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RIP Huell Howser, California's True Gold

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HUELL HOWSER
Jacob Soboroff

Huell Howser, the California public television broadcasting legend, was my idol in all things television. Huell died today, according to various reports.

Ask anyone in Southern California if they know who Huell Howser is, and the answer will be yes. Either because they had played the drinking game created in his honor or made Huell appointment viewing.

Huell was ubiquitous -- on TV any time you turned it on. His gregarious, charming and funny (whether he knew it or not) persona makes him the original nerd in my book -- before being a nerd was cool.

Huell's influence was felt well beyond Los Angeles. His image may have been on milk bottles here, but viewers of the Simpsons got to know him as Howell Huser.

My career as I know it started with this random encounter with Huell at Los Angeles State Historic Park. I approached him while in the middle of a shoot, and he didn't stop filming -- he incorporated me into his show! 

Huell and I became buddies after this moment, which landed me a gig at LA Observed. We'd meet for coffee (see photo below) and occasionally talk shop on the phone. I even helped him and his dedicated team set up his Twitter account.

Whether you got to meet and spend time with him, like I did, or you just saw Huell on TV, you felt like you knew him and his Tennessee drawl personally. His show featured epic long shots with very little editing, of Huell at some of California's greatest and least-known landmarks. It felt like you were eating with him at Phillippe's or just talking a walk with him downtown.

Huell will live on forever in TV land and at Chapman University, where he recently donated his life's work. But today is a sad day for me, for Los Angelenos, and anyone who had ever heard Huell say "that's ah-MAY-zing" or "WOW!"

Rest in peace, Huell.

Huell and Jacob



UPDATE: Tonight on HuffPost Live I spoke with LA Observed editor and publisher Kevin Roderick and host and creator of KPCC's Off-Ramp John Raabe about Huell's life and legacy. Watch below.