The Trouble With Harry Jay Katz

Harry Jay Katz's act is wearing thin. Philadelphia's aging libertine is facing lawsuits, accusations and bankruptcy. Still, the party must go on.

VALERIE SHERIDAN’S DEATH and Susan Delplanque’s suicide attempt were neither the first nor the last controversies involving Harry Jay Katz and his revolving harem. Katz has recently faced three more crises involving former lovers. In July 1995, just four months after Sheridan’s death, Katz fathered a child with a woman named Susan Arnold. After taking blood tests that confirmed his paternity, Katz was brought into Philadelphia Family Court on April 9th to determine child support. Judi Tafuto, his girlfriend at the time, went along.

“Harry didn’t bring a lawyer,” says Tafuto. “He was rehearsing lines on the way down. He gives me a sheet of paper, which is totally bullshit, about how she [Arnold] used to be a drug dealer. There was this little boy, an absolutely beautiful child who looked just like him. Harry started screaming ‘Get that fucking kid out of here! I don’t want to see that kid!’ He started swearing at her lawyer, ‘Fuck you, we went to school together! Fuck you, you piece of shit!’”

When asked about the child now, Katz immediately begins to impugn the child’s mother, alleging multiple examples of illegal behavior. “I went to her lawyer, David Grunfeld,” says Katz. “David’s a Jew, he knows me, and I said, ‘David, I have written out all these things about her, the DUIs, being a Jew hater and a drug dealer.’ He says, ‘Harry, this is Pennsylvania [a tough state for fathers]. Keep your fly zipped up.’” Harry sighs. “I think it is really unfair there are no rights for the father.”

Katz, who insists that Arnold had agreed from the beginning that she would raise the child on her own, was ordered to pay $350 a month, along with $50 a month in arrears until the child turns 18. His problem with Arnold, however, pales compared to his wrangling with former fiancée Susan Croge. Katz and Croge became engaged in December 1994— approximately two months after he impregnated Arnold. Their impending nuptials were announced to the public by Bykofsky. But within a few months, the relationship was over.

The gory details became public in 1996. Katz, citing more than $500,000 in debt, filed for personal bankruptcy in November 1995. Remarkably, he claimed assets of $150 in cash, roughly the cost of one Katz night out, and $100 in used clothing. In retrospect, he probably didn’t help himself by using Lawrence Mazer, a disbarred lawyer who is now deceased, to prepare his bankruptcy application.

At the time, Katz told Bykofsky and the Daily News, “These are all business and corporate debts, no individuals have been screwed.” That wasn’t exactly the case. Among his creditors were ex-fiancée Susan Croge and Lucinda Roney, who was once operations manager of Katz’s restaurant.

According to court documents, Roney came to work at Hesch’s in March 1987. Soon, they began a sexual relationship. That July, Roney ended their relationship after finding out Katz was sleeping with another employee. Katz, she alleges, continued to proposition her and humiliate her in front of other workers. In August, she was fired. Almost immediately, she filed suit. In December 1994, Judge Russell Nigro entered a judgment against Katz for $65,000 after Katz repeatedly missed legal deadlines to respond to Roney’s complaint.

Croge is part of the Katz bankruptcy because she’s suing him for $50,000 in defamation and damages, a claim that is still pending. She also filed suit to have his bankruptcy request denied so that her claim would not be swept away. That led to the public release of details of their breakup. According to court papers filed by Croge, she claims that in January 1995, “The defendant [Katz], after abusing cocaine and alcohol, grabbed the plaintiff by her hair, squeezed her throat and threatened to ‘blow [her] head off and kill’ her with one of his many guns.” Croge moved out the next day. The brief goes on to claim that Katz began harassing Croge, her friends and relatives, threatening dire consequences if she pursued legal action. Both Katz and Croge sought restraining orders against one another. Katz denies the charges. Bykofsky— riding to the rescue once again— pointed out in his column that his buddy owned nothing more powerful than the BB guns in his kitchen.

After weeks of haggling, it was agreed that Croge, with a police escort, would pick up her belongings on March 24, 1995, just three weeks after Valerie Sheridan’s death. Katz put them on his porch, attaching a ribald addendum to each box: nude photos he had taken of Croge.