HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. – On Thursday, January 27, Leland Little Auctions will offer the collection of the late Joel Siegel, longtime film critic for the ABC show Good Morning America. The Siegel collection is featured within the company’s 536-lot Winter Estate Auction.
Everyone thinks they know Joel Siegel, but there was much more to this multitalented achiever than just his Hollywood achievements.
There was Joel Siegel the bespectacled, mustachioed movie critic with razor-sharp wit. Joel Siegel from Good Morning America, who earned five New York Emmy Awards for his work. Joel Siegel, husband, father and author of the 2003 book Lessons for Dylan: On Life, Love, the Movies, and Me, which he addressed to his only child. And, on a very personal level, there was Joel Siegel who courageously defeated cancer twice before dying from the disease in 2007, at the age of 63.
Joel Siegel was a larger-than-life personality who connected with thousands of homes, families, and individuals, not to mention those he interacted with in his personal sphere. There’s no better way to get to know a person than to examine the objects they collected and curated during a lifetime – objects that spoke to their past, present, their heart and their ideals.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Joel Siegel was raised on Hollywood and the ideals that it espoused to little boys. He dreamed of the wild west, cowboys, and the lure of the open range. Siegel’s day dreaming, however, clearly did not detract from his studies as he went on to graduate cum laude from UCLA in 1965 with a degree in American History.
In the early 1960s, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to speak at UCLA, Siegel raised money to support his efforts. Siegel later traveled to Macon, Georgia to help with voter registration. According to Siegel’s wife, Ena Swansea, “during the registration drive, Joel would have to be careful while driving as blacks and whites were not allowed to drive together.” Joel participated in protest marches. He was committed to social justice. “I was a civil rights worker in 1965 – I’m really proud of that. I knew Martin Luther King – even more, he knew me – incredible!” (Joel Siegel, Lessons for Dylan).
Siegel went on to assist with the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy and was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night the democratic hopeful was assassinated. “I heard the shots. I was standing outside one of the entrances to the kitchen, and I heard this popping sound. Three, four pops … I thought the sound we heard was flashbulbs popping …” (Joel Siegel, Lessons for Dylan).
In a world that moved so fast, Siegel was drawn to objects that evoked a semblance of a simpler time. His collecting began in earnest when he became successful at ABC. His wife, Ena Swansea, recalls him expressing such gratitude that he was able to afford the “tchotchkes” that resonated with his heart and, as time passed, developed into his collection. He was drawn to the west and the ideals of the open range, but his life experiences had sharpened and widened his scope. His commitment to equality and the study of history led him to incorporate Native American art and culture in his collecting.
Siegel also embraced the art of his time, acquiring works by Alex Katz, Roy Lichtenstein and others.
“The first thing I saw after I came to was this huge Lichtenstein pop-art poster. If it had been a Raphael Madonna I might have thought I’d died and gone to heaven. But Lichtenstein? I died and went to the Museum of Modern Art?,” Joel Siegel said upon awakening in the recovery room at New York Hospital – Lessons for Dylan
Joel’s collection reflects his inner self as a dreamer, idealist, lover of history and lover of life. He collected fanciful maps of imaginary places and worlds. He collected political objects such as a complete set of 64 Rosan JFK cards, 20th-century pin-back buttons and even board games that spoke to his deep commitment to civil rights work. He found value in material culture such as toys, lunchboxes, Ovaltine shakers and mugs – the treasures of childhood and simpler times. These were mementos of life – the lives they touched and the stories they told, as well as those they inspired.
The collection, which reflects was a beloved facet of Joel Siegel rich and diverse life, will be auctioned on January 27, with absentee and Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers.