Saturday, January 12, 2013

Huell Howser - California Dreamin'

Huell Howser gives some background on the Hollywood sign.

When I first moved to California eight years ago I was fortunate, while channel surfing on TV, to stumble across a program called California's Gold. What drew me in at first was the subject. The episode that happened to be airing was about the El Camino Real roadside bells that run along California's first "super highway" connecting all 21 Missions up and down the state. What kept me watching the show was the host, Huell Howser. Huell was so enthusiastic, so congenial, and stood out from hosts on more commercial travel related programs because of his folksy charm.

I made a point to see when Huell's show would air on TV again. Whenever I would find that California's Gold was on TV I would have to sit through the show, even if I came in part way through. Huell visited so many great California places and interviewed so many interesting Californians. Some of my favorite episodes included a tour of the See's Candy factory, an episode on the long running Los Angeles restaurant, the Apple Pan, and an episode where Huell tours downtown Los Angeles. I never saw an episode I didn't like.

So, like many Californians, I was saddened to hear earlier this week that Huell Howser had passed away at the age of 67. He seemed like such a nice guy who was really interested in and proud of his adopted state. Huell wasn't originally from California, he moved here from Tennessee. Like me, he was a transplant who had a California dream.

One of the things that stood out to me right away about Huell was his accent. He had a very southern sounding accent that clearly didn't sound like someone from California. He never lost his Tennessee twang. I heard on the radio station 89.3 KPCC that one of the only things Huell "bristled" at was when asked about his accent.

Huell said, "People say we find it interesting that a guy with an accent like yours is hosting a program about California. I ask them, 'Well what kind of an accent should the host of a program about California have!?' Because California always has been and always will be made up of people who come here from all over the world with all sorts of accents in search of the California dream."

Huell Howser learns the In-N-Out secret menu.

Above is a video of an excerpt from one of my favorite episodes where Huell Howser visits the the Baldwin Park location of In-N-Out Burger, the birthplace of one of California's most iconic restaurant chains. Most Californians know that there are numerous items you can order that don't appear on the In-N-Out menu, there is a "secret menu," and in this segment Huell Howser learns about some of the items a knowledgeable customer can order.

Do you have any favorite episodes of California's Gold or of some Huell Howser's other programs?

RIP Huell!


Unknown said...

Awesome! I have the California dream too. Someday I'll be there. May he RIP and he's right anyone can be from California.

Laura said...

Loved your tribute, Robby, and linked to it in this week's roundup. I was so very sorry about Huell's passing. You mention some of my favorite episodes, including See's and In-N-Out; I also loved the Norconian Resort (seen in movies like THEIR OWN DESIRE) and the Yosemite Firefall, plus Mono Lake which I have been to many times. I loved Huell's sense of wonder and what struck me as an appreciation of life, in general.

Best wishes,

Robby Cress said...

Hi Laura,

Thanks for linking to my post. I haven't seen that episode on the Norconian Resort. I'll have to see if I can view it online! Howser just made so many great episodes there will always be plenty to go back and enjoy.


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