Jack Horkheimer, best known as host of PBS’ “Star Gazer,” died of respitory failure Friday after a long battle with an illness, officials at the Miami Museum of Science and Space Transit Planetarium said.
Horkheimer was 72 and spent the past 35 years as the director of the planetarium. During that time, he became famous for his role on “Star Gazer,” a 5-minute show that chronicled what people would see in the night sky and other astronomy related events.
He had been the host of the show since 1976. Horkheimer’s trademark phrase was, “Keep looking up.”
This morning as I as taking my daughter to see my mom, I got a call from my wife about the passing of Jack Horkheimer. I am deeply saddened by this news. I had the pleasure to meet him several times when I used to work for the Border’s Book Shop in Coconut Grove.
Back in 1996, I wanted to do another Star Trek event for my store but on a much grander scale. Up to that point, the events where small and in store only. I would play bloopers videos, games and Trek trivia. There were certain themes I loved doing like Klingon-Fest (dressed up as a Klingon) and a eulogy for the death of Captain Kirk done by Tony over at Cinema Viewfinder (I still remember it; good times.). Since Star Trek’s 35th anniversary was coming and the new movie Star Trek: First Contact, I knew I had to something big and badder than before.
As luck would have it, I was contacted by a CRC (Community Relation Coordinator) employee at the Coral Springs Borders. She was a huge Trek fan and got wind of my desire to something Trek too. It turned out that she had connection with the Miami Science Museum and Jack. Even more of a coinkidinky the Museum was also celebrating its 35th anniversary and that’s when we thought about combining these two events into one large event.
Time passed and suddenly my CRC partner had quit Borders. I was up the creek without my paddle but that’s when I decided to still continue with the Trek event. I decided to have a fundraiser for the Museum and bring in other partners such as Planet Hollywood and the Cobb Theater which were both in the same mall area. Having written a proposal, I planned out multiple events. Three days before the release of First Contact, I was going to have an all Borg Trek episode at the Museum. On the day of the movie, Planet Hollywood was going to have a Trek costume party, the theater of course was playing the movie and Borders was going to have programming inside the store such as the usual trek videos but we had a Trek vendor by the name of Joe Motes and the Star Trek fan club to help run the Star Trek skit (which Mr. Gene created and was and still is brilliant.).
Everything was going great except the turnout was not that impressive. Aside from the admission the Museum collected, the fundraiser from Borders was really sad. I was only able to generate $35 and really hated knowing that all my efforts went in vain. Nonetheless, Jack was gracious to me throughout the process and accepted the money anyway. Aside from this Trek business, I remembered Jack showing me some meteor rocks from Mars he had on display. This is the same time when scientist had found meteors from Mars which had microbes inside. This connection to seeing the rocks privately was extremely cool and a once in a lifetime opportunity. While I have not thought of Jack for sometime, I am constantly reminded of my time with him every time I drive by the Museum.
I am sorry to see him go but at least I can take comfort that as long as I keep looking up, I will see Jack looking down on me. So long, Stargazer and until next time. : (