Harry Jay Katz, whose celebrity in Philadelphia centered on chasing fame as much as he chased women, was being mourned by friends Wednesday.
Katz, 75, died peacefully, with his wife, Debra, by his side, on Tuesday at Einstein Medical Center in Elkins Park.
During his life, Katz was known as a “playboy,” failed restaurateur and nightclub owner, newspaper columnist, lover of booze and spoiled brat, among others, including a diehard advocate of the City of Brotherly Love and all things Philly.
From 1972 to ’79, he authored a column called the “Katz Meow” for an alternative weekly tabloid called The Drummer, during which time he was sued for libel. Sources say he was partly – or wholly – responsible for putting it out of business because of his lascivious content.
In the spring of 1995 he found his ex-girlfriend dead in the hot tub inside his Main Line home. Later, he was known to have attempted suicide.
In 1999, he penned a piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer titled, “Put ‘Rocky’ Back Where He Belongs.”
It was right after the Rocky statue had been moved from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the (now defunct) Spectrum, and in it he demanded that Rocky be returned to the pinnacle of the Art Museum steps.
“Don’t judge Sly. Don’t listen to the bluehairs who think Rocky is a mountain range. Think spirit. Think what that movie did for us. For our city’s image and for every aspiring athlete,” he wrote.
“Play the theme from the soundtrack. If you don’t get a sense of pride coupled with a goose pimple, hasten thee to a doctor.”
He certainly had a way with words.
He had friends and he had enemies. Some would argue more of the latter as he got on in years and bolstered his reputation. Here are sentiments from some confidants reached by Metro on Wednesday.
– “Harry Jay Katz was a mountain -- so large he created his own climate.
Sometimes he brought out the sun, sometimes storm and thunder.
The sunshine was his sense of humor – he was very sharp – the thunder was the fights and feuds he had.
When he liked someone, he was a ‘super guy, a super, super, super guy.’
If he didn’t like, ‘he’s a shit.’
Unlike Will Rogers, Harry did meet some men he didn’t like. He was an intensely loyal friend and very thoughtful with his friends and family. He was extremely close to his children.
Along the way he got into some jams and did some bad things.
Who hasn’t?” – Philadelphia Daily News Columnist Stu Bykofsky
– “I was saddened to hear about the death of my good friend, Harry. Harry was a true Philadelphian, through and through. He represented a class and style, which Philly is all about. He was flamboyant, outrageous at times, generous to a fault and truly will be remembered as a legendary Philadelphian – the same as Frank Rizzo, Ben Gimble, Jim Tate, Frank Palumbo and other Philadelphians who shared the same passion and love that he had for the city. I can see him up in heaven having a cocktail and a cigar with Peter and Paul, Moses and Abraham. One last word Harry – you did keep on rockin’, because you did realize that you only rock once. One last word – make sure you save me a great bottle of wine up there.” – Geator Gold Radio DJ Jerry Blavat, a/k/a “The Geator with The Heater” and “The Boss with the Hot Sauce.”
– “He always said, ‘any publicity is good publicity – no matter how negative.’
“If Harry Jay Katz hadn’t had all the money his parents gave him, he probably would have been more successful. He had the brains, the moxie, the gift of gab – he had all the rest… He always had that cushion, and he always relied on that cushion where he didn’t have to be successful. He could just act successful and he wasn’t success at a lot of things.” – Eddie Greves, former owner of nightclub Fast Eddie’s at 18th and Sansom streets in the 1970s.
– “He wasn’t perfect, but Harry Jay Katz was a true original, and a loyal friend. Philadelphia won’t be the same without a character like Harry.” – Twitter post by Dan Gross, owner of Gross Communications and former Philadelphia Daily New gossip columnist.
Last fall, this reporter interviewed Katz, who had recently suffered a fall and thought he encountered a brush with death. At the time, he told his fourth wife he wanted to renew their vows.
“Honey, I’m getting so good at marriages, let’s remarry,” he said.