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Updated: February 11, 2022

Lost in Hollywood A lunch with Jonathan Harris

By: Ian Stahlhut:

I was happy to write recently of my Australian encounter with the one and only Jonathan Harris, our beloved Dr. Zachary Smith.

I have a few sequels to the story so this is, I guess part #2? A few months after Jonathan had appeared in Sydney and we first met, I made plans to go to America and visit some friends I had recently made here in Oz, who lived in Hollywood.

I phoned Jonathan at his home and let him know of my impending visit, and was it possible I could take him out to lunch. He had been writing quite a lot to me since his departure from our shores and I was most touched by his apparent honesty and coutesy with his correspondence. Some of my best friends did not write that much to me.

I asked Jonathan if I could take him up on his offer of lunching at the Shirley Temple commissary at 20th Century Fox Studios. Jonathan had told me that the cast members of Lost in Space often had their own private re-unions there where they all lied about what they were up to.

I loved it when he would immitate dear June Lockhart by quoting "now June, what have you been up to?" to which she replied: "oh, busy, busy ,busy" Jonathan would then say " but doing what June?" And then again he would immitate her with a more emphatic "busy, busy, busy"

So true to his good word, Jonathan said he would be delighted to go to lunch with me and to give him a call, when I got to la la land".

It was great catching up with some friends of course, and seeing Disneyland again and all the Los Angeles attractions, but the day that gorgeous big black shiny car drove up my road and there behind the wheel was the man himself, well as the say... Hollywood!!!!

Jonathan was gracious as always and in a great mood. He apologised we could not dine at Fox Studios for some reason, and instead decided to take me to lunch at his favorite Hollywood restaurant called Fiddlers. (If any fan living in Hollywood can tell me it's actual address, I'd be most grateful?)

It was a lovely Alfresco Restaurant reminiscent of Italian Restaurants, where they served a delicious array of pasta dishes and salads. Jonathan was greeted as though he were royalty and I admit I felt very special being with him as we were taken to the prime table. You could obviously see other diners stop eating mid fork full and stare at us as we walked in. He was just that recognisable. For a boy from Australia, I would have thought it was almost normal to see stars in Hollywood, but that Restaurant skipped a beat like time stood still as we entered.

I can recall just pieces of our conversation at lunch that day, but it is mixed up because I was so overwhelmed at being in this situation. I must say, poor Jonathan may have done this before with fans, but he immediatley put me at ease and I soon relaxed enough to truly enjoy his company. How well I recall at one time his imploring me to eat some of my warm chicken salad, which he had recommended. Apparently it had been placed in front of me some ten minutes earlier, and I didn't even notice! We had some champagne, and I was just waiting for him to take one sip and say "blah, domestic!!"

Jonathan talked about Australia, and how much he enjoyed himself there and I filled him in on all the gossip and dirt which he loved to hear about within our fan club. Of course for a great lover of the golden years of Hollywood, I also was privy to some delightful gossip myself from Jonathan on who did what with whom and so on. The walls were decorated with glossy photographs of great Hollywood Stars, and the owner who fawned over us exessively implored Jonathan to please bring a picture of himself next time to be place on those walls. I wonder to this day, if there is one there now, or if indeed the Restaurant itself still exists?

Jonathan gracious as ever let me take a terrific picture with him at our table, and I got a nice shot of him in the doorway of Fiddlers Restaurant, and a final shot of his big black car. As a special thank you to him, I presented Jonathan with a signed picture of his favorite star Dame Joan Sutherland, a great Opera Singer and an Australian. working in Sydney Theatre myself, by chance I knew Dame Joan and told her of her special fan. So he was very happy to have this signed picture, which he later wrote me several times saying it was in a place of pride on his living room piano.

I offered to pay for our lunch, but he just would not hear of it, and you don't argue with Dr. Smith!

He pulled out his American Express card, and signed away the bill. It was only about 2 hours we had together, but a fan memory never to be forgotten. As a friend, it was even more special, because we were not just fan and idol anymore, we were work collegues and lovers of good Theatre and film, we were friends.

I recently catalogued my letters and cards from Jonathan through the years and it totaled over 100 individual handwriten letters, birthday and Christmas cards. We have some delightful moments captured together on video tape and also lot's of great pictures. I have a couple of taped audio conversations over the phone, one is delicious with him saying how dare the Producers at new Line Cinema only offer him a cameo role in the 1998 movie. "They'll probably f_ _ k it up"! He said. How right he was!

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