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Space Television News

Jack Horkheimer, 'The Star Hustler,' Dies At 72 84

krswan writes "I'll bet many readers had their interest in astronomy fanned by Jack Horkheimer through his long running 'Star Hustler' (later changed to 'Star Gazer') program on PBS. His joy and enthusiasm for basic naked-eye astronomy was contagious, and more than once got me in big trouble as a kid for sneaking outside when his show ended at 12:05am, trying to find whatever he was presenting that week. Horkheimer passed away on Friday. There's a nice story at Sky and Telescope, including the epitaph he already wrote for himself: 'Keep Looking Up was my life's admonition // I can do little else in my present position.'"
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Jack Horkheimer, 'The Star Hustler,' Dies At 72

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is very sad, since he seemed a really nice guy, who reminded me of my Latin teacher.

  • Stuff of stars (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @04:15PM (#33327274) Homepage Journal

    Cheesy effects, low production quality. Man, I really loved Star Hustler simply because it was so straightforward and he was so genuine. Thank you, Jack!

    • by Moryath ( 553296 )

      I used to catch his show all the time - PBS ran it right after Red Dwarf (and later, Chef) before they signed off for the night on Saturdays.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        It's a shame I can't remember seeing it in the UK - it looks like a good show. Short but informative.

        Luckily "the sky at night" is still going strong with Sir Patrick Moore at 87 years old, and Carl Sagan used to be on TV also, but it would be nice to have had more astronomy.

      • Re:Stuff of stars (Score:4, Interesting)

        by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @04:56PM (#33327560)

        I used to catch his show all the time - PBS ran it right after Red Dwarf (and later, Chef) before they signed off for the night on Saturdays.

        I think it was Dr. Who that had me first catching his show as the tail end of the Saturday broadcast. I've never really been that in to astronomy (not that I'm not in awe when I got a good look at the sky out at White Sands). However, The Star Hustler was infectious. I usually ended up watching his show and taking a look at the sky at his suggestions. A quirky show mixed with enthusiasm that invoked a sense of wonder that was surprisingly engaging; that was The Star Hustler.

  • by Bill_the_Engineer ( 772575 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @04:15PM (#33327278)
    We will miss you.
  • by nacturation ( 646836 ) * <> on Saturday August 21, 2010 @04:16PM (#33327280) Journal

    I once had a program called "Penthouse Stars" but later had to change it to "Gazing at Stars from your top-floor apartment".

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by JustOK ( 667959 )

      Bet you had some wonderful spreads. Plus, the forum would have been interesting: Dear Penthouse Stars Forum; Today I met a beautiful woman with 3.14 vaginas.

      • by nacturation ( 646836 ) * <> on Saturday August 21, 2010 @05:06PM (#33327616) Journal

        Yeah, there was a sweet full-color poster of Cassiopeia, and there was a really hot shot of the Gemini twins... quite the thing to behold. We also catered to the women too: the stars below Orion's belt were quite popular.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          We also catered to the women too: the stars below Orion's belt were quite popular.

          I admit the dude's well-hung, but the glowing rash [] is a turn-off.

        • Yeah, there was a sweet full-color poster of Cassiopeia, and there was a really hot shot of the Gemini twins... quite the thing to behold. We also catered to the women too: the stars below Orion's belt were quite popular.

          I think you were also catering to women with the Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux []. :)

  • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @04:21PM (#33327314)
    I've seen a lot of amazing things in my life: the Grand Canyon, the Toledo Cathedral, fish swimming amongst coral reefs. Yet I still can't think of any quite as spectacular as the ones I've seen flat on my back and gazing out into space.
    • by thms ( 1339227 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @04:42PM (#33327466)
      When I go outside, at any time of the night, I see very few stars. I remember seeing the Milky Way the first time and was quite awestruck, the name made perfect sense then.

      Light pollution is turning us into the Krikkit!
      • by ooshna ( 1654125 )
        Same here if it wasn't for the big blackout of 2003 I never would believe the night sky could be so beautiful.
      • I still lose my breath every time I look up and see the Milky Way. It's such a majestic sight, and seeing it never gets old.

      • If you really want to see the stars get yourself to some place over 5,000 ft in elevation away from light pollution. It can be breathtaking!

        • by Kremmy ( 793693 )

          If you really want to see the stars get yourself to some place over 5,000 ft in elevation away from light pollution. It can be breathtaking!

          And the higher you go, the more breathtaking it is!

    • My girlfriend said something along this line to me just the other day.
  • Keep Looking Up (Score:4, Informative)

    by hakey ( 1227664 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @04:24PM (#33327334)
    queue Première arabesque: I. Andantino con moto (Claude Debussy)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Consider it queued [].

