Huell Howser

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Huell Howser
Howser at the Nisei Week Grand Parade in Los Angeles, California, 2007
Huell Burnley Howser

(1945-10-18)October 18, 1945
DiedJanuary 7, 2013(2013-01-07) (aged 67)
Resting placeAshes scattered off the coast of Los Angeles County, California
Alma materUniversity of Tennessee
Occupation(s)Television personality, actor, producer, writer, singer, voice artist
Years active1985–2012

Huell Burnley Howser (October 18, 1945 – January 7, 2013) was an American television personality, actor, producer, writer, singer, and voice artist, best known for hosting, producing, and writing California's Gold and his human interest show Visiting... with Huell Howser, produced by KCET in Los Angeles for California PBS stations. The archive of his video chronicles offers an enhanced understanding of the history, culture, and people of California. He also voiced the Backson in Winnie the Pooh (2011).

Early life[edit]

Howser was born in Gallatin, Tennessee, on October 18, 1945, to Harold Chamberlain and Jewell Havens (Burnley) Howser.[1] Howser's first name is a portmanteau of his parents' given names, Harold and Jewell, as Howser explained in the California's Gold episode "Smartsville."

Howser graduated from the University School of Nashville in 1963, then studied history and political science at the University of Tennessee, where he served as student body president.[2]


After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and on the staff of U.S. Senator Howard Baker, Howser began his television career at WSMV-TV in Nashville, Tennessee, where he produced shows focused on human interest stories, such as Happy Features[3] and The Happy World of Huell Howser.[4] Howser was also a television personality working for the University of Tennessee.[5]

After working in New York City as the host of WCBS-TV's Real Life show,[6] Howser moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1981 to work as a reporter for KCBS-TV. During 1982 and 1983, he served as weekend host and correspondent for Entertainment Tonight. In 1983, he joined KCET (then a PBS affiliate) as host and producer of Videolog, a series of brief human-interest segments running less than 10 minutes each, that aired in between the station's shorter programs to fill up air time. "Videolog" eventually became one of the more popular programs on KCET, and in 1990, the show was expanded to half hour-long episodes.[7] Included in Videolog was lint artist Slater Barron[8] among other topics relevant to Los Angeles and adjacent communities.

California's Gold[edit]

In 1991, after spending his vacation driving across the Golden State and visiting with all 13 PBS stations in California, California's Gold premiered in April of that year.[9] 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 locals involved with the sites he visited. He also produced 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.

Visiting... with Huell Howser[edit]

Visiting... with Huell Howser was a weekly PBS series hosted by Howser that originally aired from 1991 until his retirement in 2012 that focused on "the diverse people, places, and events that make southern California such a unique community." As of 2020, KCET, and other Southern California PBS continue to rerun this popular series. Episodes can be viewed on demand on the Chapman University, and PBS affiliates' websites.[10][11][12][13]

Other work[edit]

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

Articles written by Howser appeared in Westways, the magazine of the Automobile Club of Southern California.[14]

In 1997, he featured prominently as himself alongside Tracey Ullman in character as Ruby Romaine in the Tracey Takes On... episode "Hollywood."[citation needed]

Howser spearheaded an unsuccessful effort to stop the demolition of buildings designed by Paul Williams at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard.[15]

He appeared in Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006) in his capacity as a reporter, witnessing the demolition and shredding of a Honda EV Plus.[16]

In 2011, Howser voiced the Backson in the post-credits scene of Walt Disney Animation Studios' feature film Winnie the Pooh.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Howser lived in the historic El Royale apartments in Los Angeles, California, in an apartment which had previously been home to character actor William Frawley.[18] Howser also had homes in Palm Springs and Twentynine Palms.[19]

On June 29, 2015, Howser's Twentynine Palms home became available for rentals and weddings.[20]

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

Volcano House[edit]

In 2003, Howser purchased the 1,800-square-foot (170 m2) Volcano House, situated on a volcanic cinder cone just outside Barstow in Newberry Springs, along with 60 acres (24 ha) of desert and a man-made lake.[21] In 2010, Howser put the unusual residence on the market for $650,000.[22]

In June 2012, The Panther, a student-run newspaper for Chapman University, announced that Howser had donated the Volcano House to the school.[23] On September 3, 2015, Chapman University sold the Volcano House for $750,000.[24]

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.[25]

On January 7, 2013, Howser died at his Palm Springs home, at the age of 67. He had been battling cancer for several years and his death certificate listed metastatic prostate cancer as the cause. Howser's body was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea off the coast of Los Angeles County.[26]

On January 15, 2013, a memorial was held for Howser, who said before his death that he did not want a funeral as he did not want attention.[27]


Howser's image on a Broguiere's Montebello Dairy bottle[28]

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.[29] The school established the Huell Howser Archives, which, when completed, will offer the public free access to the entire digitized collection of his life's work. The archives 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.[30]

Testimonials to Howser's unique contribution to the celebration of California history and culture were acknowledged in numerous media sources upon word of his death. Gustavo Arellano, then-editor of the OC Weekly, called Howser "the greatest Californian since Hiram Johnson,"[31] noting that for Howser, "California was the ultimate temple of the American dream."[32] Such an assessment reflects the high regard in which many Californians hold Howser's achievement of a very media-savvy and unabashedly enthusiastic promotion of their state's heritage.

