Huell Howser

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Huell Howser
Huell Howser Nisei Week Grand Parade 2007.jpg
Howser at the Nisei Week Grand Parade in Los Angeles, California on August 19, 2007
Born Huell Burnley Howser
(1945-10-18)October 18, 1945
Gallatin, Tennessee, U.S.
Died January 7, 2013(2013-01-07) (aged 67)
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Prostate cancer
Resting place
Coast of Los Angeles County
Other names Huell Burnley Howser
Alma mater University of Tennessee
Occupation Television personality, actor, voice artist, comedian
Years active Early 1980s–2012
Signature Huell Howser signature.jpg
Website
www.calgold.com

Huell Burnley Howser (October 18, 1945 – January 7, 2013) was an American television personality, actor, voice artist, and comedian, best known for hosting California's Gold, his travel show based in Los Angeles at KCET for California PBS stations. The archive of his video chronicles offers an enhanced understanding of the history, culture, and people of California.

Early life[edit]

Howser was born Huell Burnley Howser in Gallatin, Tennessee on October 18, 1945.[1] Howser received his first name from a portmanteau of his parents' names Harold and Jewell, as revealed in the California's Gold episode "Smartsville." He received a B.A. in history from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he also served as student body president.

Career[edit]

After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and on the staff of U.S. Senator Howard Baker, Howser began his television career at WSM-TV in Nashville, Tennessee, where he produced television series focused on "human interest" stories, such as Happy Features[2] and The Happy World of Huell Howser.[3]

After working in New York as the host of WCBS-TV's "Real Life" show,[4] Howser moved to Los Angeles, California in 1981 to work as a reporter for KCBS-TV. During 1982–83, he served as weekend host and correspondent for Entertainment Tonight. In 1985 he joined Los Angeles television station KCET, then a PBS affiliate, as a producer of Videolog, covering short topics including lint artist Slater Barron[5] among other topics relevant to Los Angeles and adjacent communities.

California's Gold[edit]

Howser's image on a milk bottle

Howser's television show California's Gold highlights small towns, landmarks, events, or places of interest throughout California that are not well known to the general public. Howser conducted informal, often impromptu interviews with the locals. He also produced the shows California's Communities, California's Golden Fairs, Downtown, California's Water, California's Green, California's Golden Coast, California's Golden Parks, Road Trip, Visiting... with Huell Howser, California Missions, Palm Springs, Our Neighborhoods, The Bench, and various specials.

Other work[edit]

Articles written by Howser have appeared in Westways, the magazine of the Automobile Club of Southern California.[6]

In 1997, Howser featured prominently as himself alongside Tracey Ullman in character as Ruby Romaine in the Tracey Takes On... episode, "Hollywood".

Howser spearheaded an unsuccessful effort to save from demolition buildings designed by African-American architect Paul Williams at the Long Beach Naval Station.[7]

He appeared in the film Who Killed the Electric Car? in his capacity as a reporter, witnessing the demolition and shredding of a Honda EV+.[8]

In 2011, Howser voiced the Backson in the post-credits scene of Walt Disney Animation Studios's 2011 feature film Winnie the Pooh.

Howser riding in a tandem IndyCar race car at the 2009 Long Beach Grand Prix

Personal life[edit]

Howser lived in the historic El Royale apartments in Los Angeles, California and also had homes in Palm Springs, and Twentynine Palms.[9]

Howser mentioned that he was a Methodist during his episode covering the Nevada County Fair on California's Golden Fairs.

Volcano House[edit]

Howser purchased the 1,800-square-foot (170 m2) Volcano House, situated on a volcanic cone just outside of Barstow, along with 60 acres (24 ha) of desert and a man-made lake, in 2003.[10] In 2010, Howser put his unusual Newberry Springs, California, residence (the "Volcano House," 34°51′05″N 116°33′25″W / 34.851354°N 116.557045°W / 34.851354; -116.557045) on the market for $750,000.[11] In June 2012, The Panther, a student-run newspaper for Chapman University announced that Howser had donated the Volcano House to the school.[12]

Retirement and death[edit]

On November 27, 2012, the Sacramento Bee reported that Howser was retiring from making new shows, amid speculation in the television community that he was seriously ill.[13]

On January 7, 2013, Howser died at the age of 67 at his Palm Springs home. He had been battling cancer for several years and his death certificate listed metastatic prostate cancer as the cause of death. Howser's body was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea off the coast of Los Angeles County.[14]

On January 15, 2013, a memorial was held for Howser, who claimed before his death that he did not want a funeral.

