Huell Howser, host of public TV show "California's Gold," died in his home Sunday evening.
Howser, who was 67, was a beloved TV personality who explored and showcased California's history, traditions and communities. He had several California-centric shows throughout his decades-long career, but is best known for "California's Gold," produced at KCET studios in Los Angeles, Calif.
A spokesperson from KCET confirmed to The Huffington Post that Huell died of natural causes, and that his death caught many at the studio by surprise. KCET nightly news show SoCal Connected plans to honor Howser with a special segment during Monday's broadcast (on at 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. PST). The studio will also create a site for fans to share memories of Howser. To stay informed about the online memorial, check out kcet.org.
Episodes of Howser's show "California's Gold" are slow-paced and meandering, punctuated by his folksy Southern accent (he was a Tennessee native) and genuine enthusiasm. Filmed with just a single cameraman, Howser emphasized simplicity during the post-production process. Long stretches of "California's Gold" are single takes, often capturing Howser moving from one interview subject to another in real time.
See Huell Howser in action! In this 2008 episode, he goes avocado picking with a dog. Story continues below.
His frequently-used catchphrase, "That's amazing!" reveals his unabashed love for even the smallest topics and towns, like these episodes about Japanese American home movies or an unofficial RV town called Slab City. He also featured Golden State success stories like See's Candy company or the California Institute of Technology.
While he's best known in California for his Golden State travel show, Howser is also a national figure. LAist notes that Howser once played himself in a 2009 episode of "The Simpsons."
Howser was a Marine Corps Veteran who moved to Los Angeles in 1981. He started as a reporter at KCBS-TV and in 1987 went on to produce "Videolog," a series of shorts about California that would eventually transform into "California's Gold." More, from his website:
A native of Tennessee, Huell began his television career at WSM-TV in Nashville after receiving his B.A. degree from the University of Tennessee, serving on the staff of a United States Senator and a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Howser later joined WCBS-TV in New York City as host of a magazine-style series. He then came to Los Angeles in 1981 to work as a reporter for KCBS-TV. Huell joined public television station KCET/Los Angeles in 1987 to produce "Videolog," a series of short programs featuring the stories of people from all walks of life. This series captured the imagination of viewers and led directly to an expanded format which covered people and places throughout the state.
Howser retired abruptly from his show Nov. 2012. Rumors of a serious illness accompanied the news, which was announced without a press release and without comment from him.
His retirement seemed sudden, but Howser may have been preparing for a change for several years. In 2011, he donated all of his "California's Gold" tapes to Chapman University in Orange, Calif. to be digitized. He also gave 1,800 books about California to the university's library and funded several school scholarships, notes the campus newspaper. His final gift to the school: the "Volcano House," a 60-acre space-age home located in the desert between LA and Las Vegas, Nev. Howser gifted the retreat to the university May 2012 after initially listing the property for $750,000.
UPDATE: While Huell Howser leaves behind out-of-state relatives, he didn't have any direct next of kin. The closest thing Howser had to the concept was Chapman University, said producer and friend Ryan Morris to The Huffington Post.
Morris declined to elaborate on the illness Howser had, except to say it lasted for two to three years. Morris also shared that Howser had spent the past six months at home, resting.
Earlier, Morris clarified to the LA Weekly that Howser actually died overnight, early Monday morning. Howser's death in Palm Springs, Calif. was reported to the Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner's office at about 2:35 a.m. Monday, reports LA Weekly.
Howser's fans have responded to his death with disbelief, grief and happy memories about episodes of "California's Gold." In a statement, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa noted that Tennesse-born Huell loved California "more than most natives." His statement, in full:
I'm saddened to hear of the death of my friend Huell Howser, a Los Angeles treasure and California icon.
Although he was originally from Tennessee, Huell loved California more than most natives. His long-running television program, California's Gold, shared with audiences the best our state has to offer. Huell would travel anywhere to show viewers the beauty and variety of the Golden State, from its most famous landmarks to the least known sights. And his boundless enthusiasm and curiosity was infectious, making us all see these places with the same amazement he did.
His death is a loss that will be felt throughout Los Angeles and California. He will be greatly missed.
KCET also released a statement remembering Howser:
We are deeply saddened by the news of Huell's passing. This is a tremendous personal and professional loss to his friends and colleagues, as well as his legions of fans. Huell elevated the simple joys and undiscovered nuggets of living in our great state. He made the magnificence and power of nature seem accessible by bringing it into our living rooms. Most importantly, he reminded us to find the magic and wonderment in our lives every day. Huell was able to brilliantly capture the wonder in obscurity. From pastrami sandwiches and artwork woven from lint to the exoticism of cactus gardens and the splendor of Yosemite -- he brought us the magic, the humor and poignancy of our region. We will miss him very much.
Related on HuffPost:
Visiting With Huell Howser The Whistling DIva and the Wizard of Bras
"Visiting" with Huell Howser in Monrovia, CA. Featuring Carole Anne Kaufman - World Champion Whistler with cameo appearance by her mom, the true Wizard of Bras, Bonnie Kaufman. Here is the full episode with much edutainment about whistling and more. Enjoy and let us know what you think. www.whistlingdiva.com www.wizardofbras.com Thank you Huell.
