About Harry Anderson
Born Oct. 14, 1952, in Newport, RI, Anderson had an extremely unconventional childhood. His father, a traveling salesman, was often absent from home while Anderson was growing up. As a result, Anderson was raised almost exclusively by his mother, to whom he was very close. Around the mid-1950's, Anderson's mother left her husband and took young Harry with her to Chicago. Desperate to put food on the table, she reportedly worked as a prostitute, a fact which Anderson publicly acknowledged in a 1989 Playboy interview ("[Mom] was a hustler, yeah; she did a lot of things. We moved around a lot, and she had a lot of men friends."). Despite this dismal environment, however, Anderson vehemently rejected the notion that his home life was a tragedy. Over the next few years, Anderson followed his mother from city to city for her various jobs. Finally, in the late 1950's, she moved the family to Las Vegas, NV, where she subsequently got a job as one of the town's first female blackjack dealers. It was while watching his mother at work, that Anderson picked up his lifelong fascination with cards.
In 1962, Anderson went to live with his father in California. At age 16, he was running a very lucrative shell game in San Francisco. Though the adjustment of moving from the city to the suburbs apparently gave Anderson severe culture shock, the future star adjusted to his new environment by pursuing an interest in magic. Capitalizing on his rising popularity, Anderson quickly became a member of his school's "in crowd" and even claimed to have graduated as valedictorian of his 1970 class of North Hollywood High School.
After graduation, rather than go the academic route, Anderson began performing street magic to earn a living. By 1973, Anderson was performing two shows a day on street corners, at fairs, and on college campuses. Anderson turned to legitimate magic after a disgruntled "sucker" broke his jaw. Still the con-man would be an essential component of his subsequent magician character. For years, Anderson made a modest income via donations, literally by passing his hat around at the end of his performances. Before long, however, word of Anderson's act spread and eventually led to more prestigious bookings around town. In 1982, Anderson was performing at Hollywood's famed Magic Castle Hotel when he was "discovered' by a talent agent. This led to a month-long gig in Las Vegas, which in turn, led to Anderson's first national appearance on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). Anderson's unique brand of comedy-cum-magic was so well-received that "SNL" producer Lorne Michaels eventually invited Anderson back six more times over the next three years.
Anderson's growing television exposure eventually brought him to the attention of primetime audiences. In 1982, Anderson's career received a tremendous push when he guest starred in an episode of "Cheers" (NBC, 1982-1993). In the first of his six appearances on the show, Anderson introduced the world to Harry "The Hat" Gittes, a fast-talking, card counting hustler with a heart of gold. Virtually tailor-made to Anderson's odd bag of idiosyncrasies, Harry the Hat allowed Anderson to openly indulge in his other great passion: performing magic. Audiences fell in love with Anderson's charm and natural ease and NBC's television execs took quick notice.
In 1984, Anderson was at last tapped to star in his own prime-time comedy called "Night Court." An early winner with both fans and critics alike, the decidedly slapstick "Night Court" won Anderson three consecutive Emmy nominations for Outstanding Male Lead in a Comedy in 1985, 1986, and 1987. Contrary to popular belief, however, the role of Judge Stone was not written with Anderson specifically in mind. Playing the oddball Stone in the normally hardball world of the NYC legal system, Anderson brought a boyish exuberance to the potentially grim responsibilities of his fictional job. Judge Stone was actually one of the more laid-back members of a lively cast of characters. A consistent ratings hit, "Night Court" finally adjourned in 1993 after nine successful seasons.
Anderson would not remain unemployed very long. With the success of "Night Court," Anderson became a TV staple, appearing in guest spots like "Tales from the Darkside" (Syndicated, 1984-88) "Tales From the Crypt" (HBO, 1989-1996), Disney TV productions (a 1988 NBC remake of "The Absent-Minded Professor") and assorted specials, TV movies and miniseries including "Spies, Lies & Naked Thighs" (CBS, 1988). In 1990, he starred in the ABC made-for-TV adaptation of his chilling book featuring a killer clown, "Stephen King's IT." Anderson then returned to series television as the star of "Dave's World" (CBS, 1993-1997), a family sitcom based loosely on the life and columns of humor columnist, Dave Barry. Another ratings hit, "Dave's World" ran for four seasons.
Anderson kept a nominally low profile after "Dave World" was canceled. Tired of L.A.'s glaring spotlight, Anderson and his wife moved to New Orleans in the early 2000's. Following the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Anderson stepped back into the spotlight becoming an outspoken critic of the federal government and New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin.
|Elizabeth Morgan. Born c. 1973; met in 2000 while she was tending bar at Marie Laveau's Voodoo Bar in New Orleans; married 2000|
|Leslie Pollack. Married in 1977; worked with Anderson's technical consulting firm; separated on April 1, 1998; she filed for divorce in February 1999; divorced 1999|
|Became a recurring character, Harry the Hat, on "Cheers"|
|Began appearing on "Saturday Night Live"|
|Co-founded (with magician Martin Lewis), the Left-Handed League, a technical consulting firm|
|Got his jaw broken by a disgruntled victim of his street con|
|Opened for Kenny Rogers, Debbie Reynolds, and Roger Miller in Las Vegas|
|Performed magic shows in Oregon|
|Played humorist Dave Barry on the CBS sitcom, "Dave's World", based on the columns of the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaperman|
|Shifted to legitimate magic|
|Starred as Judge Harold Stone on the popular sitcom, "Night Court"; also wrote some episodes|
|Was performing a lucrative shell game in San Francisco at age 16 (date approximate)|
|Acted in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival|
|Returned to street performing|
|Met, married, and began performing with Leslie Pollack, a fellow magician|
|Feature acting debut, "The Escape Artist"|
|TV acting debut, "Twilight Theater", a satirical comedy special|
|Wrote and produced first TV special (also starred), "Harry Anderson's Sideshow"|
|Became the proud proprietor of Spade & Archer Curiosities by Appointment, a New Orleans magic shop|