Tuesday, January 08, 2013

California's Gold Huell Howser, A Rarity, Passes Away on Sunday

One of a kind, and that's no cliche, Huelle Howser, who passed away on Sunday in Palm Springs, was, believe it or not, one reason why I value TV. I never felt I was wasting my time.  With Howser,  you could either be walking through the redwoods, exploring a famous mansion, watching a restoration expert keep an old player piano in operation.

TV is like a magazine store.  You can find plenty to enjoy and value.  You can wallow in rubbish, if that's your thing.

Howser and a camera man hit the road up and down the state, stopped to walk country lanes, gardens, museums, old buildings and bridges. To gawk over the Golden Gate Bridge, be awed by the Watts Towers, view people on family farms working harvest, enjoy Jack London's Valley of the Moon retreat in the wine country.  And always being filled with pleasure, every step of the way.    He talked to average people making a living in factories or restaurants.  He was awe-shucks all over the map.  But something rang true about this native Tennessean, who served in the Marine Corp, and then landed jobs as a news reporter for TV stations in NY then LA.

Twenty five years ago, he started producing his California Gold series.  Here are some images of recent shows (all of them reruns) which I snapped off my TV.

Howser challenged us to slow down, examine a blade of grass, listen for the sound of hot water bubbling just under the sand on a beach. He challenged us to savor the moment, to learn and appreciate. In his own way, he was an authentic self-created television genius.

He also took on serious topics, on one show, extended to a full hour, running home movies taken during the Japanese internment camps of World War II -- movies taken by the Japenese internees themselves. Here are some snippets.

From its inception, television offered friendship. That has always been, I believe, its most enduing draw. Huell Howser came across as a genuine friend, keen to share, ready to find another sunset, another rainbow of flowers to share and admire.  He was all about mostly the simple things, which in the end, are what life is really all about.


Arlee Bird said...

Huell Howser was one of the best on TV. His shows never cease to entertain and inform me. I've made several treks based on shows I've watched. And having moved to CA from TN in 1991, I was so pleased to tune in to hear a Tennessee accent from a California TV personality.

He'll be missed.

Tossing It Out

Showbiz David said...

An example of his great talent: He went to Cuba and talked to people, and with just himself and a camera man, I had never felt so intimately connected to the place, like I had been there myself.

I think his genius was to keep that space between himself and the viewer free of so many editing and technological forces that could have drained the life out of the authentic immediacy he offered us.