Art Siegert was a successful, 37-year-old man from Atlanta, Georgia.
He had a beautiful wife and two children, and a great job working as an ad executive that kept his family fed and happy.
What he didn’t have, though, was a relationship with his father — because he had no idea who he was.
Siegert sent in a tape to the 2011 Howie Mandel show “Mobbed,” explaining that he wanted to take part in the show to introduce himself to his long-lost father. The show, which used flash mobs to give special announcements to loved ones, seemed like the perfect way to show his father — whoever he was — that he wanted to get to know him and have him be a part of his life.
Although Siegert clearly grew up to have a happy adult life, he always felt something was missing as a child. He had no father figure, and no idea either who his father was or where he lived — and when his mother died in 2008, she took any answers he might have gotten with her to the grave.
“Never met him, never seen a picture of him,” Siegert said. “When I was a little kid I often would go cry to my mom wondering why I didn’t have a dad.”
He noted that now his mother wouldn’t be around for such a moment, and that weighed on him too.
“This is a big deal to me, and I’m scared,” he admitted.
Now, he wanted a chance to have that father-son bond that he had missed out on for most of his life.
Mandel and the show were immediately moved by Siegert’s story, and went to work trying to hunt down the missing father. Once they found him, though, living in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Mandel had an idea for how they could really spice the show up.
They flew out to meet James, Siegert’s father, crossing the country with their proposal.
Instead of letting Siegert surprise his father — which would have required far more planning to get them both in the same place at the same time, given the fact that they would have to reveal the surprise to his father just to get him to the flash mob to begin with — Mandel thought the show should flip the flash mob on its head.
Instead, they told James, he would be the one to surprise Siegert.
James was quick to agree to the proposal.
“I’ve never met the boy,” he admitted. “I didn’t know he existed until about 20 years ago.”
After such a long period of time, he figured his son didn’t want anything to do with him. But when Mandel asked if he would come to LA, he said yes.
So they flew him out to LA, where preparations began.
First, the show sought out the perfect location for the flash mob. They picked a bowling alley as their starting point, where Mandel would lure Siegert to get him into position to flip the script, then he would be moved outside to a flash mob 1,000-strong to finally meet his father.
Surprising him, of course, was the tricky part.
Siegert was set up to ‘fail’ in his audition for the show, with Mandel and his crew pitting him against a group of professionally-trained dancers to run through some choreography as a part of their fake audition.
A terrible dancer, Siegert was quickly discouraged.
He kept up his spirits, though, through the process; impressive, and truly a sign of his dedication to meet his father.
“I felt completely foolish and completely silly,” he said.
Meanwhile, just blocks away, Mandel and James were working to set up the real flash mob.
It was an emotional scene for James. He felt that the show was doing so much for him, when he was able to give them nothing in return for completely changing his life.
Mandel assured him, though, Moments like these, he insisted, and getting to help reunite a family that had been separated for 37 years? That kind of thing was priceless.
It took some frantic preparations, but the scene was finally set.
Siegert was brought into the ’empty’ bowling alley, where he was told Mandel would either give him good news about the show or bad news. He looked apprehensive as Mandel asked him how he thought the auditions had gone – and although he insisted he still thought he should be the one to get the part on the show, his face betrayed his confidence.
Mandel let him down frankly. They had given the audition spot, he claimed, to ‘Rachel’ — another one of the dancers that Siegert had ‘auditioned’ against.
Although they told Siegert his dancing had lost him the spot, though, Mandel left him with some cryptic parting words:
“I’ve always found,” he told Siegert, “that if you want something badly enough, it comes to you…”
He quickly left the room, and the lights went out. Then came the music – then the dancers, including Rachel (Siegert’s false audition nemisis) herself, to lead him out into the center of the square to see the huge flash mob that would reveal his father.
Then, the moment they’d all been waiting for; in front of the show and the 1,000-person mob, James and Siegert were united at long last.
His father had been so hesitant to reach out after all those years, afraid once he found out that he had a son that Siegert would want nothing to do with him.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” Siegert told his dad.
When they embraced following the surprise flash mob, though, Siegert told his father the truth:
“The courage to come out here and do this?” he told his dad. “You’re my hero, for real.”
It was an inspirational moment for his father as well.
“What I hope comes out of this is that somebody else will take that step and to find that parent or to find that child and get in touch with them,” he said.