Remembering the “Star Hustler”

There was a partial lunar eclipse visible from Milwaukee last night, which I really wanted to go outside and see but which I didn’t because I also needed to be asleep at 3:00 a.m. so I could do my job today. Sigh. Someday when I’m retired, I’m going to stay up all night and then sleep all the next day any time I feel like watching an eclipse of the moon!

Meanwhile, all this eclipse talk started me thinking about the night sky. I found this neat video from NASA previewing November 2021 activity, and I assume this is part of a regular series?

And then this video got me to remembering this really bizarre but fun “show” that used to run on PBS called “Star Hustler.” Do you have any recollection of this? It was a five-minute filler that would run (weekly?) at the end of a programming hour, late at night if memory serves. I loved the “host” and his somewhat cheesy delivery, but what made this gimmick work was that, as with the NASA video above, the show’s content was highly educational and made me want to go outside to see the night sky phenomena for myself.

The episode below provides some “night sky” background on where the expression “in like a lion, out like a lamb” came from. I realize that little knowledge tidbits like this are, like, the very embodiment of the term “trivia.” But isn’t life richer and don’t you feel more grounded in the world when you expand the number of “trivia” portals like this one via which you can connect “this” with “that” and make sense of the surrounding chaos?

One final video, as long as I’m at it. I couldn’t remember what the “Star Hustler” was called at first. In my Google search I kept finding references to “Star Gazer” instead, which confused me because I knew the title was something stranger than that. Finally I stumbled across this Wikipedia article on the show, which cleared things up.

Apparently the show was SERIOUS educational astronomy for the first few years, until a producer told the star, Jack Horkheimer, to make it more accessible to a broader audience than fellow astronomers. From which directive, the Star Hustler persona was born. It worked! I was hooked the first time I saw this guy with a comb over strolling along in his windbreaker atop a pathway in space that looked like the rings of Saturn unreeled. And I stayed hooked because his enthusiasm was so infectious and the show’s content so interesting.

The show continued with the “Star Hustler” title until it was undone by the Internet. Mid-1990s search engines were not particularly smart. Apparently when people searched online for information on the PBS show, the top results returned were for Hustler magazine. (Please don’t even ask. You really don’t want to know anything more about that magazine. I hope. Ugh.) At which point, the “Star Hustler” name was dropped and the “Star Gazer” name adopted.

Here’s a nice (and brief) documentary about the “Star Hustler/Gazer” star, Jack Horkheimer.

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
This entry was posted in Life, Milwaukee, Nature, Popular culture, Science, Television and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Remembering the “Star Hustler”

  1. babsje says:

    I’m with you Katherine! There was a time 20 years ago when being outside in frigid weather at 3am to catch a sky show was fun! The older I get the more I want to be snuggled in at 3am. Thanks for the video links and interesting commentary. Best, Babsje

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wyrd Smythe says:

    I can’t say I remember the show, but I have a hard time remembering last Tuesday. I have been tempted at times by those 3 AM events, meteor showers and whatnot, but a warm bed is equally tempting and usually wins. (I did see the Great Conjunction last winter, but that was early evening. Awesome sight, though.)

    Liked by 1 person

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