Hear what Arch Deal has to say about Big Cat Rescue. Play clip above. Download HERE
In 1968, Arch found what would be his new first love, skydiving.
“As a newsman who was also a licensed pilot, I found skydiving was the fastest growing sport in the nation and wondered why people were jumping out of ‘perfectly good’ airplanes,” Arch says.“I saw it as an exciting news story. In developing the report, I did several dives and found it to be an extremely addictive sport and one I wanted to continue on a personal basis.” Deal eventually formed a group of skydivers and christened them “The Falling Arches.”
On his 40th birthday, October 5, 1971, Deal spent part of the day at his new favorite sport by leaping out of a jump plane 40 times in celebration.
A year and a half later he appeared on the syndicated version of “To Tell The Truth” hosted by Garry Moore. His task was to try to stump the celebrity panel about his unique 40-skydive birthday bash. Unfortunately, Arch totally failed this challenge when Joe Garagiola recognized one of the imposters and the other panelists had no problem picking Arch out of the lineup since he made no attempt to downplay his golden-toned broadcast voice.
Arch had never tried to keep his love of skydiving away from the newsroom. Colleague Larry Elliston related an episode which occurred one evening after most of the staff had gone home. Arch was in his full parachute gear and clothing, laying on his back atop a utility desk in the middle of the newsroom. While he was explaining a particular skydiving maneuver, in walked a Cub Scout troop on a tour of the station. Arch continued right on with his demonstration and kindly accommodated the tour by including the scouts in on the demonstration and asking the youngsters for questions.
Arch continued to anchor the 6 and 11pm news block at WFLA and ratings generally tilted back and forth between Channel 8 and Channel 13, until one fateful day in June, 1975, when was he was flying over Cypress Gardens to participate in a demonstration parachute jump as part of a station promotion. After leaving the dive plane at an altitude of 3,000 feet, Deal was faced with a sudden life-or-death situation when his main chute failed to fully deploy.
“The first parachute was locked in the deployment bag,” Arch remembers. “It was wrapped around the pilot chute, the device that lifts the parachute off your back and into the air. It just wouldn’t budge. At 2,000 feet above ground, I tried to open the reserve chute but it only wrapped around the lines of the main chute that were flailing above my head. It just was not of any use at all.”
Deal impacted the ground at about 120 miles per hour. Perhaps the spongy, soft brush lessened the crash and he miraculously survived. However, his injuries were almost fatal, including: a broken neck, one millimeter from a classic hangman’s break; six broken ribs; two lumbar vertebrae crushed against each other; a separated pelvis; and hundreds of less serious contusions, lacerations and bruises. He also experienced a major bruise to his ego.
“Not one person from WFLA came to see me in the hospital, and just about every one of my bones were broken somewhere,” Arch says. “But Hugh Smith, my biggest competitor, not only came to visit but filmed a long interview and ran it on his Pulse News program.” That really impressed me…the sign of a first class news organization and a first class news director.”
WTVT also reported Arch’s medical condition on each newscast until he was upgraded to good condition while his own station reported nothing at all. Arch would not speculate on the reason why WFLA remained silent after their initial report of the accident. There were some serious disagreements about whether the accident would be covered by his company insurance but later the courts ruled he was on a bona fide station promotion and therefore his accrued medical expenses were fully covered.
It was downhill between WFLA and Arch after that. Executives at Channel 8 were troubled by Arch’s obsession with the sport of skydiving. After the accident they considered Deal’s hobby as way too dangerous for someone who was their main anchor. Deal got back to work on the air within two months of his accident, but not soon enough for those in power at the station. There was tension with station management, largely due to the insurance coverage dispute. Deal states that everyone in the newsroom received him warmly on his return.
In 1976 Deal moved over to WLCY (now WTSP), Channel 10, at the time an ABC affiliate. Deal remained there as news director and sole on-air anchor on both evening newscasts for two years.
Since then, Deal’s body healed to the point he could skydive professionally, become media marketing director for the Miller Brewing Company, and broadcast airborne traffic reports with Nancy Alexander for WRBQ’s highly-rated Q-Zoo. He also appeared in radio and television commercials for automobile dealers and real estate agencies. Both the radio station and Miller Brewing Company agreed to allow him to juggle his time to do other work as long as it didn’t interfere with his contractual responsibilities.
Starting in 1983, Deal was appointed by Miller to be one of the Miller Lite All Stars, a group of athletes and personalities who toured the country promoting Miller products. Only 35 All Stars were selected along with Deal….among them was Bob Eucker, John Madden, Corky Carroll, ‘Boom Boom’ Geoffrion, and author Mickey Spillane. He supplied voice-overs for the events, and skydived into almost every major stadium in America, including the L.A. Coliseum, San Diego’s Jack Murphy (now Qualcomm), and the Meadowlands in New York. On overseas tours, he jumped into Aruba (very windy place)..and Red Square in Russia, “with permission of course…otherwise I would look like swiss cheese,” adds Deal.
Meanwhile, Deal started a company, The Voice of Business, to produce and install audio messages for business customers’ telephones “on hold” and has landed some very big-name clients. He also began teaching mass communications classes and hosting a bi-weekly radio program at Hillsborough Community College. In 1991, Deal became a father again, this time to a girl that he continues to adore and raise in Tampa.
Deal retired from broadcasting in the early 90’s but continued to skydive every weekend until August 10, 2002 when once again his reserve parachute failed to slow a fall during a session at the Zephyrhills, Florida Skydive Center. In contrast to his 1975 injuries, Deal was lucky this this time: he only broke both of his legs.
The 70-year-old living news and skydive action figure returned to teaching after a month in rehabilitation. Deal is using a walker to help him adjust to the use of steel rods placed in his legs.
Also in the works is an autobiography of his years in broadcasting with the temporary title, “The Ups and Downs of A Television Anchor/Skydiver.”
Arch Deal summarized his more than three decades of news anchoring and traffic reporting this way: “I wouldn’t have traded my career in broadcasting for anything in the world and it was especially nice because I was in Tampa. I think the viewers on the west coast of Florida are the most wonderful and caring people. Tampa has always been a great big, little bitty town and I hope it stays that way.
People welcomed me into their living rooms and their automobiles for so many years to see and hear me do what I loved doing the most. I always considered myself to have a tremendous responsibility to the people I served and for that opportunity I will always be grateful.”
Arch has written an expanded version of his encounter with John F. Kennedy during the President’s visit to Tampa in November of 1963. To read his account, CLICK HERE
The above is from: http://www.big13.net/Arch%20Deal/arch_deal_8.htm
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