      Here's to you, Jack!

    • Don't forget to give Tomita his due, for the electro-whistling version thereof.
  • Damn. (Score:4, Informative)

    by fyrewulff ( 702920 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @04:28PM (#33327370)
    Enjoyed watching him as a kid and into adulthood. He never talked down to the viewer and just had that genuine interest in astronomy that made you want to go out and look at the sky (as best you could inside heavy city light pollution)
  • Wow -- I was introduced to astronomy through Jack's show. He will be missed.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just so you know, I will 'Keep looking up'

  • Poem for Jack... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by poemtree ( 61258 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @04:55PM (#33327550)

    ...that I wrote in 1993, haven't felt this way since Sagan went...


    Incandescent night and still
    amazing the number
    of stars
    you may see
    in L.A., D.C., New York, N.Y.

    Ocean City, Md., on the shore once
    again the stars
    few yet there
    visible through the orange
    haze of street light, parking lot.

    Just twelve miles from here,
    Assateaque, the whole
    of the Milky Way
    spilt into view—
    crystalline, star–bloom.

    Drive twelve miles more, find
    the radio–array
    at Wallops Island
    sees stars—in remote
    minor galaxies—already nova

    in Roman times, a million light–
    years won't show
    for 998,000
    more here, who then
    will see a star explode?

    Did Edison foresee the death
    of night, forgotten stars?
    Jack says
    no one looks up anymore.
    "Keep looking up. Keep looking up!"

    Perhaps some day the power out
    a whole grid gone down
    a city will
    reignite that ancient
    pinhole nuclear fusion–light

    so bright, so brilliant
    that despite the ache
    in our spines
    we crane our necks
    to look up, stare, configure.

  • Appreciate all he did for Astronomy - but, and I'm serious here - I read that 3 times before I read "life" and not "wife". Awkward wording.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Your right. If it read "wife" I'd have been a little confused as well. He always struck me as a bit of a flamer. Very nice- I loved his show, but he just seemed like he would have responded if some one yelled "Mary!" on the set.
  • by RedMage ( 136286 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @05:12PM (#33327652) Homepage

    Jack was a charismatic person with an infectious personality. He always was genuine, and had a passion for teaching astronomy. I was traveling and visiting various planetariums up and down the East Coast, with a final stop in Miami to visit the Space Transit. Jack made me feel very welcome and gave me a ton of his time explaining what made his planetarium special. Eventually I came to know that it wasn't the equipment (although that draws the public in initially), but the people that make these programs successful. Jack Horkheimer brought the wonder of the universe down to earth for many people, and I'm glad to have known him, even if only for a short while.

  • Thanks Jack (Score:3, Informative)

    by beet31425 ( 1869680 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @05:21PM (#33327692)
    Every time I hear Debussy's first arabesque, I will always think of the stars.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sporkinum ( 655143 )

      Agreed! That music always makes me think of Horkheimer waddling out on the rings of Saturn. He will be missed. Toupee and all!

  • Between Stargazer and Cosmos, he and Carl Sagan piqued my childhood interest in astronomy. As I miss Carl, I'll miss Jack too.
  • by Beelzebud ( 1361137 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @06:10PM (#33327940)
    I remember seeing him on PBS when I was a child. He really made astronomy fun to think about. Because of him I got my first telescope! Between him and Carl Sagan, a lifelong interest in the universe was spawned.
  • by Sean_Inconsequential ( 1883900 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @06:19PM (#33327988)
    I rather enjoyed his program as a child, however, for fear of repercussions, I wouldn't have let it be know. Despite the things i liked (astronomy, science, Star Trek; in retrospect it seems so obvious), and my knowledge that admitting i like them would have seen me labeled "uncool," I was quite unaware that I was a nerd. I learned from his show how to find several constellations, which i still find in a similar way. To this day I still look into the night sky and it still has a similar affect - a child-like wonder, awe. I often wonder what other people see in the night sky.
  • He seemed to really enjoy life and will be missed.
  • When I was young, I used to stay up just long enough to catch Jack Horkheimer's Star Hustler program on TV. That funny little whistly theme still brightens my day whenever I hear it. Thanks for all the fond memories, Jack.
  • "A man that eloquent in death deserves to be revered." Now I'm off to Berlin. I'm going to personally shoot that paper hanging son of a bitch!

  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack ( 534373 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @07:32PM (#33328458)

    It was the only "real time" info I and many other American amateur astronomers had for events like the sudden appearance of bright comets.

