

SIDELIGHTS: Joel Siegel is perhaps best known for his humorous commentary on films and the business of filmmaking as the entertainment critic on ABC's Good Morning America. He first worked for CBS television and radio in New York in the 1970s, continuing on as the entertainment critic for Eyewitness News. Siegel has been honored with many awards, including six Emmy Awards, for his work in broadcasting.

In his memoir, Lessons for Dylan, Siegel passes on to his young son many truths and memories that, because of Siegel's illness, he feared he would not be able to tell him face-to-face. Siegel was fifty-four when he learned of his colon cancer; near this time he also learned that his wife, Ena Swansea, was pregnant with their son Dylan, whom they named for poet Dylan Thomas. Siegel was treated with chemotherapy and radiation, but four years later it was discovered that the cancer had spread to his left lung. A tumor was removed, but another was discovered on his right lung. Siegel explained to Dylan when the boy was three about his need to be in the hospital, and the child visited him with picture books about that experience. Siegel underwent his third cancer-related surgery on June 27, 1997. He returned to the set of Good Morning America less than two weeks after his release from the hospital to an overwhelming response from viewers and fans.

In each chapter that begins "Dear Dylan," Siegel writes about being Jewish and about his activism during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and speechwriting days with Robert F. Kennedy. He gives his son advice about college, drugs, and sex—telling him to ask his mother—and includes his grandmother's recipe for brisket. He also comments on some of the notable figures he met during his lifetime, including the Beatles. About life, he tells Dylan to "follow your passion." As to dealing with bullies, he says that "if you fight back and get hit, it hurts a little while; if you don't fight back, it hurts forever." A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that "while Siegel is currently healthy, his memoir stands as a powerful account of a life well lived and as a beautiful testimonial to the love of a parent for a child."

Nick Owchar wrote in the Los Angeles Times Book Review that "there is a great deal crammed into this book, of course: Siegel has untied the sack containing his life and emptied it." He added, "Most touching are the later chapters entitled 'I'd Give Anything to Take You to Your First Ball Game' and 'Movies I Want to Watch with You' that clearly underscore what is at stake in the writing of this book."

Siegel's marriage to Dylan's mother ended soon after his son was born. He writes of his previous marriages and how he lost his second wife, Jane Kessler, to brain cancer. In reviewing Lessons for Dylan in the New York Times Book Review, Janet Maslin wrote that the memoir "leaves a legacy of playfulness…. Butthe underlying medical gravitas remains."

Siegel is cofounder, with actor Gene Wilder, of Gilda's Club, in honor of Wilder's wife, comedienne Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989 at age forty-two.



Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 25, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.

Siegel, Joel, Lessons for Dylan, Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2003.


Library Journal, May 15, 2003, Douglas C. Lord, review of Lessons for Dylan, p. 108.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 2, 2003, Nick Owchar, review of Lessons for Dylan, p. E19.

New York Times Book Review, July 24, 2003, Janet Maslin, review of Lessons for Dylan, p. 10.

People, August 6, 2001, "Lessons for Dylan: GMA's film Critic Helps His Three-Year-Old Son Understand Daddy's Cancer," p. 107.

Publishers Weekly, April 28, 2003, review of Lessons for Dylan, p. 62.*