Loving Harry

By John Bloom | 07/13/2008


Harry Guetzlaff–the puckish Managing Editor of The Wittenburg Door, who died Sunday morning–spent his whole life searching for unconditional love. He was a romantic in the old-fashioned sense. He was a master of the elaborate gift, the perfect birthday card, the ultimate dance-mix party tape to make someone’s wedding as wonderful as he thought all weddings should be. He was capable of both sudden and lasting friendships, even of intense loyalties to people he had only known for half an hour. He was dangerously capable of human affection. He loved women, sometimes to the point of suffocating them. He was constantly going to bat for someone else’s quirky crusade. He could take your tackiest dream and believe in it more than you did. He loved the Door so much that he thought all six billion people on the planet should read it, including the illiterates and the atheists. If he could read this obituary, he would tell me that I just made a great joke, even though I didn’t. When he laughed, his eyes crinkled like Santa Claus. As he got older and paunchier, he looked more and more like a teddy bear.

Harry and I were roommates on three different occasions, always after one of us had crashed and burned from some personal life trauma. First I took up residence in his swanky Preston Tower apartment, then, when he went bankrupt, he took up residence in mine. This was in the 1980s, when Harry had become a sort of Hollywood Christian, hoping to make millions through a video production company that featured a fish logo on his business card. When God told Harry and his partners that He had other plans, and the business started to fail, Harry made the last-ditch gesture of giving evangelist Robert Tilton $5,000 as a “faith vow.” Perhaps this is why he was later the most zealous member of the Trinity Foundation investigative team, as they brought down Tilton and launched dozens more investigations of preachers who prey on the poor and the desperate.

Vette
Harry and his '77 Vette

Harry had done okay for himself in the corporate world. He was a marketing executive at Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper, a commercial film director, and one of the best film and video editors I’ve ever worked with. He was an archivist of pop culture, which is a nice way of saying he was a packrat. He grew up on the Jersey Shore in the fifties and was the archetypal American Graffiti kid on the boardwalk, with a Brylcreem haircut and white bucks and a convertible with fins on the back. He could tell you every doo-wop artist who ever charted, plus the name, make and body style of every hot car from 1946 forward. He had photo albums that ran into the tens of thousands of pictures. He had vast record collections, oceans of video, DVDs sorted by title, artist and subject, and material on his computer stored in ways that only the techno cognoscenti could ever figure out. He never lost his childlike zeal for new music, new television, new trends in food, cars or comedy. He thought The Honeymooners was the greatest sitcom ever made. He thought there will never be another Sinatra. He was never happier than when he was in his home editing studio, splicing together disparate pieces of film for the Door DVDs. But his highest praises were reserved for feature films.

Harry and Mom
At Home, New Jersey, 1978

I’ve known a lot of film buffs who feast on trivia, and a lot of would-be filmmakers who survive on dreams, but Harry was that rarest of film fans–the perfect audience member. Harry was the guy Martin Scorsese has in mind when he makes the movie–the guy who doesn’t want to critique the film, or make the film, or own the film, but simply wants to be drenched in the aura of the film experience. Harry was so passionate about the talents of this or that new filmmaker that he started a weekly film night in his apartment that ran on and off for the last 30 years of his life. When he started he used actual 16-millimeter projectors, but that eventually gave way to video and, as soon as the first one was pressed by the factory, DVDs. Film Night was based on the passion of Harry and nothing else. If it was an obscure film, he might screen for an audience of one. If it was something a little better known, he could draw 20 people from the neighborhood. But even when he was slouched on his favorite sofa, watching the brilliant Lebanese documentary by himself, he had a concentration that was remarkable. He could see the whole frame and describe it later, remember entire scenes of dialogue, tell you exactly which shots were new and innovative and which ones were derivative of filmmakers from the past.

