Retro T.V. Review: Jack Horkheimer Star Hustler / Star Gazers (1976)
Updated: Mar 25
Show Name: Jack Horkheimers: Star Hustler (1976-1997), Jack Horkheimers: Star Gazers (1997 - Present)
Host: Jack Horkheimer (1976 - 2010)
Number of Seasons: 40
Number of Episodes: 1950+
This review has been a long time coming. I remember watching this show as a young kid. It would always play around 8ish in Montreal on one of the local PBS channels.
One night, I saw that some people had uploaded a ton of episodes on YouTube and I started watching them. My wife was wondering what I was watching, as it looked really old and she found it very random.
Let us dig into this show a little more.
History / Background
This whole project could not have started without Jack Horkheimer. He started working at the Miami Space Transit Planetarium in 1964.
He was known for having some segments on some news shows and on PBS as well. At around this time, WBPT approached him to have a half hour show about astronomy. He agreed on one condition, that he would be allowed to have a 5 minute show about stargazing. The rest is history.
Jack Horkheimer: Star Hustler was born. The show debuted on November 6th, 1976. It aired mostly on local (select markets) for a while and in 1985 the show went national. Then in 1989, the show went into international markets.
In 1997, Star Hustler changed its name to Star Gazers. The reason for the name change was apparently due to the rise of the internet. When people, probably teenagers, would search for the name of the show, they would not get the web site for astronomy but a pornography magazine called Hustler. So, to make it less confusing, they changed the name of the show.
Horkheimer hosted the show until his death on August 20th, 2010. He had a congenital degenerative lung disease called bronchiectasis. He suffered with this disease his whole life and succumbed to it when he died. In the last year of filming Star Gazers, co-hosts were brought in when he was not feeling well. In fact, in many episodes in 2010, he is filmed sitting down instead of his customary stand up position.
After his death, the show was revamped and still goes on until today. They have removed the Jack Horkheimer name and just left the show name as Star Gazers, with 3 hosts that take turns.
The show has that recognizable theme. The song was not written specifically for Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazers This is a song that was written by Claude Debussy and the song was named Arabesque No. 1. It was originally released around the 1890's.
Claude Debussy - Arabesque No. 1
The song was adapted to a more sci-fi sound by Isao Tomita. There was just something about this rendition that has always stayed stuck in my mind and I just cannot get enough of it.
Isao Tomita's - Star Gazers / Star Hustler Theme (cover of Arabesque No 1)
Why Do I Love This Show?
There are a few reasons why I love this show. I have always been a sucker for PBS programming. Yes, even in Montreal, Canada, I would always watch shows on this channel. We get the Vermont affiliate. I would also love Nature on PBS and I could watch those shows for hours as I would find nature so fascinating.
Star Gazers is no different. Back when I would watch this show, the internet was in its infancy. The amount of information found online was not great and people still went to the library to get their books. This show allowed me to learn about the stars and be amazed at the great things that the stars had to offer.
Jack Horkheimer just had that charisma. He looked like a typical nerd that enjoyed the sciences. In fact, in its initial run before it went national, Jack was advised that he was appealing too much to the astronomers and that he should try to seem more excited. This is when his bubbly personality came out and it became the standard for what would know him for.
He was not a big fan of it at first. He did not like watching his own shows. However, he eventually turned around on the idea.
Something that I did not know as well, is that he was bald from when he was a teenager. When he was 17 or 18 years old he suffered from radiation sickness. This caused his hair to fall out. I take it this is the reason why, in the show, he always wears a hair piece.
Like any educational show, Jack Horkheimer was able to take something that could seem confusing and put it in a way that was easy to digest. I think this is the reason why the show has been on the air for so long. The content was interesting and it was delivered in a way that was easy to understand.
Another thing that I found charming was his tagline, "Keep looking Up!". he would end each show and that became his go to phrase to end every show. In fact, on his tombstone the following is written;
"Keep Looking Up" was my life's admonition; I can do little else in my present position.
When people talk about educational shows, they always think of Bill Nye, The Science Guy, Sesame Street or Arthur. This show rarely gets any attention and it has been on TV for over 42 years. That is insane when you think about it.
The earliest version of the Star Hustler website that I could find was in 1996. Here is the link for your pleasure.
For the most part the links still work. Enjoy!
Do you remember this show? What do you think about it? Let us know below.