August 29, 2010

keep looking up


RIP, Star Gazer.

And it was in the planetarium that the fragmented man found a certain unity. It was as if the great, lens-shaped dome, 66 1/2 feet across and four stories high, finally focused him. The ex-altar boy, the dramatist, the disc jockey, the musician with weak lungs and the stargazer with weak eyes all came together. The planetarium became his theater, his church, his concert hall, his home. He actually slept there for years, on a rollaway bed in his office.

He worked furiously, assembling a series of remarkable shows, more than 30 of them over the years, mixing sound and light, science and religion, the humorous and the sublime. He and his crew modified the planetarium's equipment to include huge speakers, powerful slide projectors, a battery of lasers and a zoom apparatus that could make planets float down through the starry void like giant, shimmering bubbles.

The effect was, and still is, dazzling. Horkheimer's shows are luminous, kinetic things, full of rapid-fire references to ancient history, mythology and language. In a recent show, "Night of the Vulcan Moon," Horkheimer managed to drag in Stonehenge, Abu Simbel, Pompeii, the Sinai desert and Mr. Spock of Star Trek. Fact rubs shoulders with fantasy. Ideas and images go off like Roman candles. The big Spitz projector wheels silently on its horseshoe mount, twinkling in the center of an encompassing darkness; and everything sparkles and echoes beneath the grand, overarching dome, against a myriad spangling of stars drifting in and out of pale blue clouds.

—"The Many Phases of Jack Horkheimer." Miami Herald, 1982.

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