Hearne: The Best of and The Enigma That Was Don Harman

Let’s lighten things up a bit where the Don Harman tragedy is concerned…

While most viewers of Fox 4‘s popular morning news show knew only the bright, sunny side of Harman, I got to see a surprisingly different side of the affable weather wonk after covering a handful of his early exploits in my column in the Kansas City Star.

Let’s revisit those happier times, then I’ll share an anecdote with you about an encounter I had with Harman after writing those largely innocuous items.

It didn’t take long for Harman to draw my attention in 1999, given that he was a guy who had some pretty big boots to fill after Gary Lezak bailed for the greener pastures of KSHB TV, Channel 41.

In Harman’s column kickoff, largely biographical column, I asked him tongue-in-cheek if he’d be bringing any dogs on the set, a signature Lezak move.

"I am pet-free,” Harman replied. “But (viewers) shouldn’t watch the pet. You don’t get paid for the pet … unless you’re Gary.”

Did Harman – who was single at the time – even have any pets?

“Just me," he said. "I just caught seven crappie, but I let ’em go. They could have been my pets.”

A handful of months later, again in 1999, I asked Harman about a subject that had been quite touchy with a number of Fox 4 stationalities. That being that they were being required by the station to fly on Johnny Rowlands’ helecopter.

And Harman had been aboard when the chopper nearly crashed and had to make an emergency landing near La Loup, Kansas.

 " (The helicopter) went into a drastic climb because the rotor was turning faster," Rowlands explained. "And it started shake, rattling and rolling. And I had no control of the rpm and it was thrashing around."

After safely – if nervously – bringing it down, Rowlands’ chopper started to take off again.

"I was going to bail out at that point because I thought it was possessed," Rowlands told me.

"Needless to say, WDAF weather geek Don Harman enjoyed the flight immensely," I added.

"I don’t know if the fact that I had no idea what was going on saved me from looking like a wuss or what," Harman said gamely. "Had I seen a rotor fly off or flames coming out of the chopper, my concerns would have gone up a notch."

A year or so later, Harman made my Watson’s Girl column, where she weighed in on local media celebs ranging from Jason Whitlock, Kevin Kietzman and Johnny Dare to Randy Miller, Art Brisbane and, of course, Dan the Man.

The proposition being for Jennifer to handicap which, if any, of the above dudes she’d be willing to date if push came to shove. When it came Harman’s turn, she said: "Great personality. Yeah, I could date him. But I think he and I would talk too much. Sometimes, you know, like all those Hollywood couples don’t make it because there’s too much competitiveness?"

That’s pretty much it, pretty mild, huh?

Now here’s what happened when I bumped into Harman at a movie screening  or something a year or so later. Thinking everything was cool, I walked up to him and said hello.

And while I’m not particularly thin-skinned, I have to say, I was taken aback by what next went down.

Instead of an even halfway friendly encounter, Harman scowled and let me know in no uncertain terms that he was not happy with me. I can’t tell you, after all these years, exactly what he said, but it was a dark, angry experience.

I’m not a big early morning guy – let alone early morning local TV news – and nothing much about Harman crossed my transom thereafter. But that encounter ranks as one of the really rare, uncomfortable and inexplicable encounters I’ve had in more than 20 years of writing.

The only explanation I can conjure is that it’s not uncommon for comedians and really funny on-air personalities to be entirely different when they’re off-camera, off-stage or just plain off. Which goes along with the quote I ran yesterday about Harman from a prominent local counselor.

"When you find someone to be so energetic, funny and seemingly unflappable there is often a dark side."

Harman sure did brighten a lot of people’s days though and judging from the public outpouring, he will be missed.

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17 Responses to Hearne: The Best of and The Enigma That Was Don Harman

  1. smartman says:

    Never mind.
    I just re-read your post. At first I thought you said by replacing Gary Lezak that he’d have some big BUTTS to fill but it was boots. My bad.

  2. Hearne Christopher says:


  3. Hollister says:

    I suspicion Don Harman was a good judge of character.

  4. http://www.facebook.com/crooding says:

    Hey just as an aside, aren’t most people in radio these days just gigantic self-serving tools with skanky-looking girlfriends about twenty years their junior and ugly dogs?


    Pretty much.

