My father called this afternoon, to let me know that Jack Horkheimer, who hosted a five-minute astronomy show on PBS called Stargazer (formerly called Starhustler) for 35 years, died on August 20th, 2010.
He just found out. We spent about 30 minutes talking about our memories of Jack the Starhustler, the haunting, melancholy theme music that moved us both in the same way, heard late at night, and the influence the show had in our lives and our love of astronomy.
Growing up, the show aired in Miami on PBS, right before sign off (midnight? 1am?). My mom was/is a night owl, so staying up late at night and catching Starhustler was commonplace and then running outside to look at the stars, sometimes secretly, sometimes the next night with my dad.
I also spent a lot of time at the Miami Museum of Science and the planetarium. My school had field trips and I also used to (successfully) beg my mom to take me there or Crandon Park whenever Jack had set up telescopes. Jack was the director of the planetarium. The person you saw on TV - excited about the stars and mythology and kooky - was the same person in real life: animated and alive.
When I got my first car in 1990, a 1985 Honda Civic hatchback (with no A/C in Miami!), the only bumper sticker I put on the car was the Stargazer's saying: "Keep Looking Up."
Jack's show has been on the air and also been available as a video podcast for a while. It's unknown what will happen with the show now that he's passed, but I really hope they keep it going and inspire others.
So, my father and I shed a few tears because we really loved this guy and his show. This was his last episode:
Jack, we love you and thank you for being there, for inspiring me and my father's love of astronomy. My father and I have watched the sky all our lives. And, I've watched you for most of my life. Both of us thank you for your enthusiasm and we will miss you. You've touched our lives, and for the rest of our lives we'll remember you and we will keep looking up!
Jack's photo from www.aaymca.com