HG
Filmmaker, 1972

But if you looked for a common denominator in Harry’s film tastes, it would be the love story. Harry didn’t think it was a great movie unless it made you cry. One of the last things I worked on with Harry was an article about the failed NBC show Studio 60, and as part of that project, Harry captured every episode on tape. One day he came to tell me about a love scene between two of the principals. He told me a good 60 seconds of dialogue (and they talked fast on that show). He had to have watched it at least ten times to know it that well. And there were tears in his eyes. It was a scene about what it means to love and pursue someone even when the person is not that great looking and not having their best day.

If Harry had been able to form his own church, instead of finding the one that Christ brought him into, it would have been some version of goddess worship. He loved women so passionately that, long after they had dumped him, he cherished their memories. He was always looking for that perfect woman in the future, or fearing that he’d let the one in the past get away. One time, after pining for weeks over a girl who was long gone, he came into my room in the middle of the night to announce that he had seen the error of his ways and was now “over her.” I congratulated him. And then he announced that he was leaving immediately. He would be driving to Atlanta in order to tell her that he was over her.

Harry and Friend
Harry and Friend, 1986

The only way you could get him to stop this obsessive behavior was to kick his ass. And the guy who ended up lovingly kicking his ass, over and over again, was Ole Anthony, the president of Trinity Foundation, who became his pastor, his protector, his lifelong friend and the man who, among other things, went to the Internal Revenue Service at Harry’s lowest point and told them that Harry would not be paying the $500,000 he owed. In a miracle more stunning than anything ever claimed by Benny Hinn, the IRS agreed.

Harry spent the rest of his life working as a “Levite” at the Trinity Foundation, which was so puzzling to the Social Security Administration that they called last week to suggest that a digit was missing from Harry’s Medicaid records. The woman explained that they showed a salary of only $94 a week–only to be told that yes, indeed, that was Harry’s salary. He had finally worked his way up to $94 a week after more than two decades as a Trinity employee.

Taking the vow of poverty is what unleashed Harry’s true genius. Besides being the maitre d’ at the Door–the only guy who knew where all the layouts were, what the printing schedule was, and when to send out the renewals–he was a one-man video production house, turning out all the Door videos, working with me three seasons on The Daily Show (I put in about three hours a month on those segments, Harry put in about sixty), and being the go-to guy whenever the Trinity Foundation needed theatrics, music, or simply style. Harry couldn’t stand cheap wine, sloppy jump cuts, or people who didn’t know how to properly crease the napkins at Passover. Given the fact that Trinity often had homeless people hanging around, including recovering drug addicts and more than the average quota of rednecks, he was always fighting losing battles in defense of the beautiful and the classy. He had a temper. He was a master of the hissy fit. He was especially perturbed when no one took the hissy fits seriously. On the night before Passover, it became traditional to award the “Huffies,” fake awards named in honor of Harry’s tantrums. One of his favorite sayings was, “I don’t know how people can live that way.” And still the napkins would remain uncreased.

Graduation
Graduation, Trinity Foundation, May, 2008

During the last year of his life, and especially when he was battling aggressive cancers, Harry’s two closest companions were Ole Anthony, publisher emeritus of the Door, and John Bojo, current publisher of the Door. Of the three classic types of faith, Harry had the faith of Jacob. He wrestled with God daily. He always had a love/hate thing with Ole, not sure whether to trust him or not, never thinking he was “loving” enough, going to him only as a last resort. But over time Ole became the calm paternalistic authority figure who would point him back to God. He looked to John, on the other hand, as the brother who was not too embarrassed to hold his hand tightly when he was terrified of death. Whenever he was well enough to sit at his computer for a few hours, he would go straight to the Door homepage and send me his latest critique. The last email I have from him tells me how hard he laughed at an entire page and suggesting that we enter that day’s writing in a contest. So many people called during his sickness that he eventually did a group email that sort of resembled a blog about his medical team and his various treatments. He did it more to reassure others than for himself, because one of the few things we seem to carry off well at Trinity Foundation is dying. During his last three months, he told Ole, many of the things that he had doubted about God suddenly kicked in, and he could hear the promise and the hope and the rest of the Shema prayer. A few hours before he died, long after he had ceased speaking, he looked wildly around the room and he caught the eye of John Bojo and he smiled and John felt that gaze as a gift. And then at around 2 a.m. on the 13th of July, 2008, he found, at last, unconditional love.