  5. mark smith says:

    Toss in an Old Gypsy, a talking crow, and a couple of clowns
    and you’ve got the start to a Stephen King novel. Maybe Glazer can get it optioned with Harvey Weinschnizle and Clint Howard. Sorry for sounding glib, but you seemed to be going for an ominous vibe. Funny weatherman by day, angry scary guy by night. He was what, 5ft 6? Arent you like 6ft 7 in your nunn bush loafers? Worst case scenario he reaches into his inside pocket for his piece, and you get barometer whipped.. People liked him. His personal life wasn’t any different from anyone else. Good, bad, and probably somewhere in between, more often than not. You’re really reaching Hearne. It’s one of your biggest flaws as a writer. You chew on the same bone too long. No meat left on this one.

  6. Merle Tagladucci says:

    Aaron Barnhart’s thoughts via Twitter:

    TVBarn Aaron Barnhart
    Not sure which is worse: The timing on this Don Harman story or Hearne’s ham-handed promo. yfrog.com/h7fujophj @fox4wdaf

  7. Hearne Christopher says:

    Six-seven, he? Nope. Not even in pumps (I would imagine).

    This is very current new, MS. Still waiting to hear back from police.

  8. Hearne Christopher says:

    Well, Aaron was a little off on the timing. He wasn’t able to post the basic news on the Star site until almost 10 p.m. the next day. Well after pretty much everybody else.

    The fact that Aaron seldom covers local media unless someone dies, retires or files a lawsuit probably accounts for his tardiness. He prefers the national TV scene where he is however many days, weeks, months behind the national media covering that same beat

  9. none of ya says:

    THAT’S your proof?
    Really? THAT’s your proof that he was a “dark” person… was because he told you off and hurt your little feelings? Are you kidding me?

    There isn’t a “public” person in this city that wouldn’t love to have the guts to tell you what a slimy human being you are. Most refrain, because they know you would retaliate in some crappy gossip mongering article. Kudos to Don for having the guts to tell you how many of us actually feel.

    I have way better proof that you’re a dark person. Drunk driving? Bashing the dead with NO EVIDENCE to support your accusations? I think Hearne is the one who should be going to therapy for his demons.

  10. mark smith says:

    at least it wasnt in big ass red letters
    from TKC

    It appears the second volley has been fired across your bow capt.

  11. HARLEY says:

    from tony no less…the guy you fired for some of the worst articles ever written.
    Tony…the guy who writes more innuendo than anyone.
    Okay hearne…its time to take off the gloves. Not only has he smacked you down with
    one of his harshest blogs i’ve ever read…but he runs a pic of you that makes you look
    terrible. Now thats fighting words. hE HAS NO RIGHT TO SPEW THIS…especially
    conisdering his blog (i wuld not call it that!)
    I may disagree with you hearne…but your blog is fun and entertaining. and i may
    disagree with your stories and the methods but the other guy is just plain badddddd.
    don’t take this. get the glaze worked up. get him to post one of his all caps mad as
    Yes…the enemy has attacked us captain hearne….lead us and your favorite commentators
    to victory!
    And besides…tony should leave the writings up to pros like me and smartman (lol)
    I totally disagree with tony on this one….as Harry Truman once said…
    prepare to attack….prepare for incoming….this my people IS WAR!
    we love this blog…and if anyone attacks hearne from outside..he’s attacking all of us.
    as you with us…or against us!

  12. tiad says:

    Jesus Christ, Jr….
    A couple of brilliant take-away quotes from your “article”:

    “Let’s lighten things up a bit where the Don Harman tragedy is concerned…”


    “I can’t tell you, after all these years, exactly what he said, but it was a dark, angry experience.”

    All I can say is: “Wow!” (Oh, and 2 + 7 = 9)

  13. mark smith says:

    not truman harley

  14. You are hilarious... says:

    …. and you continue to astound.
    You act like you are trying to ‘lighten things up’ and then you print some vague reference to a ‘dark, angry experience’ you had with him? You sir, are a piece or work. No…. I mean piece of crap.
    This blog is circling down…..

  15. dumbfounded says:

    You are ill
    This is pathetic. You need serious help. Seriously. Get some counseling.

  16. Hearne Christopher says:

    Allow me, if you will to guarantee you that from what I am learning about Harmon and Fox 4, the last thing that station is interested in is setting the record straight.

    Trust me on that one and stay tuned.

  17. Dave says:

    Hearne can’t handle the truth
    Rumor has it that Hearne Christopher kidnapped Baby Lisa! So he could eventually impregnate her and use HER baby’s stem cells to firm up his sagging scrotum! Stay tuned! (Hey, it’s just a rumor …)

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