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Fall didn't faze intrepid skydiver

TAMPA - Arch Deal says he is proud to have been a "fall guy." "Usually, it's considered a bad thing because it means that you take the blame for what goes wrong," said Deal, who spent 10 years as a stunt skydiver for the Miller Brewing Company. "It sounds like a slam but being able to dive into football stadiums, baseball fields, race tracks, festivals, Mardi Gras and exotic locales all over the world for Miller was one of the best things that happened to me. "And they treated me royally," he added.
Deal, who turns 80 this fall, has written an autobiography, "Corporate Fall Guy: The Ups and Downs of a TV Anchor/Skydiver." It recounts his career as a radio and television newsman and anchor; his passion for skydiving; and what he calls his "Big Bounce" — the day in June 1975 when a parachute failed to open and he plunged 3,000 feet to the ground. "I lived to jump again and again and again," said Deal, who has topped 6,000 jumps and is still skydiving. He has also taken up ballroom dancing. "People have asked me over the years, 'When are you going to write your story?' And I've put it off for years and years because of my writing skills," he said. "I am not a great writer, but this story is something I needed to do," he said. When Deal fell from the sky, he was the top news anchor at WFLA, Channel 8. He had planned to skydive into the Cypress Gardens Summer Festival and then sign autographs. After the parachute malfunctioned, he hit the ground at 120 mph and suffered a broken pelvis, broken neck and cracked ribs. His book recalls every detail from that day. "People ask me about what I thinking while I was falling," he said. "First, there were fast prayers, and then I thought I was going to die and then 'How much is it going to hurt?' " He joked that "falling 3,000 feet doesn't hurt. It's that sudden stop at the end." He landed in an abandoned grapefruit grove and was still conscious when a rescue team found him. "It took them 30 minutes because they weren't in rush to find a dead body," he said. "Everyone assumed I'd be dead." In the book, Deal recalls intense pain upon impact followed by an amazing peacefulness and inner calm accompanied by a brilliant light that lasted a brief time until the pain came back. Deal's book also recounts his first radio broadcasting jobs in his Hickory, N.C., hometown as well as his brief stint in Charlotte, N.C. He came to Tampa in the late 1950s. He worked at WTVT, Channel 13, and for 18 years he was anchor at WFLA, Channel 8. During his long stint at Channel 8, Deal interviewed President John F. Kennedy while visiting Tampa in 1963, just four days before he was assassinated in Dallas. Deal finished his Tampa TV anchor career at WTSP, Channel 10, in the 1970s. He then became a radio traffic reporter in the 1980s and was part of the Q Morning Zoo on WRBQ (104.7 FM). He started skydiving in 1968, and the passion developed into a career with Miller Brewing. The book also recounts some of his memorable jumps for the brewing company. In 1983, Deal was named to Miller's "All Stars," comprised of 35 celebrities who helped promote the brand by appearing in commercials or promoted the beer in other ways. The group included Rodney Dangerfield, Mickey Spillane, Bob Uecker, John Madden, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Dick Butkus and Bubba Smith. His book is dedicated to his five children. The final chapter recalls the loss of his daughter, Karen Deal, a musician and wife of Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin. She died last year at age 57. He writes that to cope with the loss, he cherishes the memory of Karen and all his children. "I will continue to skydive," he writes. "Perhaps, it now will be a bit of escape for me." For information and to purchase Deal's book go to http://corporatefallguy.com.

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