A Shout Out to Joel Siegel, R.I.P.

I want to give a belated shout out to Joel Siegel, the film critic for ABC's "Good Morning America," who died last week on June 29 at age 63. I only met him once, but I remember his kind words and genuine interest. It was February 1993. I was waiting in ABC's studios in New York City, in the Green Room, to be interviewed by ABC anchor Charlie Gibson. With me was my then 17-year-old son Ramiro (he's 32 now).

My best selling book, Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in LA had just come out in hardcover by Curbstone Press. We had embarked on a massive touring and promotion campaign--I ended up going to 30 cities in three months. I also appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Sonya Live on CNN," "National Public Radio," and tons of other great TV and radio broadcasts (we also had amazing interviews and reviews in publications like the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, The Face Magazine, the Washington Post, among others).

Anyway, unexpectedly, Mr. Siegel came to the Green Room, seeking me out. He said he'd read my book and wanted to say how powerful it was and how good that someone like me had written it. I thanked him, introduced him to my son, and shook his hand. It was fairly quick, but I felt very good about this. Mr. Siegel didn't have to talk to me. It showed me that some people in the public eye, so-called celebrities, can also be real and kind. Of course, Mr. Gibson was also gracious and asked some good questions to me and my son in studio. When Ramiro and I walked out of the studios, people who had seen the interview on screens (it was filmed live) recognized us immediately.

It was my first major foray into big time media. I've done many of these since then. "The Oprah Winfrey Show" being one of the highlights. But I will remember the small but important gesture of Mr. Siegel. I'm sorry he's gone. Decent people like that should be around for a long time. I offer my condolences to Mr. Siegel's family and friends. And a thanks for having met, although briefly, such a nice person.


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