R.I.P. Star Gazer (Jack Horkheimer 1938-2010 )

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Revvy

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
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I loved his bits on late night tv.

'Star Gazer' Popularized the Night Sky

For millions who watched his weekly TV show, Jack Horkheimer was the Star Gazer, a slightly cracked character who delineated the night sky with humor and cheesy graphics.

Mr. Horkheimer, who died Friday at 72, was as celestial guide at Miami's Space Transit Planetarium since the 1960s, and in 1976 started his weekly five-minute PBS show, billed as the only national program devoted to naked-eye astronomy.



"Jack was the consummate pitchman for the stars," said Dave Weinrich, president-elect of the International Planetarium Society.

The show's seeming low-tech approach and chirpy intro music by Isao Tomita set the stage for a performer so enthusiastic about the heavens that Mr. Horkheimer originally billed himself as "The Star Hustler." An announcer intoned "Some people hustle pool, some people hustle cars, but have you ever heard about the man who hustles stars?" (The title was changed to "Star Gazer" in 1997 because web searches for "hustler" led to pornography.)

If there was something oily about Mr. Horkheimer's presentation, it was by design. He leered and winked at the camera like a sideshow barker for the universe.

"I hated that character and wanted to dump him for two years," Mr. Horkheimer told Astronomy magazine in 2006. "Now, I like him."

As the Star Gazer, he wore a Members Only jacket, walked on computer-generated moonbeams and sat on Saturn's rings. He dipped into mythology, popular culture, and science to sell the stars, then told viewers where to look for meteor showers and when the moon would be brightest. A 1985 episode with a title worthy of a tabloid was "The Centaur's Secret Revealed." The secret was that the center of the Milky Way is in the direction of Sagittarius.

Mr. Horkheimer was a frequent contributor to news outlets, but he had no scientific credentials, and admitted he had never taken an astronomy class. His take on the sky owed less to the hard science of that other 1970s astronomical showman, Carl Sagan, than to his own background as a college drama major.

Raised in Wisconsin, Mr. Horkheimer was stricken as a child with a lung ailment that kept him gasping for breath his entire life. Given a grim prognosis after graduating from Purdue University, he moved to Miami for the moist air in the early 1960s. After knocking around as a nightclub organ player among other things, he had what he called a "transfiguring moment" that convinced him to become a science educator.

"In an instant, the stars were no longer pinpoints of light but were actually globes of different sizes, colors, and intensities scattered throughout an infinity of space, coupled with an infinity of time, coupled with my place in the scheme of everything," he told Astronomy magazine.He began volunteering at the Miami Science Museum's new planetarium. Soon, he was made director and began producing multimedia shows that became so popular that the facility ran at a profit, a rarity.

He had a showman's touch from the start, and once appeared at a news conference as Lewis Carroll's Mad Hatter, dispensing champagne from a silver teapot. He led mass star-gazing events, and in 1986 organized a party aboard an Air France Concorde to observe Halley's Comet.

"I was taking what most people thought was a scientific institution, a planetarium, and turning it into a popular place where people brought dates," he told the Associated Press in 1987.

Despite health setbacks and the lung condition that eventually killed him, Mr. Horkheimer kept working nearly to the end, recording his last episode, "Celebrate Labor Day the Cosmic Way" early in August. The show's tagline was always the same: "Keep looking up!"
If you don't know who he is, you don't know what you missed.


The older stuff was better I think....

 
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Mike M

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Oh wow, I didn't know.

Keep looking up :mug:
 

Zamial

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wow, that sux. I to remember him well from TV. He always told you where and when to look for the interesting happenings in the stars... :mug:
 

mr_goodwrench

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Thanks for the heads up Revvy. I always enjoyed his shows. I will always think about him when using the Google Sky Map app...
 
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