He played memorable roles, but Anderson never considered himself an actor.
The loved Night Court actor, Harry Anderson, recently passed away. He was in his home in Asheville, North Carolina. Throughout his career, he played some memorable roles, such as Judge Harry Stone on “Night Court” and “Harry” the Hat Gits on “Cheers”.
Harry Anderson may have been best known as a comedian and actor, but he did not start out this way. A report from Variety.com states, “Anderson was a magician-turned-actor who was known as a rabid fan of jazz singer Mel Torme. The affection for Torme was woven into his TV alter ego, Judge Harry Stone, a quirky character who ruled the bench at a Manhattan night court.” Anderson might have started out as a magician, but life pulled him in a different direction. Washington Post references an interview with Anderson from 1989. “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.” From his successes as a street magician, he was taken off the street as a guest star on “Saturday Night Live”. This would not be Anderson’s only time on television though, as he soon landed a role on the NBC sitcom, “Cheers.”
From playing Harry “The Hat” Gittes on “Cheers”, Anderson gained attention. It was for this reason that he was chosen to play the quirky character, Judge Harry Stone, on Night Court. It was a successful role for Anderson, so much so, that he continued it for all nine seasons of “Night Court”. TVLine.com states, “A staple of NBC’s primetime comedy lineup in the late ’80s, Night Court ran for a total of nine seasons, with Anderson earning three consecutive Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series from 1985 to 1987.” A report from New York Times states, ‘“Night Court”, which ran from 1984 to 1992, more than held its own against juggernauts like “Cheers”, “The Cosby Show”, and “The Golden Girls” during a storied period for television sitcoms.” As Judge Harry Stone, Anderson poured his passions into the character. New York Times also reports, “Both the character and the man donned colorful ties, were magicians at heart and were superfans of the jazz great Mel Torme.” Anderson was such a fan, in fact, that he was had Mel Torme guest star on “Night Court” and was even a euologist at Mr. Torme’s funeral in 1999.
Throughout his life, Anderson accomplished many of his dreams, but he always considered himself a performer at heart. Into his middle age, he gave up on acting and continued his passion of performing magic. A report from CNN states, “A People magazine story in 2002 said Anderson disappeared from Hollywood and resurfaced as the owner of a New Orleans magic shop.” CNN brings up an interview from this People Magazine story. In the interview, he states, “I can settle back and do what I want to do. And what I want to do is card tricks and magic…I don’t understand why guys have that Don Knotts syndrome of having to be out there.”
At this point, Anderson was done with acting, to the extent that he sold his home in Pasadena, California and moved back to New Orleans. Due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, Anderson moved to Asheville. With his passing, his second wife and two children of his first wife are among his survivors. Despite his early death, he will be remembered as a quirky sensation and passionate magician.