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20 Fascinating People: Northern Express

TC’s Charlie Chaplin

It all started at age 14 with prodding from his dad.

Harold Kranick was 14 years old and on a family vacation in Venice when his father pointed out a street performers playing Charlie Chaplin. Kranick could do that, his dad told him.

“I was like, No way, no way am I going to do that. … I have to have a permit to be out there,” said Kranick, “And he said, No, you don’t. Just go out and do it.”

Kranick put together a costume and practiced Chaplin moves in front of a mirror. A few months later, Kranick showed up on Front Street during the Traverse City Film Festival and became Chaplin.

“I went out there, and I just stood outside of the State Theatre for a little bit, and then I’d just go on, and then word got out that there’s this kid hanging out, dressed like Charlie Chaplin,” Kranick said.

Fest officials, including Michael Moore, noticed Kranick’s performance and encouraged him to come back.

Ten years later, Kranick has performed as Chaplin at every Traverse City Film Festival since, and he’s got his own dressing room at the State. He’s appeared on Larry King Live, been featured in the Detroit Free Press, and this year his story went national via the Associated Press.

Kranick has found a life-long passion.

“Until the year I can’t do it anymore, I will be out there every single year,” he said.

Today, Kranick earns his living as a radio DJ — he hosts a classic rock show from 7pm-Midnight on the Fox FM (which he pre-records) — and he works at his dad’s insurance company. He’s also involved with the Old Town Playhouse and will direct a production of Annie this fall.

But the highlight each year comes when he performs Chaplin at the film festival. He poses for selfies with fans in front of the theater and rubs elbows with celebrities. Two years ago Kranick got to meet Chaplin’s daughter at the Opera House. She came up to Kranick and placed her hands on his face. Kranick won her approval.

“I’m still speechless about it,” he said. “The first things she said was, ‘Papa. I’ve missed you so much.’ I was like, ‘Holy cow.’ It was just heartwarming.” —PS

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