For more than 20 years as a WBAP/820 AM air personality, Dick Siegel showed that he had plenty of personality -- and spent a lot of time in the air.
Mr. Siegel, the helicopter pilot and traffic reporter who was half of the "Hal and Dick" team with Hal Jay from 1981 to 2003, died Thursday morning of a heart attack. He was 73.
Jay and Mr. Siegel met in 1980, when Jay was working for country station KPLX/99.5 FM. Mr. Siegel, who earned his pilot's license at age 16, was doing traffic for KLIF/1190 AM, which was owned by the same company.
When Jay moved to WBAP in 1981, he took along Mr. Siegel. Even though they didn't know each other well, Jay thought Mr. Siegel was the best traffic reporter he had ever heard.
Once they teamed up, they took their radio relationship well beyond the anchor/traffic reporter level with their camaraderie, banter and bits with "Sam from Sales." "We had a ball," Jay said. "Of course, we drove each other crazy. We were kind of opposites. Our lifestyles were opposite. He was always going and getting with it, and I was more of a homebody."
Jay, who did both morning and afternoon shifts with Mr. Siegel, recalled one time when Mr. Siegel came to the rescue of Jay's wife when she had locked herself out of the house. This was while WBAP still shared facilities with KXAS/Channel 5 on Broadcast Hill just east of downtown Fort Worth.
"Dick landed the helicopter outside the building and had somebody rush my keys out to him," Jay said. "He flew over to our house, got clearance from Carswell, and dropped the keys in our swimming pool."
Mr. Siegel's other air adventures included flying Elvis Presley from a Fort Worth concert to his hotel so that the King could escape a mob of fans; shooting the flyovers of Southfork Ranch for Dallas; and rescuing a mother and her two daughters from a car that was about to go over a bridge during a flood. The rescue earned him a Pilot of the Year Award in 1989 from Helicopter Association International.
Jay couldn't explain why they worked together so well, except for chemistry: "We just always had a good time. We never rehearsed anything. He never knew what he was going to say, and he never knew what I was going to say, but none of it was scripted out."
Steve Eberhart, a longtime North Texas radio personality and historian, says he rode in Mr. Siegel's chopper one day and learned how Mr. Siegel could be so quick with a one-liner. "He had a thin piece of paper tacked up in front of his chopper's control panel," Eberhart said in an email. "He'd go down the list of jokes every day, then replace it with a whole new list the next day."
At KLIF, Mr. Siegel did a Saturday-night oldies show as well. His love of oldies and of radio helped lead to his last gig, at KLDE in the remote West Texas town of Eldorado.
In a 2012 Star-Telegram profile, Mr. Siegel said he had become bored with retirement when he learned that Danny Boyer, an Eldorado native, bought the rights to Eldorado's first radio station in 2007. Mr. Siegel knew Boyer, whose business, Irving-based Central Communications & Electronics, did business for WBAP. Although Boyer was surprised to hear of Mr. Siegel's interest in working at the station, he told him that he'd have a job as soon as the studio was finished. Mr. Siegel debuted on KLDE on June 30, 2008.
"Before we got started, I asked Danny what he wanted me to play," Mr. Siegel who played a broad range of oldies, told Star-Telegram contributor Mike Lee. "He said, 'Whatever you want.' I told him that was unheard of," Siegel said. "They let me play what I want. It's like a dream job. I love what I'm doing."
UPDATE: Funeral for Mr. Siegel will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, at Granbury Church of God, 1106 Weatherford Highway (FM 51), Granbury. Burial will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at McAdams Cemetery, Possum Kingdom Lake, Graford. Wiley Funeral Home in Granbury is directing services.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.