The unacknowledged son of one of America's most popular talk show hosts works in the mailroom at Philadelphia magazine.
After leaving Toguchi, he went on to broadcast during the early '90s on the overnight shift for KDWN in Las Vegas, which reached 13 Western states, and finally he took his show national--first with Chancellor Broadcasting Company and now with Premiere Radio Networks. His easy, just-folks broadcasting style and strange subject matter proved a potent commercial combination, winning him 14 million listeners in his late-night radio slot.
Today the 62-year-old Bell is still associated with Coast to Coast, the show that made him so famous. He also co-wrote the book The Coming Global Superstorm with author and self-proclaimed UFO abductee Whitley Strieber, which spawned the global warming disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow.
He had another son, Art Bell IV, with his second wife, whom he divorced before marrying his third wife of 15 years, Ramona, who died suddenly in January of last year after an asthma attack.
He remarried less than four months later after what he told his listeners was an Internet video-conferencing romance with a Filipina woman roughly 40 years his junior. He remains married to Airyn Ruiz Bell, who recently gave birth to a girl, the couple's first child.
Pontius is conversant in all these facts, including what he imagines to be his father's considerable wealth. But money isn't something he says he's ever thought about in relation to Art Bell. "I don't want money," he said when PW first interviewed him. "I really don't. I would like to meet him, and hear him explain his side of things. All I want is to meet my father face to face."
PW was tipped off to this story by a friend of Pontius. That source said the now 41-year-old man was interested in telling his story. A lot happened in the ensuing weeks.
For one thing, Bell retired. He announced on his Sun., July 1 show that he'd continue to work as a fill-in host and occasionally broadcast special programs but would no longer act as weekend host.
It also became clear that Pontius' sister Lisa didn't care to speak to her father.
Lisa Minei says she's been in contact with Bell before. The now 38-year-old mother of two first contacted Bell when she was 10 years old.
"My mother had never tried to hide anything," says Minei, "but she never talked about him much. So I guess I found out his name from her, and found him on my own."
Toguchi says she also spoke to Bell briefly by phone at the time too. "He said his mother and father were still alive," she says. "He asked if [Vincent] still had allergies, that sort of thing."
She remembers the conversation as "polite," but says she didn't talk to him for very long. "We have a saying in Japan," she says. "When someone leaves, do not follow him. It means to move forward."
When Bell left, she burned her photographs of him. "I threw away everything related to him," she says.
Later, when Minei turned 28, she says she sent a letter to Bell, who had by then achieved fame. He responded with a one-page letter. It reads: "Many years ago I spoke with your mom. She told me that you and [Vincent] had been adopted by the man who had married her. It seemed better to let your family remain undisturbed. She told me he was a wonderful man who was father to you and Michael ... "
He also sent a signed copy of his autobiography The Art of Talk. The inscription reads: "To Lisa, Here's the 'rest of the story.'"
She says they emailed each other for a short time after that, but he didn't seem particularly enthused about starting a relationship. She soon stopped emailing him.
"He never wrote and said, 'Hey, why'd you stop emailing me?'" she says. "So I figured he didn't really want to be in touch."
She didn't save copies of the emails.
"I feel like I tried, and if he was interested in starting a relationship he would have," she says in a phone interview from Boston. "I'm more interested now on my brother's behalf."
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