Comments(85)

Charity | 08:21 am on 7/17/2008

My condolences on the loss of such a fun and happy guy.

L V | 09:31 am on 7/17/2008

Harry's presence will be greatly missed during the morning Bible studies. All of Trinity is in my prayers.

Sophia | 10:32 am on 7/17/2008

The news of Harry's passing just reached the continent.

I am un done.

Harry taught me things to wonderful for words.
If he hadn't been so hard on Papa I would have married him.

Sophia L.

Eric | 10:36 am on 7/17/2008

Rest now Harry...

Eric

Flip | 11:36 am on 7/17/2008

Man,this was beautiful.

You nailed it there in that first paragraph.
Harry and I became fast friends via email working on Door projects and continued a correspondence.
His enthusiasm mixed with mischief made for a dogged loveable mix. He was (is!) such a fun good-hearted guy.

Psalm 2 says God sits in the heavens and laughs.
Harry's right there with him, finally home.

t. sam | 01:32 pm on 7/17/2008

Like so many who have posted, I never knew Harry, but the eulogy is so exceedingly well written that now I feel like I do.

And I'll hazard a guess that in some strange way, I did know Harry after all -- through those aspects of The Door that drew me here, and kept me here: its uncanny way of handling -- by delicious, sometimes severe satire -- the outright idiocies of Christendom (my version: if you can't fight the morons, at least laugh your ass off at them) ... its genuine theological and spiritual depth lurking only barely beneath the surface of even the most off-the-wall pieces ... and I think maybe, too, the same sometimes desperate search for unconditional love.

The last line -- Harry's at last finding that unconditional love on 13 July -- left me in tears (of sadness, true, but also entirely encompassed by that uncanny glory, that strange joy). Beautifullly done.

Maybe my felt points of contact with the Door really were with Harry himself after all. Maybe it was Harry and all of his struggles and passions, and not "just" the Door, that almost alone in recent years has kept me hopeful that what Jesus was and still is all about hasn't totally been lost: not the least of which is His leaving cookie-crumb- and tatterd-cloth-hints as trailmarkers for us sorry-assed wandering fools that there IS such a thing as unconditional love, somewhere, somehow.

Thank you for all of that, and for this wonderful piece.

best,
steve

Bob Hartman | 04:09 pm on 7/17/2008

I was Harry (a/k/a "Mickey")Guetzlaff's next door neighbor for twenty years in NJ. Reading John Bloom's article about Mickey was a heart felt,moving experience for me. I was fortunate enough to know Mickey from the impressionable age of two all the way through my early 20s. I was a guest at his first wedding to Jane Warren.I knew his entire family and many of his high school chums.
His evolution from satyr to God loving is quite a journey for anyone to make and yet he made that trip.I will always trasure my memories of him as the "older brother I never had" and the advice he gave me on a multitude of topics.He was my hero,idol,and role model.Now he is gone and hopefully at peace with those people who cared about him and those that he touched.RIP my friend..there will never be another one like you.Bob Hartman (rbh348@earthlink.net)

David | 06:55 pm on 7/17/2008

Thanks, John for this great commentary about a man I never met, but strangely, seemed to know so well...those who seek to follow Jesus all seem familiar, don't they?

Sandra | 09:47 pm on 7/17/2008

Harry I can't believe your gone. I will miss you, as all that knew you will. I am so grateful for the time I got to spend with you this year at Passover. I knew how sick you were, but it is still a shock that I will not see you or speak with you on this plane again.

Yes, I think he can read our comments.

brian miroglio | 08:41 am on 7/18/2008

thank you for the opportunity that you gave me to work with you, were a great person and very kind simpre with me, I sit down it from my heart

BRIAN MIROGLIO

dmc | 02:36 pm on 7/18/2008

well as the old saying goes "our loss is our Lord's gain."

Lee | 05:19 pm on 7/18/2008

I just loved the days when he would should up and need videos edited. Always a day of good company, belly laughs and knowing you were next to a truly kind soul.

