LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) ― Harry Anderson, the amiable actor who presided over the NBC comedy “Night Court” for nine seasons, has died at his home in Asheville, N.C., according to a local media report. He was 65.
Anderson was found at his home by police officers early Monday morning, according to a report by WSPA-TV, the CBS affiliate in Spartanburg, S.C. No foul play was suspected, police told the station.
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. The sitcom was a mainstay of NBC from 1984 to 1992. Anderson earned three consecutive Emmy nominations for his work on the show from 1985 to 1987.
Anderson gained national attention after he guest starred as grifter Harry “The Hat” Gittes on NBC’s “Cheers” in the early 1980s. On “Night Court,” Anderson played a goofy but big-hearted judge who encountered a host of oddball characters and cases every week. The series also starred John Larroquette, Richard Moll, Charles Robinson, Marsha Warfield and Markie Post.
After “Night Court,” Anderson co-starred as columnist Dave Barry in the CBS comedy “Dave’s World,” which ran for four seasons. Anderson moved to New Orleans in 2000 to open the nightclub Oswald’s Speakeasy, where he performed a mix of comedy and magic, and a magic and curio shop dubbed Sideshow.
Anderson logged a guest shot in FX’s “Son of the Beach” in 2002 and a 2008 appearance on NBC’s “30 Rock.” But for the most part he stayed away from Hollywood. He moved to North Carolina in 2006 after New Orleans was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Anderson, born in Rhode Island, reportedly had a difficult childhood and moved frequently with his mother, who he once described in an interview with Playboy as “a hustler.” He moved to California at the age of 16 to be with his father. He became a street performer and reportedly ran a lucrative shell game on the streets of San Francisco for a time.
Anderson made his way to L.A.’s famed Magic Castle in the early 1980s where he connected with an agent, according to TCM.com. He made several appearances on “Saturday Night Live” around this time.
Friends, colleagues and fans took to Twitter on Monday to mourn his passing:
Aw man, I’m so sorry to hear this.
My condolences to his family, friends, fans and everyone who loved him.
Rest in peace, Harry the Hat, you were my friend. https://t.co/fv2yzW4sku
— Marsha Warfield (@MarshaWarfield) April 16, 2018
I’m very sorry to learn of the death of Harry Anderson. He was a very talented guy, and, more important, a genuinely nice guy.
— Dave Barry (@rayadverb) April 17, 2018
Stunned by the passing of Harry Anderson, one of my comedy and magic inspirations growing up. We became friendly over the years – he worked at the @MagicCastle_AMA and recently sold me a handful of great magic memorabilia. My sincere condolences to his family. #RIP pic.twitter.com/k9FITPIaBS
— Neil Patrick Harris (@ActuallyNPH) April 17, 2018
I interviewed Harry Anderson when I was 15 years old and he was so kind, and frank and hilarious. The interview is in my book Sick In The Head. He was a one of a kind talent who made millions so happy. https://t.co/0ksw4WKvxB
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) April 16, 2018
— Lizz Winstead (@lizzwinstead) April 17, 2018
So sorry to hear we’ve lost Harry Anderson. A very nice man.
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) April 17, 2018
Harry Anderson was, for a while, who I wanted to grow up to be. Condolences to everyone whose lives he touched and now keenly feel his loss,.
— John Rogers (@jonrog1) April 17, 2018
Mel Tormé made nine guest appearances as himself on Night Court. Harry Anderson’s character, Judge Harry Stone, was an unabashed Tormé fan, an admiration that Anderson shared in real-life; he would deliver the eulogy at Tormé’s funeral. pic.twitter.com/R2deJDHeBw
— Adam Khan (@Khanoisseur) April 17, 2018