Joel Siegel

Film critic Joel Siegel died today. He was significant in my life because he interviewed me in 1976. Years later, as a photographer for ABC, I ended up working with Joel when he did his ABC 20/20 interviews. I photographed him with such luminaries as Eddie Murphy and Andrew Lloyd Weber.

In the fall of 1975, I had been living in New York for only a few months. My mom called to tell me that she had obtained visas for us to go to China, as “Overseas Chinese“. She hadn’t been back to China since she left in the 40’s. President Ford and Henry Kissinger were going to China in December. So were my mom and I.

In 1976, Alex Haley had just published Roots: The Saga of an American Family and Smithsonian Magazine published my roots story in April. I got a call from Joel. He had read the piece and he wanted to do a “roots” story for WABC.

All I can remember was that I was living in a studio in 4th floor walk-up at 21 W. 76th St. The cameraman came huffing up the stairs into my apartment, looked around and said, “This is a great place, where’s the rest of it?” Joel looked at my photographs and asked me about my family. I made an audio recording of the interview when it aired – this was before VCRs – and Roger Grimsby did the intro. Years later when I was working with Joel, I never reminded him that he had once interviewed me.