Tribute to Legendary Movie Critic Joel Siegel

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In 1972 I came to New York as a 26-year-old novice junior executive in what was then the hottest youth media business: the music industry.

I worked at Atlantic Records, which had the Stones, Aretha Franklin and hundreds of other greats. Part of my job was to deal with the media types here in New York who were similarly situated as me, which is to say music types who were young, skinny, long-haired and inclined to rock and roll misbehavior.

One of the first guys I met was a fellow UCLA graduate who came East, a poofy-haired Joel Siegel who just started as a feature reporter on WCBS TV. His job was to tell anchor people about things young people liked. For instance, Alice Cooper, the rock star who did silly things on stage, or David Bowie, Mr. Ziggy Stardust himself.

Joel and I began hanging out on weekends and we went around to the places he had learned about doing stories on New York. Mostly those places served food. Joel knew where to go and I had Atlantic's expense account.

From low to high, we spent the record company's money well. From Sam Katz, the pickle man in the Lower East Side, to Peter Luger's over in Williamsburg, we used Joel's famous TV face to get in and Atlantic's expense account to get out. Joel wasn't much of a drinker, but he liked to eat, and he and I ate very well for about a year.

After a year the record company and I decided we weren't made for each other. I went back to L.A. and started the 30-some-odd-year trip that brought me to this chair. In a year or so Joel joined ABC and became the much-beloved movie critic and funny guy who was a mainstay of the "Good Morning America" family.

We kept in intermittent touch, and a year or so ago I ran into him as he was leaving the building here after doing an interview with O'Reilly, I think, about his book, "Lessons for Dylan." We stood outside for a few minutes talking and laughing about the year we ran around lower Manhattan looking for yet another deli, while the World Trade Center was being built, I might add. We made a promise to call each other to get together for dinner.

This is how life gets away from you sometimes. We never did get together. And suddenly last week one of the producers here at FOX told me the news during a break: Joel Siegel died.

He was just 63. He had been battling cancer for years. So my fault is that I didn't attach more urgency to a get-together.

Joel was a star, an American favorite. He was also the same guy you saw on the screen: funny, personable, optimistic and hopeful.

We will all miss my friend Joel Siegel.

That's My Word.

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