You’ve probably seen him gliding around Dupont Circle. Most people simply call him the Dupont Roller Boy. But, of course, that isn’t his real name. If you’ve hung out in the outdoor cafés on 17th Street after dark in the past 10 years, you’ve almost certainly seen him jumping curbs and weaving in and out of traffic. He’s out there three or four nights a week, often for hours at a time and has become a fixture in Dupont.
He’s usually covered in sweat — although occasionally in blood, the result of inevitable run-ins with unleashed dogs, cyclists and lawless cab drivers. As he flies past, people wave, whistle and otherwise acknowledge the surprisingly bright streaks of green, red and blue light that emanate from his wheels on his evening excursions. On a recent Saturday night, as he turned the corner of S Street onto 17th Street, he even heard a boy say, “Look mom, it’s Blader Man!”
Although most people know about the guy on blades with the lights in his wheels, very few could tell you his name. There is an irony in that as he has been the subject of full-page articles in the Washington Post and in Forbes, and appeared on national TV shows.
“Dupont is an interesting place to rollerblade,” Matthew Siegal, Blader Man himself, says. “It’s not for anyone who’s sane. I like to rollerblade in the streets. I like to jump the curbs. I’ve had my share of injuries.”
But Siegal, who’s openly gay, isn’t just a neighborhood curiosity — he’s also a serial entrepreneur. While attending the University of Maryland in the early 1990s, he co-founded several software companies that eventually merged to form a multi-national, NASDAQ-traded firm that today employs more than 500 people in the D.C. area. His hard work was rewarded when he resigned from the company’s management team three years ago and cashed in to the tune of millions of dollars.
“That company started in my little apartment in Greenbelt, Md., my first semester of college,” Siegal says. “After a couple of years I sold it and started a second company and 11 years later, I sold my second company to my first company and they combined.”
That is when Matt got into his newest business. Matt’s father is Dr. Sanford Siegal, a well-known physician, author and weight-loss expert who created the Dr. Siegal’s Cookie Diet weight-loss system 35 years ago.
“You eat six cookies a day and that controls your hunger. Most people follow a 1,000 to 1,200 calorie diet and at 1,000 to 1,200 calories, everyone loses weight,” Siegal says. “There are no failures at that level.”
For decades, Dr. Siegal has been a household name in South Florida. But in 2007 Matt decided to use his skills to turn his father’s success in South Florida into an international phenomenon. Though initially a little skeptical, Dr. Siegal agreed to team up with his son, and an “odd couple” business partnership was born.
Matt launched a website, cookiediet.com, and opened several retail stores, including one in Beverly Hills. The website now has more than 128,000 active members, and a weight-loss approach that for decades had been offered only by physicians is now marketed directly to consumers. Father and son have gotten their products on the shelves of nearly 10,000 retail outlets, including Walgreens and GNC.
“I loved my software company,” Siegal says. “One of [the reasons I left the software company] was there were some, I’d say, shady characters out there in the business world who were attempting to rip off my father’s idea.”
But with all this success, Matt still finds ways to have fun and stay true to who he is. He still rollerblades in Dupont and enjoys some of the perks of his successful business. He has met lots of interesting people due to the popularity of the cookie diet among celebrities as diverse as TV’s Snooki, comedian Joan Rivers and football star Kris Jenkins. He recently appeared on TV Land’s “How’d You Get So Rich?,” and this fall he’ll be the millionaire guest star in a rare gay-themed episode of Bravo’s hit reality show, “The Millionaire Matchmaker.”
He’s currently hitting the gym daily in preparation for his debut as the on-air pitchman for his brand on QVC in January, and he just launched a new product called Dr. Siegal & Son’s CalciOs cookies, a tasty snack that among other things provides 90 percent of the daily recommended allowance of calcium per serving.
Keeping his bones strong is going to be important as Matt keeps blading and spinning those colorful wheels around Dupont.
Juliette Ebner contributed to this article.