Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer

Cross-posted from Tumblr. Originally posted August 2015.

Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer (also known as Star Hustler earlier on) was a weekly 5 minute long astronomy show that aired late at night on PBS. It’s been on the air since the 70’s and apparently is still going today with different hosts.

When I was a wee child I would occasionally catch this segment before bedtime. It may have even been a thing I watched commonly, if I’m remembering right.

What I do remember is this show completely captivating and mesmerizing me as a child, even before I was old enough to really understand what he was talking about or what was going on. The feeling I felt seeing this show as a toddler is hard to describe. It was a mixture of confusion, euphoria, and maybe even a slight bit of fear. Fear from perhaps gazing into the strange, the unknown, the incomprehensible. Can you recall that feeling, as a small child?

The feeling was probably magnified by the room being dark and my parents not being present. At least, that’s a visual memory I have in my head.

For five minutes Jack would talk to the viewers about the stars, planets, and constellations that would be visible for the week. Various space backgrounds would appear behind him, including graphics of the stars he was talking about. A common visage was of him sitting on the rings of a planet. And yes, that’s a Members Only jacket.

Jack was very eccentric and had a very distinct, memorable voice. He was incredibly enthusiastic about space, and had a level of enthusiasm I sorta revere. He was just an all around unforgettable dude.

But what really grabbed me, and what really cemented the show into my memory, was the show’s theme song. It was a beautifully soothing and ethereal synthesizer track. It perfectly captured the sense of wonder about outer space that the show provided. It’s also probably responsible for those previously mentioned haunting feelings I felt back then. And as far as I know it was never changed from its introduction in the 70’s. (The track is Arabesque No. 1 by Isao Tomita.)

Jack Horkheimer passed away 5 years ago today, in August 2010. His final broadcast can be seen here. But I’ll always remember him in a deep corner of my mind. Once in a while something will jog my memory and I’ll check out old clips of his show on YouTube, and it always provides a strong sense of nostalgia.

As he always said at the end of the show, “keep looking up!”


If you're curious for more, check out this upload of the 1990 Star Hustler Video Almanac!