OBITUARY: Dr. Jack "Star Hustler" Horkheimer, 1938-2010

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Dr. Jack Horkheimer, Director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium, has died. He was seventy-two years old.

Horkheimer was best known as "The guy who hustles stars," the host of Stargazer, a five-minute-long astronomy show on most PBS stations that's been running constantly since 1976.

They did one episode a week for thirty four years. I was never a regular viewer, but I always liked watching it when it stumbled 'cross my path. The truth be told, I really know nothing about Jack himself. I was as likely to mock him as I was to praise him as a kid, but he was always instantly identifiable.

He was an easy target when I was in a condescending mood, but the fact is that I always smiled when his show came on. A few years later on I went through a long phase where I traveled a lot, getting jerked around from one anonymous nowhereville to the next for years on end, never putting down any roots. In a totally random existence like that, the little familiar things become very important.

I can remember several different occasions when I was up late, completely alone, surfing the channels in some alien land I didn't belong in, feeling that kind of lonely/sad/poignant feeling you get when you're 24 and a little too self-involved; I chanced upon his show, and no matter when or where I was, it always made me feel connected to my youth, watching the show on my local PBS affiliate as a dumb kid. Wherever I was, his show always made me feel like I was home, if just for a moment.

It's the same sky over all of us, after all.