  • by Markvs ( 17298 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @08:32PM (#33328680) Journal
    I used to watch him after Doctor Who on PBS in the 80's... it'd be the last thing on WEDW before they went off the air. Jack, you got me to walk out the back door and look up more than once and made living in the middle of the woods all that much more tolerable. Thanks for getting me interested in Astronomy, I already miss you.
    • Same here, although I saw him before Dr. Who where I was, which was always nice to put me in the right mood for the Doctor... Sad.

  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @09:16PM (#33328866) Homepage

    I wanted to print this out for internet-challenged members of my family. But their print-this page still includes the comments. At least in this case, so far, there weren't very many. But I suspect it will grow.

    Can't they make a version of the print-this page that leaves out the comments and just sticks with the article. I don't like wasting precious ink.

  • He will be missed. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    He changed the perception of astronomy into something everyone could enjoy and do. As a planetarium director myself (just up the state from him) I owe my style of presentation to him. Funny, interesting, entertaining, and educational (at least I try to). Amazingly he was doing it in a 5 minute show. For you Jack, I will keep looking up.

  • Sad. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Steauengeglase ( 512315 ) on Saturday August 21, 2010 @11:36PM (#33329366)

    Back in the mid-80s our local PBS affiliate ran it before signing off during the weekends. It was one of the few things that made any childhood fear of the dark immediately dissipate. I'm not sure if it was because he was so enthusiastic or the sweet, gentle music or a presentation that was instantly accessible and all inclusive.

    I can remember one night he was talking about Venus and that you could see it with a pair of binoculars and if you didn't have any, just use a pair of toilet paper tubes. I rushed to the bathroom, ripped two tubes out, dashed to the yard and *GASP* saw it! It was one of those moments that I'll never forget. Thanks Jack.

  • My first introduction to Debussy's Premiere Arabesque - that funky synthesized version.
  • Like many others that have commented, I remember seeing Star Hustler in the mid-80's as well, as a PBS weekend sign-off. Many a time my dad and I would go outside to check on Jack's observation for the week, and always had fun looking up at the sky. Even though the sign-off would be after midnight, we'd sometimes stare up at the sky pointing at things we could see for hours at a time.

    Jack always kept astronomy accessible to everyone, and for that I thank you. You will be missed, Jack. I know I'll be one

  • R.I.P. Jack (Score:3, Informative)

    by CptNerd ( 455084 ) <> on Sunday August 22, 2010 @12:09AM (#33329476) Homepage
    I watched his last episode of the show on Youtube [], it's about the Summer Triangle (Vega, Deneb and Altair) that is fairly high in the sky around Labor Day. He looked like he was having some breathing problems, but you could tell he had the same spirit and sheer joy in sharing his "discovery." If I can think of it, I'll try to remember the "Summer Triangle" as the "Horkheimer Triangle", to remember him, and to "remember to keep looking up."
  • As a non-US-er I had never heard of Jack Horkheimer. I just Youtubed a few episodes and I must say that his enthusiasm is/was truly infectious. I'd understand people feeling a sad kind of loss.
  • to watch PBS waiting for reruns of Dark Shadows and watching this guy tell me where Mars or Jupiter would be.

    See you next week.....

  • How very sad. I remember when they would air it between shows when I was a kid. As soon as I heard that Tomita music, I knew I only had 30 seconds or so to get my Dad to the TV so we could watch it and then go outside to "look up". I used to subscribe to the podcast, but when I lost my iPod I let it lax. I recently started watching them again and you could tell something was not right. He didn't seem well. In spite of obviously not feeling his best, he was still very upbeat and enthusiastic -- always part
  • Most of his subjects had much longer lifespans. Why couldn't astronomers have lifespans on parity with a few near-space objects ...

    RIP, Jack.

  • Anyone who works indoors and late at night is at risk: []

    People with adequate vitamin D and good nutrition are much less likely to catch respiratory infections or to under or over respond to them. [] []

    Anyway, I'm sorry to hear the news, because I so much enjoyed his shows.

    From Albert Einstein on Science and Religion:
    http://w []

  • Like many here I used to watch Jack every Friday night on the local PBS Sci-Fi Fridays. Every Friday night it was Jack, Red Dwarf, and Dr. Who. (plus occasionally something else like Blake's 7). Jack was like the cool uncle who could boil something down and make it easy to understand and yet still fun to enjoy. Whether it was how to spot the Leonid meteor showers or how to find a constellation by "Arcing to Arcturus" Jack was the man. Here's a toast to the Star Hustler, we would be lucky to have more people

  • I remember watching him as a kid with my Dad and younger brothers, and then going outside to look at the stars. Those are great memories. He definitely had an influence on my love for astronomy. Jack was a great man to be able to give the gift of curiosity, wonder, and enthusiasm to countless people. He is definitely missed. His legacy lives on.

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault