‘Night Court’ star Harry Anderson dies at 65

The Day - - OBITUARIES - By TOM FORE­MAN Jr.

Harry Anderson, the ac­tor best known for play­ing an offthe-wall judge work­ing the night shift of a Man­hat­tan court room in the tele­vi­sion com­edy se­ries “Night Court,” was found dead in his North Carolina home Mon­day. Anderson was 65. A state­ment from the Asheville Po­lice Depart­ment said of­fi­cers re­sponded to a call from Anderson’s home Mon­day and found him dead. The state­ment said foul play is not sus­pected.

On “Night Court,” Anderson played Judge Harry T. Stone, a young jurist who pro­fessed his love for singer Mel Torme, ac­tress Jean Har­low, magic tricks and his col­lec­tion of art-deco ties.

He also starred in the se­ries “Dave’s World” and ap­peared on “Cheers” as con man Harry ‘The Hat’ Gittes.

Anderson prided him­self on be­ing a ma­gi­cian and an ac­tor.

“I got into magic when I was a child,” he told The As­so­ci­ated Press in 1987. “Un­like most kids, I stayed with it. My high school teach­ers were al­ways ask­ing me what I was go­ing to do. It made me what I am to­day — avail­able for week­end em­ploy­ment, par­ties and bar mitz­vahs.”

Anderson, was born in New­port, R.I., on Oct. 14, 1952. He grew up in New York and moved to Ore­gon when he was a teenager and said that’s where he be­came a hip­pie.

“The Shake­speare Fes­ti­val at Ash­land, Ore­gon, seemed like a good place to open a magic store,” he said. “At 18, I was ready for re­tire­ment. It didn’t last long, but I was es­tab­lished as the ma­gi­cian. I worked the streets in San Fran­cisco and I did magic and spe­cial ef­fects at the fes­ti­val.”

Anderson learned the ropes as a street per­former in San Fran­cisco, New Or­leans, and Austin, Texas, among other cities. When he made his first ap­pear­ance on “Satur­day Night Live,” he was right off the street.

“Cheers’ was my first act­ing job, but it was ba­si­cally the char­ac­ter I had de­vel­oped on the street,” he said. “That’s now I made my liv­ing, hus­tling drinks in bars and quar­ters on the street.”

“Night Court” ran on NBC from 1984 un­til 1992, and Anderson re­ceived three lead com­edy ac­tor Emmy nom­i­na­tions for his role. Af­ter the show ended, he was cast in the lead role in the CBS sit­com “Dave’s World,” which was based on the life of Pulitzer Prize-win­ning hu­mor colum­nist Dave Barry. That se­ries ran from 1993 un­til 1997.

A Peo­ple mag­a­zine story in 2002 said Anderson dis­ap­peared from Hol­ly­wood and resur­faced as the owner of a New Or­leans magic shop.

“I am richer than Davy Crock­ett,” Anderson said in the story. “I can set­tle back and do what I want to do. And what I want to do is card tricks and magic.’ That in­cludes magic shows for cor­po­rate clients (“Fifty-five min­utes with ap­plause,” says Anderson) at $20,000 a pop.

Ac­cord­ing to the story, Anderson was dis­en­chanted by the prospect of chas­ing act­ing roles into mid­dle age. “I don’t un­der­stand why guys have that Don Knotts syn­drome of hav­ing to be out there.” He sold his home in Pasadena, Calif., and moved back to New Or­leans, where he had lived in the 1970s.

Fol­low­ing the dev­as­ta­tion of Hur­ri­cane Katrina, he moved to Asheville.

RICHARD DREW, FILE/AP PHOTO

In this May 19, 1988, photo, Harry Anderson poses af­ter a news con­fer­ence in New York. Au­thor­i­ties said Mon­day that Anderson, of “Night Court” com­edy se­ries fame, died in North Carolina. He was 65.

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