Capt. Phil Harris: More great stories from, about him

Yesterday, we spoke with Deadliest Catch executive producer Thom Beers, who told us when Capt. Phil Harris awoke from the medically-induced coma he was placed in after his Jan. 29 stroke, the skipper wanted the cameras to keep filming: They needed a great finish to the story. Harris, who died Feb. 9 at the age of 53, always knew how to tell a good tale. When EW’s Clark Collis spoke with him in 2007, he explained how he got his start in fishing: “I bulls—ted my way on a boat, and I told them I’d work for nothing for however long it took to be able to do this. I got on and I worked for two, three months for nothing and then a guy got hurt and I turned around and made like $130,000 and life was good. I was 17.” What did he do with the money?, Clark asked. “You want the honest answer? I bought a car, I bought a house, and I bought a couple of hookers.”

In that same 2007 interview, Harris was asked when he would retire. “The longer you do this, the more chances your number’s gonna come up. Most of the guys I started with have either died or got hurt or got out of it,” he said. “Maybe four, five years.” Many fans will wonder why he returned to his captain’s chair after a blood clot traveled through his heart and settled on one of his lungs in 2008 — a condition that did force him to call in a relief skipper for the Cornelia Marie. Beers admits he asked the question. “We’re sitting there behind the scenes going ‘Phil, is it really time for you to go back out there again?’ It’s not up to us. It’s up to you and your doctor.’ We were concerned. It wasn’t that he was resigned to what he was doing, he just said, ‘This is what I do. I can accept that.’ He was a man that felt that he was on a path, and it was the right path, and nobody could really take that away from him. He died doing what he loved, and that’s important.”

Harris’ 2008 illness leads into Beers’ all-time favorite story about Capt. Phil: A high school friend had sent Beers an email about various things, one of which was her worry over Phil’s health. She asked how Harris was doing. “So I forwarded it to Phil in an email and said ‘Phil, how you doing?’ He called me and said ‘I’m not real big on that email thing, but give me her number. I’ll call her,” Beers says. “Instead of taking two seconds to write, ‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ he spent a half an hour on the phone with her explaining his whole medical condition. That’s the kind of generous soul the guy was. He was extraordinarily generous with his time and his energy.”

He was often that unpredictable. Beers, who also produced Monster Garage, recalls another favorite story: He’d loaned Harris, Time Bandit Capt. Johnathan Hillstrand, and a few other guys his tricked-out 1996 Chevy Impala Super Sport while they were visiting Los Angeles... “I see them one night. They come over and pick it up. We have dinner at my house. And then I don’t see them. About four days later, I get a call from Johnathan. Again, I’m in Los Angeles. He says, ‘Can you do us a favor? We got to leave town in a hurry. We left the car. Can you get somebody to pick it up?’ I go, ‘Yeah. Okay. No problem. Where is it?’ He goes, ‘Uh, Las Vegas.’ I’m like, ‘What? What do you mean Las Vegas?’ ‘Yeah, we had to leave town in a hurry.’ I didn’t even ask. That’s the kind of guys these guys are. I love these guys. They’re just rough and tumble. Not great table manners, but I’ll tell you what, they’ll tell you a story, they’ll live hard and they’ll play hard and they’ll take the risks, and God, you gotta look up to that. So many people spend their lives in complacency. These guys, man, there’s nothing complacent about them. And Phil certainly shows us that.”

Discovery will air a Deadliest Catch marathon this Saturday, starting at noon ET. Season 6, which Harris was shooting at the time of his passing, premieres in April.

Read More:
Capt. Phil Harris told Deadliest Catch cameras to keep filming in hospital: ‘We need a great finish to this story’
Remembering Deadliest Catch Captain Phil Harris

Photo credit: Blair Bunting/Getty Images

Comments (61 total) Add your comment
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  • pamela

    I think this is a wonderful story!! Capt. Phil was awesome and I know he is looking down on his boat and family and friends.

  • Ray Spoors

    Can’t believe this wonderful guy is gone. I’ve written a song about the Deadliest Catch fishermen and would like to dedicate it to the memory of Phil once it’s properly recorded.Deepest condolences to Jake and Josh.Do your dad proud!

