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Joel Siegel

Joel Siegel
Born Joel Steven Siegel
(1943-07-07)July 7, 1943
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died June 29, 2007(2007-06-29) (aged 63)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Cause of death Colon cancer
Occupation Television journalist/Film critic
Notable credit(s) Good Morning America Entertainment Editor (1981–2007)
Spouse(s) Karen Oshman (1969–1970; divorced)
Jane Kessler (1976–1982; her death)
Melissa DeMayo (1985–?; divorced)
Ena Swansea (1996–2007; his death; 1 child)
Children Dylan Siegel

Joel Steven Siegel (July 7, 1943 – June 29, 2007) was an American film critic for the ABC morning news show Good Morning America for over twenty-five years.

The winner of multiple Emmy Awards,[2] Siegel also worked as a radio disc jockey and an advertising copywriter.[3]

Siegel died of complications from colon cancer on June 29, 2007, in New York.[4]


  • Early life 1
  • The 1960s 2
  • The 1970s and early career 3
  • Good Morning America and later career 4
  • Cancer 5
  • Awards 6
  • Criticism 7
  • Works 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Born to a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He also worked as a joke writer for Senator Robert F. Kennedy and was at the Ambassador Hotel the night the senator was assassinated. According to some reports, he also led student opposition to the construction of a football stadium on campus.[7]

The 1960s

Siegel worked at a range of jobs throughout the 1960s, often concentrating on the civil rights movement. In the late '60s, before moving to New York, he worked as an advertising agency copy-writer and producer. While working in advertising for Carson/Roberts Advertising, he invented and named ice cream flavors for Baskin-Robbins.[3] These flavors were: German Chocolate Cake; Peaches & Cream; Pralines & Cream; Blueberry Cheesecake; Strawberry Cheesecake; Green Cheesecake; Red, White and Blueberry; and Chilly Burgers.[8]

He began working in radio as a disc jockey and newscaster, while continuing to freelance in advertising. Through his freelance work, he was offered the book review position with the Los Angeles Times.

The 1970s and early career

Siegel's essays in the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine were spotted by a CBS executive, and Siegel was hired as a feature correspondent for WCBS-TV in New York. Joel created signature work teamed with a producer who later became an executive at WABC-TV's Eyewitness News. When Siegel's producer moved, he offered Siegel a featured on-air position, and Joel accepted. Siegel proposed to Eyewitness News management that he become a film and theatre critic. He suggested that he would innovate the form by using brief clips from the movie or show being reviewed as drop-ins into his reviews, working them into his scripts as gags to create a new, witty form of review. Siegel also, during his years at WCBS-TV, created features for WCBS-AM Newsradio 88 called Joel Siegel's New York.

Good Morning America and later career

In 1981 he joined Good Morning America (GMA) to star as a film critic.[2] While Siegel worked at his reviewing, he wrote the book for The First, a Broadway musical based on the story of Jackie Robinson,[9][10] for which he received a Tony Award nomination in 1982. This marks him as the only drama critic to receive this nomination.[3]


Siegel's second wife, Jane Kessler, died from a brain tumor in 1982. In 1991, he joined with the actor Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer.

On June 21, 1996, Siegel married his fourth wife, artist Ena Swansea. In 1997, at fifty-three years, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. One week after being diagnosed, Siegel found out he would be a father for the first time. He wrote the book Lessons for Dylan which shares the ups and downs of his life with his young son, as he might not live long enough to relate those stories in person.[11]

Siegel underwent surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. He welcomed his newborn son, Dylan Thomas Jefferson Swansea Siegel, home on the same day he completed his chemotherapy treatments. Two years later, a C.A.T. scan revealed a lesion on Siegel's left lung. After a pulmonary lobectomy and additional chemotherapy, Siegel continued to work on G.M.A.

He was outspoken on the subject of colon cancer and, in 2005, spoke at a meeting of C-Change, a group of cancer experts from government, business, and nonprofit sectors, chaired by former President Barbara Bush.[12]

He testified before the Senate during Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, March 2005. "I came here from New York City this morning hoping that I would encourage someone to have a colonoscopy so that they would not have to go through what I went through", he told a Senate panel.[13]

In June 2005, Siegel published a letter in the peer-reviewed cancer medicine journal, The Oncologist entitled, "One at a Time". It shares his cancer diagnosis and experiences to that date.[14]

On May 10, 2007, less than two months before his death, he spoke before the C.E.O. Roundtable on Cancer,[15] an association of corporate executives that was formed when former President George H. W. Bush asked corporate America to do something "bold and venturesome" about cancer. Bush and his wife Barbara were in the audience when Joel spoke on May tenth at the Essex House in New York City. He began and ended his presentation by saying, "I want to thank you for what you are doing for cancer patients."

Joel Siegel died from metastatic colon cancer on June 29, 2007 shortly before what would have been his sixty-fourth birthday. His family has said the last movie he saw was Ratatouille with his son.


Siegel received five New York Emmy Awards and a public service award from the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith and the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association Award for general excellence in individual reporting.[2]


In 1986, Spy magazine derided Siegel as "the poor man's Gene Shalit", who relied "heavily on alliteration." [16]


  • Siegel, Joel. Lessons for Dylan: On Life, Love, the Movies, and Me. PublicAffairs, 2003. ISBN 978-1-58648-127-8


  1. ^ Chute, David (July 1, 2007). "Film critic Joel Siegel '65 memorialized in scholarship". UCLA magazine (Los Angeles, California). Retrieved 2014-12-26. Siegel had in fact edited satirical campus humor magazines at both Hamilton High ("The Iconoclast") and UCLA ("Satyr"). 
  2. ^ a b c d "Movie critic Joel Siegel dies" Accessed 2007-06-29.
  3. ^ a b c "Joel Siegel: Entertainment Editor on Good Morning America". 
  4. ^ Joel Siegel dies of cancer at age 63 - Accessed 2007-06-29.
  5. ^ "Q&A With Entertainment Editor Joel Siegel", ABC News, June 30, 2003
  6. ^ Joel Siegel, "Lessons for Dylan: From Father to Son", PublicAffairs Books, 2003
  7. ^ . November 18, 2009Los Angeles TimesCrowe, Jerry. "Who would have guessed? Rick Neuheisel has UCLA playing as well as USC."
  8. ^ "NNDB: Joel Siegel". Retrieved 2007-07-02. 
  9. ^ "1982 Tony Award Winners". 
  10. ^ "Joel Siegel" on WABC-TV New York website. Accessed 30 June 2007.
  11. ^ "Lessons for Dylan" (excerpt from Siegel's 2003 book)
  12. ^ e-collaborating (and communicating) to battle cancer issue #3 summer 2005
  13. ^ ABC News: Siegel Passionate About Cancer Awareness - Accessed 2 July 2007
  14. ^ Siegel, Joel. "One at a Time" The Oncologist 10 (7): 558.
  15. ^ CEO Roundtable on Cancer
  16. ^

External links

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