SAINTS FAN HARRY CONNICK JR. HEADS BACK TO TV
this fall, harry connick jr. returns to tv in a role he’s been dreaming about for two decades.
H arry Connick Jr. is a ladies’ man— in the best ways possible. You hear it when this Tony nominee and Grammy and Emmy award winner talks about his wife, Jill Goodacre, his three daughters, Georgia, Sarah Kate and Charlotte, and his sister, Suzanna, an internist in Virginia. And you hear it when he talks about his mom, Anita, who worked as a judge in his hometown of New Orleans and died of cancer when Connick was just 13.
“My mom’s death changed the course of my whole life,” says Connick, 48. “It’s the ultimate challenge: You’re faced with a situation there’s no answer to and no reason for, and what are you supposed to do? You have to figure out a way to go through it and get through it.”
And get through it he has. Widely considered one of
American Idol’s most beloved judges, appearing on seasons 13 through 15, Connick is now getting ready for the debut of Harry, his daytime variety show, which premieres Sept. 12 on Fox.
mr. party planner
While Connick had been approached about doing TV before, the timing has never been right, until now. He has partnered with Justin and Eric Stangel, former executive producers of Late Show With David Letterman, spending months priming what he envisions as an hourlong escape for viewers, with unscripted comedy and free-form musical moments provided by his band. “We’re going to jam-pack each and every show,” he says. “It’s going to be a real party.
“Mindy Kaling was on the pilot and talked about singing a Disney song while auditioning for a Broadway show,” he says. “Next thing you know, I accompanied her as she sang it.”
He plans to celebrate real people as well. A segment called “Harry’s Leading Ladies” might feature a woman who has taught second grade for 10 years or a little girl who has sold loads of Girl Scout cookies. In another segment, called “I Got This,” Connick swaps lives with a single mom or a woman working two jobs, sending her out for the day while he cleans the house, makes a birthday cake, does laundry or takes care of whatever else needs to be done.
“We’re featuring so many good people in this world,” he says. “They’re dignified, they care deeply for their families and have deep work ethics,” he says. “It’s fulfilling for me to be around people like that.”
king of the smoker
When he’s not prepping
Harry segments or touring, Connick is tending to his rig—a professional smokeron-wheels that features, of course, a Saints logo.
Connick may live in Connecticut, but his Big Easy approach to tailgating is all New Orleans. In fact, he says he got his smoking “chops” from his uncle, who used what Connick describes as a wooden roasting box with a heat source on top.
“He’d put turkey or whatever meat in there and the box would get very hot,” he says. “That’s a very, very slow way of cooking, but I would watch him doing that and that’s how I learned how to slow-cook pork shoulder and brisket. I like throwing burgers on the grill, but smoking is what I love the most.”
When Connick tailgates, he starts up his smoker in the morning—he keeps his rubs simple, topping his meat with salt, pepper and “maybe a tiny bit of cayenne pepper and paprika”—and, eight hours later, his smoked meat is ready. Accompaniments include homemade red beans and rice, which, he’s quick to say, doesn’t taste as good as it does back home in New Orleans.
“It’s hard to find food that tastes the same way,” he says. “The general consensus is that there’s probably something about the local water that contributes to the flavor.”
To satisfy his cravings for jambalaya or bananas Foster (a dessert fave), Connick travels to New Orleans as often as he can. It’s the place, after all, where he grew up and
Harry Connick Jr. wears a vintage New Orleans T-shirt while engaged in his favorite tailgating activity—tending to his smoker, which he gets going game-day morning.