Huell Howser and Palm Springs
Huell Burnley Howser was born October 18, 1945, the son of Harold and Jewell Howser. He is best known as an American television personality, actor, voice artist, and comedian. His best known work was his PBS documentary series,California’s Gold, and as the voice of Backson in the Winnie the Pooh film. His name is often confused for Howell Huser, who is a tourist and undercover TV personality in Springfield on The Simpsons. There, he appeared on the episode “O Brother, Where Bart Thou?” in which the character hosted a show that was comically similar to his Food Network show,Unwrapped.
He later retired from his career after suffering from prostate cancer for several years. He died on January 7, 2013 in Palm Springs, California of cancer at the age of 67. That same month, an episode called “A Test before Trying” premiered to honor his death and featured his character in remembrance of him.
He was born in Gallatin, Tennessee and was named after a combination of his parents’ names, Harold and Jewell, which was shown on the California’s Gold episode “Smartsville.” He attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and served as student body president while attending. He received a B.A. in history and served in the US Marine Corps and on the staff of Senator Howard Backer. He didn’t begin his TV career until he started working at WSM-TV in Nashville, Tennessee, which is known as the heart of the country music scene. There, he made a human interest series that contained stories.
Afterwards, he worked in New York as the host of WCBS-TV’s Real Life show. He got a job as a reporter for KCBS-TV in 1981 and moved to Los Angeles. In the coming years, he became a weekend host and correspondent for Entertainment Tonight. In 1985, he was on board the Los Angeles TV station KCET, which was a PBS affiliate back them and was a producer of Videolog. The covered topics that included things that were important to the Los Angeles area and those neighboring it. Huell was a pretty busy guy with all these opportunities that later came his way. He ended up working two decades on public television stations.
In Howser’s career, he is best known for the personality he bought to his work. In California’s Gold, he took a very magazine-style approach. It was clear, simple, and casual. He hosted many programs from “Visiting with Huell Howser” to “Road Trip with Huell Howser” to name a few. His style was welcoming and personal during his interviews at various restaurants, schools, and other community places he visited.
According to an LA Times columnist named Howard Rosenberg, his style was “magnificently un-slick.”
With all respect to Howard, polished interviews and sophistication wasn’t what Howser was really aiming for. In fact, in a post on CalGold.com (Huell Howser Productions website), he wrote, "We operate on the premise that TV isn’t brain surgery. People’s stories are what it’s all about…If you have a good story, it doesn’t have to be overproduced. I want our stories to reveal the wonders of the human spirit and the richness of life in California, including its history, people, culture, and natural wonders."
Nor does it seem that the KCET station in Southern California was aiming for refined entertainment, stating on their website about Howser that he "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."
This speaks wonders about the legacy of Howser as an everyday man turned entertainer. His personality really matched with his California’s Gold program, which highlighted small towns, landmarks, events, and similar places of interest. In a way, it served as a sharing of a common human connection that seems that for his whole career he was trying to deliver with enthusiasm. Other shows he produced along the same thread include California’s Communities, California’s Golden Fairs, Downtown, California’s Water, California’s Green, California’s Golden Coast, California’s Golden Parks, California Missions, Palm Springs, Our Neighborhoods, and The Bench.(And yes, if you’re wondering, there are actually more than these.)
Huell Howser hosted the Palm Springs series from 2001 to 2010 for 34 total episodes. In the show, he toured famous resort destinations in Palm Springs. Later, in 2012, the Sacramento Bee reported that Howser was retiring from making new shows. Many speculated in the community that he was sick. Nine months before his 67th birthday, he died after battling prostate cancer for two years. He spend the last two months of his life in his home in Palm Springs. Initially,it was thought that his death was due to natural causes, but after examination, it was discovered that Howser’s death was caused by metastatic prostate cancer. His body was cremated thereafter, and his ashes were scattered in a sea near Los Angeles County.
Palm Springs Walk of Stars
Out of the names in the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, containing more than 300 stars among its rank, there is missing one. A fan of Huell Howser named Kay Adkins noticed this and made an account in his honor to try to get the personality’s name in the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. Adkins explains that "Palm Springs is the only single geographic area he focused on. He loved this area that much." This can be seen in his enthusiasm and focus on the area and even in his spending his final days in the area. Right now, the account to get his name included in the Palm Springs Walk of Stars is still up and running for those who believe in the tribute to Huell Howser’s legacy(http://www.gofundme.com/HuellHowser
Howser left a lot behind for all of us. He left an enthusiastic celebration of Californian history and the culture. OC Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano noted that, for Howser, California was the "ultimate temple of the American dream." Besides being great at entertaining people, he was unashamed of his enthusiasm for the state’s history.