November 28, 2012 4:19 PM   Subscribe

According to the Sacramento Bee, Huell Howser is retiring. Best known for his public television show, California's Gold and his boundless enthusiasm, Mr. Howser is "retiring from filming new shows or making appearances."
posted by Guy Smiley (40 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I love the Huell Howser impression on Comedy Bang Bang. It's fuckin' killer.
posted by grubi at 4:23 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

posted by one_bean at 4:35 PM on November 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

This is really sad news. He and all of his shows are fine examples of California's Gold.

I will go feed avocados to a dog to remember.
posted by kendrak at 4:36 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

God I love Huel Howser, I'm sad he's retiring but he leaves behind a massive archive of timeless shows to enjoy.

For some reason finding out he was gay later on made me respect him even more.
posted by mathowie at 4:46 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

That "rumors of an illness can't be confirmed" line from the LA Times is a bit ominous. Be well, dude.

I've always loved how he can go to the most boring place you'd think imaginable, and find some hole-in-the-wall restaurant or museum, and all of a sudden it magically becomes the Best Place in the World, and How Did We Not Know About This Essential Keystone of History?!?
posted by Guy Smiley at 4:54 PM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

His name conjures up such a pleasant feeling within me; his outings were like climbing into an old car driven by your mom's crazy brother and being taken on a trip: destination unknown, but it usually involved a tasty taco and a daft old lady who grew amazing roses. Thanks to Huel I grew to appreciate my birth state as well as the charm of Southern gentlemen. Lovely man, Huel.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:10 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:10 PM on November 28, 2012

But we'll always have Howell Huser, who in the 16th season of The Simpsons (yeah, after it stopped being great so you probably missed it), declared Springfield "THE WORST TOWN EVER", leading to the city legalizing same-sex marriage. (Don't try to understand it, just don't) Wish I could find video of it, just for Howell's entrance when he - literally - falls off a turnip truck.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:11 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Did he sell that crazy volcano house he owns in the desert? The one that was featured in the rap video?

My favorite Huell story comes from a comment on this site. "Why you runnin'?" indeed.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:14 PM on November 28, 2012

I mean, he went to Stockton -- Stockton! -- and found this! ("What is this? She's got 5, 6 heads!")
posted by Guy Smiley at 5:20 PM on November 28, 2012

According to the Sacramento Bee

Sorry for the derail, but anyone know how papers like the Sacramento Bee and Modesto Bee (which I'm coming across online more these days for some reason) got their name? It doesn't have the obvious newspapery connotations of Post, Herald, Times etc. - more like something made by 8 year olds with a carbon copier and cute backwards letters and hand-drawn pictures with a smiley face on Mister Sun.
posted by kersplunk at 5:23 PM on November 28, 2012

Potsmokinghippieoverlord, it looks like he tried to sell the house but ultimately he ended up donating it to Chapman University.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:27 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh my gosh! There's hardly any harmless TV left for me to watch now.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 5:30 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Much like Utah is the Beehive State, I imagine the Sacramento/Modesto/Fresno Bee newspapers mean to suggest a sense of industriousness. (Fun fact, "Scoopy," the papers' mascot, was designed by Walt Disney Studios.)

Heck, that probably could've been its own FPP!
posted by Guy Smiley at 5:32 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

God I love Huel Howser, I'm sad he's retiring but he leaves behind a massive archive of timeless shows to enjoy.

Ha! Mathowie, you led me astray. I had written his name with two "L"s but decided to double-check (I wouldn't want to get his name wrong when I am praising the man) and I changed it to your spelling. I guess I should have checked with the Post Title.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:35 PM on November 28, 2012

Remember, Huell is like Jewell (and Harold). Apparently I'm not allowed to name any progeny after him, though I think that'd be pretty rad.
posted by kendrak at 5:39 PM on November 28, 2012

The Bee stings, Kersplunk. Defender of the downtrodden, deflater of the pompous, etc. It wouldn't have been my first choice for a name. But maybe if I had been sitting around a Sacramento bar during the Gold Rush and trying to think up a name for my new venture, "Bee" might have sounded all right after a few drinks. Bees are productive. You don't want to mess with a bee.