A tribute to Huell Howser of California's Gold
RIP Huell Howser (1945 - 2013) A tribute to the man who could make anything interesting. This is a random assortment of some of my favorite moments from California's Gold. Credit to KCET for the footage.
Huell Howser announces California's Gold Scholarship
www.huellhowserarcive.com Huell Howser discusses the California's Gold Scholarship he established at Chapman University in Orange, CA, during a rooftop event at his beloved El Royale in Los Angeles. He talks about the importance of a legacy that will live on "after everyone who has ever seen 'California's Gold' is gone..." For more Huell Howser videos and episodes of "California's Gold," go to huellhowserarchive.com
Huell Howser visiting the APPLE PAN PT 1
Part one of Huell Howser frrom his show "Visiting..." goes to the Apple Pan in West Los Angeles, first in 1992, then again in 2009. www.applepan.com 10801 W Pico Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90064-2105 (310) 475-3585
Huell Howser: Lord of the Flies
Huell Howser, Lord of the Flies. "California's Gold" host Huell Howser makes an update visit to Mono Lake. As usual, he gets distracted. LOL
Huell Howser Videolog "Elephant Man" (original segment)
In 1988, Huell attended a touching reunion between Charlie Franks, an 80-year-old elephant trainer, and Nita, the elephant he had raised from a baby of five years. When Charlie retired in the early 1970s after traveling the world with his beloved performing elephant, he donated her to the San Diego Wild Animal Park, and hadn't seen her for 15 years. Charlie passed away shortly after the segment. Nita died in 2009 at the age of 60. The video remains as a tribute.
Huell Howser Visits Old Town Temecula
Huell Howser Visits Old Town Temecula, CA
I love Huell Howser
But sometimes the things that he says cracks me up.
Huell Howser @ the Golden Gate Bridge
Huell Howser at the Golden Gate Bridge
Yosemite Firefall with Huell Howser Pt. 1
A California's Gold Classic. Enjoy. This is from an old video tape. If you want a clean copy on DVD, order it from calgold.com.
Best Huell Howser Quote
Huell stands on a field of horse manure.
Los Angeles Flower Market Tour with Johnny Mellano (Part 1 of 2)
Johnny Mellano and Huell Howser of the TV Show "California's Gold" tour the Los Angeles Flower Market mid 1990s.
California's Gold #12002 "RAIN BIRD"
Huell explores the history of Rain Bird, a sprinkler manufacturer with a remarkable history beginning with a Glendora citrus farmer named Orton Englehart who invented the first impact sprinklers in the 1930s. Rain Bird also demonstrates their latest in sprinkler technology.
Huell Howser-Champion Turf Saddle Equipment Manufacturers-How Saddles are Made
Watch Huell Howser visiting one of the only manufacturers of western saddles which are still made in the USA. See how saddles are made, the fine craftsmanship and expertise involved in producing the finest line of US horse saddles and tack in the country at Champion Turf Equipment in Los Angeles California.
Visiting...With Huell Howser #1817 - GLENDORA CASTLE
Huell has produced thousands of shows over the last 25 years and there have been many fan favorites. One of the all time greats has to be the old Videolog, "Rubel's Castle". Michael Rubel took Huell on the grand tour of his hand made home and charmed us all. Michael has since passed away and the Castle is now managed by the Glendora Historical Society with the help of Michael's nephew Scott. Huell gets an update tour of this iconic location. www.glendorahistoricalsociety.org
Huell Howser's New Job
Adam Carolla and Dana Gould discuss the antics of popular television show host Huell Howser and suggest a more fitting career. (Audio from the Adam Carolla podcast.) Be sure to hit the "like" button if this made you laugh... even if it was just a little!
Visiting...With Huell Howser #1902 - PANORAMA UPDATE
Huell starts this update with clips from the original episode, then Huell heads to the new home of the Panorama and meets up with Sara to see what has changed and what you can expect if you choose to visit.
Huell Howser's California Green Episode #134 (May 2010) - Part 1
Huell Howser investigates innovative and creative ways Californians are solving environmental challenges. Howser visits Gills Onions, which is not only the largest onion processing plant in California but also the greenest. Each day they convert over 150 tons of onion peel and juice waste to power fuel cells on site that provide enough power to run the lights and refrigeration.
Water Innovations - Stretching our Water Needs
Huell Howser tours the Delta for a first hand look at some innovative water projects. Projects that are expanding wetlands to not only improve water volume for farm and residential use, but also to improve wildlife habitat. Huell also visits a project that turns farm waste-water into valuable irrigation water and high-tech advances in gauging root moisture that literally saves tons of water.
Road Trip With Huell Howser #149 - FERNDALE
Join Huell and step back in time as he takes a Road Trip to Ferndale - an entire town that officially holds the distinction of being California Historic Landmark #883! Among the many stops Huell sees some of the beautiful Victorian architecture, gets some refreshment at the westernmost bar in the continental USA, visits a historic pharmacy, a Gingerbread Mansion and meets all the wonderful people who live in the community. After the Road Trip is over stay tuned for a bonus visit to Clendenen's Cider Works in Fortuna - home to some of the best fresh squeezed apple cider in the state!