Legacy[edit]

Howser donated his videotaped collection of California's Gold episodes, as well as those of his other series, to Chapman University in 2011. He also donated his personal papers, and a large collection of books on California history to the university.[15] The school established the Huell Howser Archive, which, when completed, will offer the public free access to the entire digitized collection of his life's work. The archive can be accessed at Chapman University as well as on the internet. He also gave his extensive art collection, which consists mostly of 'found-object' art collected during his travels, to the university, and endowed the California's Gold Scholarship Fund. Upon his death he bequeathed his remaining two homes to the university, the proceeds from the sale of which will be added to the scholarship fund.[16]

Testimonials to Howser's unique contribution to the celebration of California history and culture immediately were acknowledged in numerous media sources upon word of his death. Gustavo Arellano, OC Weekly editor, called Howser "the greatest Californian since Hiram Johnson,"[17] noting that for Howser, "California was the ultimate temple of the American dream."[18] Such an assessment reflects the high regard in which some Californians hold Howser's achievement of a very media savvy and unabashedly enthusiastic promotion of their state's heritage.

In popular culture[edit]

Howser's distinctive enthusiastic style as host of his various travel shows led to him being impersonated and lampooned by many different comedians and radio personalities, such as Adam Carolla,[19] Dana Gould, and James Adomian.

Matt Groening has stated he is a fan of Howser,[20] and he featured Howser in two episodes of The Simpsons: "There's Something About Marrying," in which a character named Howell Huser falls off a turnip truck, and "O Brother, Where Bart Thou?," in which the real Howser presents a program similar to Marc Summers' Unwrapped television program. Howser received a voice credit for the episode. The Simpsons episode "A Test Before Trying" marked his death with a quick cartoon memorial shot at the end of the episode, stating: "In Memory of Huell Howser, Friend of the Simpsons and a friend of California."

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role
2011 Winnie the Pooh Backson Voice[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Braxton, Greg (January 7, 2013). "Huell Howser dies at 67; TV host profiled California people and places". Los Angeles Times 
  2. ^ Dorman, Lee (2009). Images of America: Nashville Broadcasting. Arcadia Publishing. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-7385-6829-4. 
  3. ^ William-Ross, Lindsay (15 January 2013). "Vintage Video: 1973's 'The Happy World of Huell Howser'". LAist.com. LAist. Retrieved 9 April 2013.  Episode aired February 23, 1973
  4. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (11 January 2013). "Huell Howser, Folksy Public TV Host, Is Dead at 67". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 January 2013. 
  5. ^ Sources:
  6. ^ Road Trip with Huell Howser articles in Westways Magazine (outside Southern California: enter zip code 90210 to access articles)
  7. ^ Williams, Amy (July 7, 1998). "Long Beach Naval Station Falls: Court throws-out celebrity appeal". DailyRepublican.com. The Daily Republican. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  8. ^ Chris Paine (2006). "Who Killed the Electric Car?". Plinyminor / Sony Pictures Classics. 
  9. ^ Sources:
  10. ^ McNatt, C. (November 9, 2013). "Out of this world". The Orange County Register. pp. Home & Garden 1, 3. 
  11. ^ "The Volcano House – 50451 Silver Valley Rd., Newberry Springs, CA 92365 – Listing # 09-401249". 2010-04-01. Retrieved 2011-12-20. 
  12. ^ Oliver, Elizabeth (May 7, 2012). "The Panther – Huell Howser donates volcano house to Chapman". ThePantherOnline.com. The Panther. Retrieved 2012-07-14. 
  13. ^ Sources:
  14. ^ Sources:
  15. ^ Day, Patrick Kevin (January 7, 2013). "Huell Howser: Highlights from 'California's Gold' online". LATimes.com. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  16. ^ Sources:
  17. ^ Arellano, Gustavo (January 7, 2013). "Remembering Huell Howser, Fan of OC Weekly, Lover of OC, Antagonist of OC Republicans". OCWeekly.com. Retrieved January 10, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Remembering Huell, California's great adventurer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 8, 2013.  NOTE: quotation is from embedded video at 3m 40s.
  19. ^ "April 2, 2008 - Mark Walberg and Artie Lange call into the studio; Dana Gould is in the studio". Adam Carolla. April 2, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  20. ^ Lloyd, Robert (26 July 2009). "The wonder and awe that make up Huell Howser". Los Angeles Times. 
  21. ^ Disney.com Winnie the Pooh

External links[edit]