Captain Phil Harris Was the Genuine Article
By Marc Schneider Posted Feb 17th 2010 08:01PM
Capt. Phil Harris stood tall, liked to bark orders, had tattoos all over his arms and, fittingly, cursed like a sailor. In short, the Seattle native was a one-of-a-kind character and the perfect subject for Discovery's hit show about crab fisherman, 'Deadliest Catch.'
Harris died Feb. 9, a week and half after suffering a massive stroke on his beloved fishing vessel, Cornelia Marie. He was one of many participants in the cable reality show, but the outpouring of grief from dedicated viewers, casual readers and total strangers following the news was something you'd expect for a beloved Hollywood icon.
Nearly 800 comments were left in our news item on Harris' death, nearly all of them filled with genuine shock and sadness. Negativity, a staple of anonymous message boards, was left at the door.
His authenticity, it seems, was what drew many viewers to share their thoughts on the good captain. PopEater reader Kayla summed up Harris' appeal in clear terms.
"You never pretended to be someone you weren't, just because there were cameras," she wrote. "Your honesty and unwillingness to change who you were for anything was something to be admired and respected."
The words "honest," "caring dad," "strong" and "hardworking" are nearly attached to his name now, and we couldn't agree more.
Harris was also an unlikely but welcome reality star in an age of hackneyed programs about dating Tila Tequila or watching young "guidos" who aren't even Italian getting snockered in New Jersey.
You only need to go back to how it all began to appreciate the man. In the show's first season, one of the 'Catch' boats, the Big Valley, sank and took nearly all of the crew with her. Harris joined the rescue effort to find his fallen comrades, which attracted the attention of the show's producers. After that, he and the Cornelia Marie became one of the show's favorites and introduced fans to Harris and his two sons, Jake and Josh.
We loved his interaction with the Cornelia crew, but it was his relationship with his boys that we'll most miss. Like many fans, we gravitated to Harris and his pure and uncensored take on life and parenting. Everyone knew he loved his kids more than life itself.
"Your father lived his life his way and I'm sure he went the same way," wrote reader Hugh. "I'm glad for this TV show, for it brought you all into our lives and into our own families."
His compassion extended to other kids as well. Since gaining fame, Harris would often hand out 'Deadliest Catch' T-shirts to kids at pediatric hospitals.
"He was a one-of-a-kind person," Al Mendoza, fleet manager for Unisea, which sent out the Cornelia Marie, told the Dutch Harbor Fisherman. "I don't think he had an enemy over the years I knew him. Not one enemy, ever."
But just because he was so loved doesn't mean he was without flaws. He was impatient and brash, and didn't hesitate to get loud. That said, you never got the sense he was doing it for the cameras.
He just wanted to be as authentic as he could -- right to the end, it turns out.
This week, it's come to light that 'Catch' camera crews were there "the entire time" during the captain's final days, from when he suffered the stroke to his hospital stay. The Harris family will decide whether any of the footage will make it to air, but according to 'Catch' producer Thom Beers, Harris told the cameraman to keep rolling while he was on his death bed because "we need a great finish" to the show.
According to Beers, Harris told the doctors and nurses that were treating him, "Don't f**k up."
The Harris family is mourning in private and sons Josh and Jake reportedly plan to spread their dad's ashes out on the Bering Sea during crab season this fall. A fitting farewell to a man of the sea.
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