Jim S | 04:26 pm on 7/20/2008

I attended Harry's memorial service in NJ yesterday. I met Harry's mom, brother, lots of nieces and nephews and extended family members, a next door neighbor from childhood, and members of his high school football team (of which Harry was captain). The family referred to Harry as "Mickey," a childhood nickname.

Several family members, all from NJ, said they were very much unaware of the nature of Harry's life since he had left the neighborhood some thirty years ago. Yearly visits back home to NJ did not convey much information about Harry's day-to-day life in Dallas. Some learned new things about Harry from this web site. They observed that Harry had been transformed from a somewhat arrogant, fun-loving athlete in his youth into a humble, loving person who made a real difference in the lives of many others.

For my part, I went to the service in part to tell Mrs. Guetzlaff and brother Dave how much Harry meant to me. He was an open, caring, and helpful person who offered me advice about life that I have carried with me for years. He offered critical emotional support to me when I was a confused young adult going through some difficult times and coping with a personal tragedy. Though Harry was seemingly unaware of it, at times he was acting like a father to me. He was no relation, but I feel like I have lost a member of my own family.

Thanks for everything Harry/Mickey. I love you, I miss you, and I will never forget your kind and generous heart.

Jim

Bob Hartman | 11:23 am on 7/22/2008

Jim, this is the next door neighbor you mentioned in your comment about Harry's/Mickey's passing. I am so sorry I didn't spend more time with you at the memorial service since I really wanted to know more about Harry's life "post Little Silver,NJ".There is a span of 30 years since he departed these parts and would be great to know more about his life and work. If possible,let's chat via email or call me at:732-530-4078. It was a pleasure to have met you. Bob Hartman.

Francine Phillips | 07:42 pm on 7/20/2008

I imagine that Harry and Mike Yacanelli are in some corner of heaven having a drink and talking about their favorite Doors.

Anonymous | 12:24 pm on 7/21/2008

Your beautiful words make me wish I could have met the man. May god bless a keep all of you.

SRebbe | 08:31 pm on 7/23/2008

He will be missed. Until the next time.

John P.Ralston | 12:14 pm on 7/26/2008

Although my stay at Trinity Foundation was very short in late August,1997-October,1997.Harry was a friend to everyone including me.I think the one thing about Harry that comes to mind is one of the members of Trinity that lived in the same house of the offices where Harry lived decided to leave and took a bottle of wine that belong to Trinity.Harry was the one that keep the wine for communion in his place he stayed by the offices.When the guy came back eventually I remember him chewing him out about taking it because he had to go get some more before church service.but Harry forgave him though.Harry was a outspoken type of fellow.I do know Harry you will be missed in the morning bible studies and by Ole and all of the members of Trinity Foundation Inc
Hats Off for Harry
John P.Ralston
Balch Springs,Texas

Cynthia Nixon | 08:51 pm on 7/28/2008

I went to Susquehanna with Harry. I knew him long before he found Trinity and went on to do the work he did. He was in my wedding party and a dear friend to my ex husband and myself. We lost touch over the years but I want all his friends to know...he was a good and loving friend to me. We spent many hours together over those college years...driving back and forth to NJ together when believe it or not he drove this awesome studebaker!! I had not had contact with him for probably 35 years....people lost to new adventures, etc...but I loved him dearly. We spent many an evening together over a beer or a recipe I was trying as a new bride (it was never good!!) but the company always was. I didn't know him as you all did, but it sounds like he found what he was always looking for. I missed him then, I will miss him now. God Speed Harry...you were always a piece of work!! Love, Cyndi

Jerry Berggren | 08:15 pm on 8/19/2008

I am sad to say I knew Harry...but not well enough.

His passion moved me.

His struggles inspired me.

I thank God for the opportunity to have known him, if only a little.

Jerry Berggren
Rowlett, TX

Richard Stickel | 02:24 pm on 9/01/2008

Hello,

I worked with Harry manufacturing and packaging his DVD Titles.
He was a great guy and I will truly miss him. I did not know about his passing until today. I was going to call him this week to touch base since we hadn't spoken in several months.

