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