In 2015, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[33]

In popular culture[edit]

Howser's enthusiastic style as host of his various travel shows led to him being impersonated and lampooned by comedians and radio personalities, such as Adam Carolla,[34] Dana Gould, Ralph Garman, and James Adomian.[35]

Matt Groening has stated he is a fan of Howser[36] and featured him in two episodes of The Simpsons: "There's Something About Marrying," in which a character named Howell Huser (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) 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 titled Under the Wrapper. Howser received a voice credit for the episode. The Simpsons episode "A Test Before Trying" commemorated 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."


Year Title Role
1998 Tracey Takes On... Himself Episode "Hollywood"
2006 Who Killed the Electric Car? Reporter
2009 The Simpsons Himself Voice
Episode "O Brother, Where Bart Thou?"
2011 Winnie the Pooh The Backson Voice


  1. ^ Braxton, Greg (January 7, 2013). "Huell Howser dies at 67; TV host profiled California people and places". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ Khatchatourian, Maane (December 2, 2014). "Huell Howser Documentary: 12 Things We Learned". KCET.
  3. ^ Dorman, Lee (2009). Images of America: Nashville Broadcasting. Arcadia Publishing. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-7385-6829-4.
  4. ^ William-Ross, Lindsay (15 January 2013). "Vintage Video: 1973's 'The Happy World of Huell Howser'". LAist. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2013. Episode aired February 23, 1973
  5. ^ FILMS, VFL (27 April 2015). "THE TENNESSEE VAULTS: ALOHA, TENNESSEE". Retrieved 18 June 2018 – via Vimeo.
  6. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (11 January 2013). "Huell Howser, Folksy Public TV Host, Is Dead at 67". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  7. ^ Trinidad, Elson (10 September 2014). "October 1983 - Huell Howser's 'Videolog' Debuts". Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  8. ^ Sources:
  9. ^ Trinidad, Elson (10 September 2014). "October 1983 - Huell Howser's 'Videolog' Debuts". Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  10. ^ "Visiting... with Huell Howser". IMDb.
  11. ^ "Visiting with Huell Howser". KOCE-TV.
  12. ^ "Visiting with Huell Howser". KCET.
  13. ^ "Visiting – Huell Howser". Chapman University. 10 November 2017.
  14. ^ Road Trip with Huell Howser articles Archived 2005-03-17 at the Wayback Machine in Westways Magazine (outside Southern California: enter zip code 90210 to access articles)
  15. ^ Williams, Amy (July 7, 1998). "Long Beach Naval Station Falls: Court throws-out celebrity appeal". The Daily Republican. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  16. ^ Chris Paine (2006). "Who Killed the Electric Car?". Plinyminor / Sony Pictures Classics.
  17. ^ " Winnie the Pooh". Disney Movies. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  18. ^ Purdum, Todd S. (14 August 2001). "An Everyman in Search of the Extraordinary (That is to Say, the Everyday)". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Sources:
  20. ^ Barrgan, Bianca (29 June 2015). "Huell Howser's Desert Dream Home is Now Available for Rentals and Weddings". Curbed Los Angeles. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  21. ^ McNatt, C. (November 9, 2013). "Out of this world". Orange County Register. pp. Home & Garden 1, 3.
  22. ^ "The Volcano House – 50451 Silver Valley Rd., Newberry Springs, CA 92365 – Listing # 09-401249". 2010-04-01. Archived from the original on 3 February 2016. Retrieved 2011-12-20.
  23. ^ Oliver, Elizabeth (May 7, 2012). "The Panther – Huell Howser donates volcano house to Chapman". The Panther. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  24. ^ Kudler, Adrian Glick (September 3, 2015). "Huell Howser's Volcano-Top Saucer House in the Mojave Desert is For Sale and It's Mindblowingly Amazing". Curbed.
  25. ^ Sources:
  26. ^ Sources:
  27. ^ Mackie, Drew (January 15, 2013). "Los Angeles Bids Farewell to Huell Howser at Griffith Observatory". KCET. Retrieved 2014-10-21.
  28. ^ "Learn More – Broguiere's Farm Fresh Dairy".
  29. ^ Day, Patrick Kevin (January 7, 2013). "Huell Howser: Highlights from 'California's Gold' online". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  30. ^ Sources:
  31. ^ Arellano, Gustavo (January 7, 2013), Remembering Huell Howser, Fan of OC Weekly, Lover of OC, Antagonist of OC Republicans,, archived from the original on October 21, 2014, retrieved January 10, 2013
  32. ^ "Remembering Huell, California's great adventurer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 8, 2013. NOTE: quotation is from embedded video at 3m 40s.
  33. ^ "Huell Howser honored on Palm Springs Walk of Stars". KESQ-TV. October 19, 2015. Retrieved April 16, 2022.
  34. ^ "April 2, 2008 - Mark Walberg and Artie Lange call into the studio; Dana Gould is in the studio". Adam Carolla. April 2, 2008. Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
  35. ^ "California's Lost Gold with HUELL HOWSER: Ep. 1 Whittier Backyard Farms" on YouTube
  36. ^ Lloyd, Robert (26 July 2009). "The wonder and awe that make up Huell Howser". Los Angeles Times.

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