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.

SOMEHOW, DESPITE ALL of his well-documented troubles with women, Harry Jay Katz never seems to lack for a date. His house is filled with friends, new and old. To most of them, he is just an old softy who calls his mother every day and is a victim of his insatiable need for attention. “I have called Harry my bad-weather friend,” says Ron Pennock, who has known Katz since 1970. “I could depend on Harry being by my side more than any person I know. He’s always at a funeral consoling a family.”

The bad-boy image, whether sought or not, has obscured Katz’s generosity. The grease monkeys from his favorite gas station often come over and use the pool. During his Hesch’s days, he comped many a meal. One day, while I’m at Katz’s house, a man nicknamed Chap calls to see if Katz has any yardwork for him. While Katz goes to freshen his vodka, Chap tells me how Katz employed him at Hesch’s and paid for his drug rehab.

To his son, David Bar Katz, Dad’s life is performance art. “He’s an entertainer on a social level,” says David. “He has his shtick, the way he interacts with people. You always hear these ridiculous Harry Jay Katz stories, but people want to spend time with him.”

Frank Stallone, a dear friend of Harry’s, thinks Katz is a victim of changing times. “When Harry was coming up, Philadelphia was a more exciting and thriving town,” says Stallone. “He’s kept the same exuberance, but his friends have settled down, and the city has become a lot less interesting than it was in the Rizzo days.”

Stallone is right that Philadelphia isn’t the towel-snapping place it once was. But the country’s attitude toward women has evolved. Almost everyone has adapted. Except Harry. To him, there’s a simple explanation for why women continue to find him attractive: old-fashioned chivalry. “The best ticket is to be honest and be a gentleman,” advises Katz. “I stand when a lady’s in the room. I open car doors. I light cigarettes. I don’t let them buy me a drink. I think looking them in the eye and not lying to them really works.”

“He comes off very charming,” says Paulette Fallon, a 1995 Penthouse centerfold who was pursued by Katz. “You open up to him, he gets you to a certain point, and he finds a very vulnerable spot where you’re needy, gets a finger in there. Soon, he has his whole self in there. He uses you, and then you owe him.”

Like Croge, Fallon claims cocaine abuse is at the root of Katz’s problems. She says he has a black shaving kit in which he keeps his stash. Another ex-girlfriend claims to have witnessed Katz doing a line at 10:30 in the morning. Katz swears he’s only done cocaine once in the past year. “It would kill me,” he says. “I have a bad heart, I’ve been treated for hypertension. Vodka is my drug of choice.” Later, he clarifies a bit. “People have done cocaine in my house. People have had cocaine delivered here, but I don’t do it.”

Katz doesn’t seem surprised by his ex-girlfriends’ venom. “When I stop dating someone, I stop dating someone,” says Katz. “When I’m done, I’m done. I don’t think it is possible [to be friends]. You show me a heterosexual male who’s friendly with an attractive heterosexual female.”

He pauses and arches his eyebrows.

“Or a bisexual female.”