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Home Was a Parking Lot : Dropout Hippie Doctor Now Prescribes for TV

Associated Press

America’s fastest up-and-coming media doctor says when he lived in Sacramento a few years ago, “home” was a theater parking lot that had all the necessities--a faucet with cold water--for personal hygiene.

“I actually lived in the Tower Theatre parking lot,” Dr. Dean Edell said, recalling the days in the 1970s when he gave up a San Diego medical practice, grew waist-length hair, drove a microbus and lived a life of hippiedom.

“We used to hook up a hose to a water faucet on the outside of the building so we could take showers at night.

“I had left medicine,” Edell said, “and had a jewelry and antique shop in the Tower Theatre. I was a jewelry maker then, but I didn’t sell much of anything. It was a rough location--not a lot of foot traffic.”

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On 150 Stations

Needless to say, a lot has transpired between the times of parking-lot showers and now.

These days Edell is in more than 150 radio and television markets in North America. From the KGO studios in San Francisco, he offers advice on a syndicated television show entitled “Dr. Edell’s Medical Journal” and on a consortium of radio stations daily.

And now, with an annual income of around $400,000, according to industry insiders, he’s venturing into newspapers with a three-times-a-week column.

The doctor-to-hippie-to-media-star odyssey hardly is forgotten, though.

Edell, 46, divorced for the third time and the father of five sons ranging in age from 2 to 20, quickly offers the details of his former life.

Doctor and a Hippie

At one time, he admits, he was even both--a doctor and a hippie. It was when he had the jewelry shop. One moonlighting job--as an auctioneer at a Sacramento antique store--was not enough, so he returned to his medical roots and volunteered his services in what he termed a local “drunk tank.”

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“They couldn’t get doctors to work there, so I started giving physicals to drunks,” Edell said.

“I met a guy named Michael McFarland there. He used to say, ‘Doc, you explain things so well you ought to be on radio.’

“He had a friend of a friend of a friend with connections, so eventually he dragged me, screaming, to see a woman named Bernice Slater, who then was general manager at KRAK radio. She decided to try me out for a half-hour show on Monday nights called ‘House Calls,’ and the rest, I guess, is history,” Edell said.

Mendocino Favored

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By the time he made the connection with KRAK he had closed the jewelry shop, quit the drunk tank and moved back to Mendocino. “I never liked San Francisco. Mendocino--that’s where all the real hippies lived,” he said.

“I was wandering around living in a bus when I stopped in Sacramento one day to sell an antique I had at Truesdell’s (where he used to be auctioneer).” That led to another meeting with McFarland, the KRAK job and, not long after, a position with KGO in San Francisco.

That’s where he now puts in long days poring over medical journals--"I’m an information junkie"--meeting with producers and fulfilling a busy on-the-air schedule.

On a typical day he commutes to KGO from his Marin County home, plans broadcasts with station executives in the morning, appears on a 1 p.m. radio show, does a live 4 p.m. satellite feed to Los Angeles, and adds two more live spots on television newscasts at 5 and 6 p.m.

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Constantly Writing

In between he’s constantly reading, writing a monthly newsletter, “The People’s Medical Journal,” and, now, scribing his newspaper column.

A graduate of Cornell University’s medical school, Edell was an ophthalmologist before “dropping out” of society. “But to be an ophthalmologist you had to be a GP and have two years of surgery,” he said, so he’s qualified to offer the multitude of medical advice he gives on a variety of subjects.

The key to his smashing success, he concludes, may well be the experience he gained dealing with various types of people in his “hippie” days.

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“This is a communication business,” he said, “and I think maybe being a normal human being for a while enabled me to communicate a little better.”


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