The following eulogy for Joel Siegel was read by Andrew Bergman at a funeral service at Riverside Chapel in New York City on Sunday.
You could deliver 10 different eulogies of Joel and they'd all be true. You could do one about heroic Joel, about hilarious Joel, about terrible-tempered Joe, about Joel the pushover, Joel the Jewish historian and about Joel the proud father of Dylan. For me, over 35 years, he was all those people, often at the same time.
In 1972, my ex-college roommate called from L.A. to say that a friend of his named Joel Siegel had gotten a great job at WCBS-TV and was moving east. Richie told me that Joel didn't know many people in New York and asked if Louise and I would have him over for dinner. When Joel did come over, three or four weeks later he already knew more people in New York than I did. He also knew definitively where to get the best pastrami and corned beef, where the oldest synagogue was and which was the better of the Pickle Kings on the Lower East Side.
Although he famously couldn't swim, Joel dove into New York right at the deep end because, of course, he had been destined to live here all his life. Although he rhapsodized about the Apple Pan and the Pantry in L.A. and about C.C. Brown's great hot fudge, Joel was an instant New Yorker. As if to make up for lost time, he consumed the art, culture and folklore of the city like the most eager of refugees. His enthusiasms were boundless, starting of course, with food; during that first year at WCBS, it seemed like every other story ended with Joel biting into a hot dog or a knish, or slurping down an egg cream. Joel and his weight was an ongoing saga; in all the years I knew him, I doubt if he ever gained more than 20 pounds, but he let you know about every ounce. And as sure as the swallows returning to Capistrano, every January Joel would return refreshed to the city he loved and happily gain them all back.
As the years moved on, he started getting into a higher grade of food and ever higher grades of wine, which he started stacking up in his basement like Scrooge McDuck, although, unlike Scrooge McDuck, he shared his wine with one and all. Joel was an absolutely world-class sharer. "I'm cooking this weekend," he would announce, and when he made dinner up in the country, he made it for everybody and their kids and if you had weekend guests, great, bring them along and as long as the kids didn't go near his vintage toy collection, everything was copacetic. "This is great," he would exclaim over and over, and it was great — the togetherness was great, the conversation was great, the brisket was great, that corn pudding thing he made was great and the jokes were great.