Gay icon Jonathan Harris of Lost in Space dies

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com November 06 2002 12:00 AM ET

The Associated Press reports that Jonathan Harris, the "flamboyantly fussy" actor who portrayed the dastardly antagonist Dr. Zachary Smith on the 1960s sci-fi show Lost in Space, has died. He was 87. Harris died Sunday from a blood clot in his heart while receiving therapy at an Encino, Calif., hospital for a chronic back problem, family spokesman Kevin J. Burns said Monday.

Born Jonathan Charasuchin in the Bronx, N.Y., to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Harris adopted the stage persona of a classically trained British actor, with his grandiloquent accent, crisp enunciation, and professorial manner. When people would ask him if he was from England, Harris would confess, "Oh, no, my dear, just affected," according to Burns, a longtime friend and director of the 1998 documentary Lost in Space Forever. Harris also worked with Pixar Animation Studios in recent years, supplying the voice of Manny the praying-mantis magician in A Bug's Life and the elderly doll repairman in Toy Story 2.

Lost in Space, which ran on CBS from 1965 to 1968, was a science-fiction takeoff on the Swiss Family Robinson story in which the castaway clan was trapped amid the uncharted fathoms of space instead of on a deserted island. Harris's character, Dr. Smith, was a saboteur who caused the Robinson family's ship, Jupiter II, to fly off course--but he also found himself trapped with them in the craft.