    • Tommy

      I wrote a haiku about what a worthless piece of animal-killing excrement this man was. Good riddance.

      • pdy

        Hey Tommy, where’s your compassion for a man who lived his life the way he saw fit? He only made his living catching crabs just to put food on the table for his family and who are you to judge him for what he’s done? At least he made an honest living.

      • Elizabeth

        There’s a nice warm seat in hell for you tommy… guess you showed all of Phil’s fans, coming in here and slamming him on a message board. Now theres some real substance…

      • MC

        You stay classy, Tommy

  • daisyj

    Mike Rowe did a great tribute to him on his blog:

  • Tommy

    Who the hell cares? The guy killed innocent living creatures for kicks, thrills and to eat. KARMA is a bee-yotch. I hope his kids don’t follow on the murderous footsteps of his dad…UGH

    • chris love

      you are a worthless peace of $hit the Hell do yo live with yourself?????????

    • Dede

      Last I checked humans are omnivores. We are naturally designed to eat both plants and animals. I don’t feel guilty about eating meat.

    • Jan

      Do you hold funerals for the fruits and vegetables you eat Tommy??? Are your shoes of man made fibers only? Class act Tommy!

    • lj

      U are a MORON dude!!

  • Tommy

    How could this guy live with himself, after killing all those animals??? He is the one who had to face karma up close, and he got his. The Eumenides always get their man…

    • Ree

      you’re an ass!

    • Jenn

      Judge not….Tommy. Karma also catches up to those who judge. Watch your back man.

      • amanda


    • ks

      Hate Much Tommy?

  • Letty

    RIP Phil!!! Loved watching you and your sons on the show.


    That was a sad day i my home…

  • smitty

    the comment from tommy is the reason this world is in the type of shape it is in. People eat fish and I get so tired of these types who think we must save everything. There is no place for this guy to make a stupid ass comment like the one he made. He is the type of person who can say whatever he wants online but put him in a room full of people and he is not noticed, or the guy who can’t get the girl beuase he has no substance physically or mentally. He the guy who fights for womens rights but yet does not respect a womens right to make a decision. GOOD LUCK LITTLE MAN, sincerely from a man

  • Tommy

    smitty, you are probably a killer too. Karma will get you, just like it got Mr PhilKILLERHarris

    • jersey

      Wow Tommy, you must be a horribly lonely bitter soul. No wonder you’re so cranky. Go hug a tree and let people remember Phil Harris the way they want to.

    • JZumJ

      Hey, Tommy. Die hippie.

    • pissed

      hey tommy did you jesus caught fish and ate them -ar eyou goin to bad mouth your creater -oh thats rite freaks like you dont believe in god just themselves – hmm better watch out for that spider man dont wanna step on you mama do you

    • Jan

      Tommy, grow up, or go away! You contribute nothing of any use to this forum. Your verbal excrement is thoughtless and pointless. When yu have a valid and worthwhile opinion, post it, until the s.t.f.u!

  • Danielle

    Let him rest in peace. He did what he knew, and didn’t apologize. He was a loving father and it appears, a hell of a man.

  • trystan

    Tommy’s probably one of those judgemental jerks from PETA…people have the right to do as they please. A man died and a family lost their father, husband, friend. Have some respect.

    • Tommy

      Cranky? Me? I’m actually happy a killer got his karma on…

      • Jan

        Tommy, get a life, get a job, something other than showing everyone here what a class act you are, please!

  • patti

    To Phil’s Family, my condolences, He was truly my favorite one on the show,no bs with him at all, remember ……CELEBRATE his life, remember all the funny stories and pranks, Im sure he would want that.

  • Diane Marie

    This is about a man who lost his life doing what he knew and loved. I have great respect for him and will miss him. My sympathies to his family and friends.

  • Janet Crawford

    I was shocked when i read he passed. He as my favorite Captain on “Deadliest Catch” I am sure he will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by evryone. To his family whom I am sure are still morning his passing; it gets better every day the pain of your loss will get better. Just remember what a teriffic person he was.

  • Pat & Steve Stickley

    What a great man Phil was will miss him greatly. Prayers to the boys, what memories they have. God Bless.

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