I'm saddened but do I know he's in a good place. God Bless you Harry.

Richard Stickel

Susan | 01:57 am on 9/14/2008

There are going to be a number of people I have never met who I will thank in heaven. One is Mike Yaconelli and another is Harry! I am thankful and you have touched my life and my faith has grown because of you!

Anonymous | 10:18 am on 9/20/2008

69 - because Harry would have wanted it that way;)

Amber - Hotel Reserveringen | 08:46 am on 4/24/2009

My comment about your blog is that you don't post often enough, but when you do, I do enjoy reading it. I like the view it gives to your industry. Thanks for the RSS; now I will know when there is something new.

MC | 01:23 pm on 4/29/2009

JB,

That was a beautiful farewell to a unique human being who touched many lives. Here's hoping that we can all fight as hard as Harry did for the things that we believe in, and that we'll all find that love and peace for which he searched so fervently.

Hope to hear more from all of you at the Door soon.

MC | 01:24 pm on 4/29/2009

JB,

That was a beautiful farewell to a unique human being who touched many lives. Here's hoping that we can all fight as hard as Harry did for the things that we believe in, and that we'll all find that love and peace for which he searched so fervently.

Hope to hear more from all of you at the Door soon.

luki tradycyjne | 09:07 am on 12/25/2009

You write awsome article, thank you for interesting read

senior alert | 11:19 am on 8/10/2010

Harry continues to be missed. What a wonderful human being. His kind words and infinite love will surely be missed. He was truly one of a kind.

Plants | 06:11 am on 1/07/2011

Very elaborate article on harry.. I think you have done a in-depth study of his personal and official life.

Brother Weldon | 04:05 am on 1/13/2011

I was the person who sent Harry a tremendous amount of hilarious and wacky televangelist video material recorded on VHS from my 10 ft satellite dish back in the 90's.

A large part of the footage for Comedy Central's "God Stuff" on the Daily show came from me. I asked for nothing in return but received a susbscription to the Door Magazine and was thrilled. Those days of finding obscure televangelists on C-band satellite are long over, but not forgotten. I sent Harry a tape called "The Best of Gene Scott" that I edited myself. If anyone has seen it, I hope you enjoyed it. I know Harry did. At the end you see Gene's empty chair after he finished a fund-raising rant without receiving enough pledges. Gene failed to get God to heal him from prostate cancer so he's no longer with us but I don't think anyone ever busted him for collecting excessive money for his lavish projects such as Jim Bakker did.

I really enjoyed watching John Bloom comment on the same videos that I had saved, thought were funny and sent to Harry. I even sent broadcasts celebrating L. Ron Hubbard's birthday that the Scientologists transmitted live every year. I had a knack of finding things like that on random satellites. They actually sang Happy Birthday to a dead man! Most of my friends didn't share that sense of televangelist humor that Harry, John, Ole and most of the subscribers to the magazine had.

I just now learned of Harry's passing and will miss him very much. I knew he was doing God's work and I am sure he is smiling down on all of us.

I can be reached at wbell70567@wmconnect.com

PS

I hope Harry's collection has been taken care of, there are some real treasures there and some I would be willing to purchase on DVD if available, such as the God Stuff collection. I've been meaning to check into that and then I read about Harry's passing.

I've still got a lot of the original material on VHS that I sent copies of to him back in the 90's but I have no time to locate it on 6 hour tapes plus I no longer have a VCR and one day the tapes will degrade. I just hope his stuff has been transferred to DVD's for others to enjoy. I wish I had done that myself.

God Bless Harry and the Trinity Foundation

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Yeng21 | 01:49 am on 3/11/2011

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Calgary escorts | 06:22 am on 3/31/2011

I dont know what to comment on this story. feeling sad too. Blogs are so such a nice way to express our feelings and sorrows..no?

بنت ابوها | 06:48 am on 4/16/2011

nothing new there, would not change a damn thing about this year concerning himself, seeing us all hugging ..

بنت الطائف | 07:13 am on 5/01/2011

A recording of the service will be available online soon

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