HARRY AND “FLORENT”
From his humble beginnings in rural upstate New York to the whirlwind downtown Manhattan scene of the 1980s-1990s, Eriksen was habitually a misfit dedicated to an uncompromising personal vision. After graduating SUNY Potsdam with a BA, 20-year-old Harry Eddy changed his last name and fled to New York City to escape the dysfunction, poverty and homophobia of his complicated family life. Like many young people who move to the city, Eriksen hoped to find a mirror for his difference. Simultaneously, he began to develop his singularity as an artist.
Eriksen met Florent Morellet upon his arrival from France in 1978—as Morellet puts it, “right after I got off the boat.” The two developed an immediate, fierce bond of friendship, and when Restaurant Florent opened in 1985 in New York’s decidedly untrendy Meatpacking District, it only seemed natural that Eriksen became its right-hand man. Restaurant Florent was pointedly unpretentious; renowned for its embrace of weirdo, freak and A-list celebrity alike. A safe haven for a queer community devastated by the AIDS crisis, its humanism inspired a kind of cultish dedication in both its patrons and its staff.
Eriksen’s stalwart presence at the restaurant was punctuated by flashes of an outrageous creativity that buoyed Restaurant Florent’s persona as much as it did Eriksen’s own. As the restaurant’s anchor, he orchestrated a complex system of scheduling, ordering and staff-mothering that started every day at the crack of dawn. The restaurant’s holiday celebrations, on the other hand, catalyzed Eriksen’s creativity in manic bursts. He’d spend countless hours hand-making decorations, always at the door in an on-theme homemade costume: a Dadaist sculpture, a white-trash housewife, a sexy ear of corn. In spite of—or perhaps due to—the rigor of his day job, Eriksen continued to stoke the flame of a vast inner life every day after work.
After Restaurant Florent closed in 2008, Eriksen seemed unmoored. His last known collage is dated shortly after in 2010. Eriksen eventually retreated to a one-room cabin in Argyle on a small lake, near where he was raised. He spent the last decade of his life in relative isolation—keeping up only a few local connections. At the expense of fitting in, Harry was unapologetically “Harry” up until the very end. Even a few months before he died, his shockingly blond hair and tangle of necklaces still made him a fascination at the grocery store.
Eriksen was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the late summer of 2018. Instead of pursuing treatment at the initial signs of his disease, he continued to live freely. He returned to the city once more to spend the last of his days in the care of his best friend, Florent. Eriksen’s indomitable will was evident through the end, as he continued to entertain and hold court with friends from his “restaurant family.”