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Wild About Harry

We lost Harry Anderson today. He was 65. And it feels like learning about the death of an old friend.

It’s no secret to those of you who read my stuff that my life has been heavily shaped by Star Trek, Batman, Ghostbusters, The Monkees, Universal Monsters, and any of a host of other geekish passions. Harry Anderson and Night Court are also on that list, and right near the top. His portrayal of Judge Harold T. Stone — and, to a lesser degree, Harry the Hat on Cheers — were far more influential on me than I realized.

First and foremost, from Harry the Hat, I learned to always keep an eye out for a con man. If I shake with my right hand, wear my watch on and hold my wallet with my left.

From Harry Stone, I learned to always be compassionate. Always hold confidence. Be true to your friends. Be fair. Be kind.

Harry also taught me that it was okay to be silly as an adult. Harry was a sitting New York City judge who kept googly glasses and a stuffed armadillo in his chambers. He did magic tricks. Cracked jokes and made terrible puns. Upon turning 40 — a milestone I’ll hit in two months — he lamented being older than Spider-Man.

He even, you’ll recall, taught for a while at Ed Koch Community College.

Harry’s music tastes also informed mine. Though I could take or leave his idol, Mel Tormé, I have a great affinity for the great crooners — and an illogical dislike of Barry Manilow (a fact I just mentioned to my wife yesterday).

And Lord, did Harry have style. Cardigans, sport coats, ties, jeans and sneakers. And hats, of course. Harry loved his fedoras, and so do I. And, like Harry, the jewel of my collection is my Borsalino.

Harry’s characters, and his stand-up routines, and his magic tricks, meant a lot to me when I was growing up. They’re a beloved part of my past, and I look on them with fondness. They shaped my tastes, they shaped my style, and they shaped me.

Thank you for all of that, Harry. I’ll miss you.

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