For 44 years, Jack Horkheimer was the face of the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium. With his quirky five-minute Star Gazer spots on WPBT2, he was also an avuncular TV host beloved by children across the country.
But this week's metro reveals a side of the late astronomer never before seen in public, beginning with the allegation that Horkheimer sexually abused a 15-year-old boy he took in back in 1975.
New Times has obtained copies of phone messages Horkheimer left on an answering machine belonging to his accuser's close friend. In them, you can hear Horkheimer offering to "help (his accuser) out of his trouble" and admitting to (illegally) recording his phone calls.
The voice on the tapes is easily recognizable as Horkheimer's famous nasally wheeze. New Times obtained the recordings from lawyers representing the alleged abuse victim in a $5 million lawsuit filed against Horkheimer on July 7, 2010. Six weeks later, the astronomer and Miami icon died of life-long lung problems.
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Lawyers for Horkheimer would neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of the tapes.
Here's a transcription of excerpts from two separate messages left by Horkheimer in May, after he was notified of the lawsuit. Names of the alleged victim and his friend with the answering machine have been left out at their lawyer's request.
...it's Jack again, I hope you give me a call, I need your permission, uh, for something that sounds unusual, but I'll explain it to you. You know, uh, I've recorded all phone conversations for years and I may need to use parts of some of your phone conversations uh, for something I'll tell you about, I just want to get your permission, to be able to use parts of some of your phone conversations, uh, to help me personally, uh, give me a ringy dingy, it's Jack. Bye Bye.
...That's the reason I was calling back all the time. Because he was so distraught the last time I talked to him, I kept asking him about the two houses, about how much he owed here, what his back taxes were, what he needed to do to see himself clear and he kept saying, "I haven't looked at any of the papers, I don't know how much, I haven't opened (inaudible), I haven't opened mail for months, I don't know, I don't care, all I want, all I wanna do is go out and live under a bridge." I kept calling him back to see if there was any way that I could help him out of his trouble, you know? He thinks I'm worth a lot more than I am...
It's not clear why, exactly, Horkheimer was recording his phone calls. But it could become clear soon, if the lawsuit isn't settled out of court.