A bright star of astronomic enthusiasm has faded into the cosmos; Jack Horkheimer, best known as PBS’s “Star Gazer,” has passed away at the age of 72. I first encountered him in high school, when my buddy Christian introduced me to his zany 5 minute astronomy show that played on public television since the ’70s. It was called “Star Hustler” back then, but they changed the name in the ’90s, because searching for it on the internet brought up porn sites.
The Onion had a great spoof article about Mr. Horkheimer, who made backyard astronomy easy and approachable for generations of stargazers. He was certainly a one of a kind TV personality, a human dynamo of interest in outer space. Christian and I made a spoof show on his reel to reel tape deck, using his TV theme- Isao Tomita’s electronic version of “Arabesque No.1” where he talked deadpan about a meteor hurtling toward Earth. Instead of panicking, Christian imitated him more excited about seeing the meteor coming right at us, rather than the multitudes fleeing in terror. I wonder if he still has that someplace.
Videos of his show abound on Youtube. Here’s one he recorded ahead of time. Horkheimer was a living relic of the ’70s, before irony abounded, and it pains me that both this and Ebert’s “At the Movies” are now off the air. TV has always been a great wasteland, but it will be a little more desolate now that “Horky” has passed on.
© 2010 Tommy Salami