But then the owners had to go and get Walt Disney to design an official mascot during World War II, and the horrible result was Scoopy. It's almost like they wanted to be seen as a Mickey Mouse operation.
posted by Longtime Listener at 5:43 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I saw an episode of "Goin' to California's Golden Corners" (or some such -- he really was going to the geographic points) and he discovered that the official northwest line was wrong, and good lord, did he really put the fear of God unto some hapless Oregonian in a truck: "Looks like you should be payin' taxes to Sacramento!"
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:47 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

"You feel bad for the guys at the Bee, don't you?" /obWestWingQuote
posted by ceribus peribus at 5:51 PM on November 28, 2012

There's hadly a square mile of California where Huell hasn't left a filmed footprint. He always amazed me by trecking into the high Sierras without apprearing breathless, or visiting the lighthouse in Eureka without admitting that he was freezing to death. I became addicted to the shows when I came back to Calif. from New Jersey when the mission series was airing in the Bay Area in the early 90s and have followed it since. State fairs, flower farms, WWII bunkers in San Diego, Catalina, desert hippie settlements, Hanford, Bakersfield, and all those other unappreciated or unnoticied places. He leave an incredible legacy.
posted by path at 5:56 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

That's a-MAY-zing!!!

hyuck hyuck hyuck
posted by mudpuppie at 6:24 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, it's so sad. I love his ability to find something nice to say about every place and every person he encountered. I had a lovely chat with him once when I said hi to him in a Jamba Juice in LA. Leaving TV is bad enough, but hearing he's sick is even worse.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:26 PM on November 28, 2012

*reads thread title, sulks, adds this instead.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:27 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lemme get this straight. What you're saying is...
posted by wherever, whatever at 6:43 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I love the Huell Howser impression on Comedy Bang Bang.

Some audio of James Adomian's hilarious Huell Howser impression on the Comedy Death Ray podcast:

Huell invents racism

With Ice-T

With Jesse Ventura
posted by mediated self at 6:48 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

I love Huell Howser and California's Gold. The way he was equally at ease going anywhere and talking to anyone. For a long time I assumed that some segment of Californians just had Southern drawls, I mean who else could be so unfailingly enthusiastic about every nook and cranny of the place? Granted, I think I was in grade school then.

I do hope that he's not sick.
posted by halonine at 6:53 PM on November 28, 2012

Huell Howser is a major nostalgia point for me- my mother was a huge fan of his, and I remember every time I was visiting her on a Friday she would be watching California Gold. Good memories.
posted by happyroach at 7:20 PM on November 28, 2012

Well, this is the end of an era in California, and one that I am sad to see go.

I met Huell in Big Bear when I was mountain biking with a bunch of friends. He was filming a California's Gold episode and came over to talk to us. He was gracious and funny and a complete gentleman, even when my friend insisted on trying a (cringe-inducing) Huell Howser impression. Strangely, I always imagined meeting Bill Clinton would be a lot like meeting Huell from what everyone said about Clinton, that he made you feel like you were the most important person in the room. Same with Huell.

It's funny, I am typing "Huell" because the first thing he said was , "Call me Huell".

I hope he gets well soon.
posted by roquetuen at 8:15 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I watched his visit to Oasis Camel Dairy. Hilarious. Sorry he's retiring. I wish him well.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:07 PM on November 28, 2012

Aw, man! He always seemed like the nicest guy, I hope the rumors of illness are wrong.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:50 PM on November 28, 2012

I haven't thought about this show in years, not watching much daytime PBS. Still, it inspires the kind of joy of place and moment I still aspire to (and fail miserably at most times). Thanks for reminding me to take an extra few hours--driving down the coast to Pescadero, up to Del Norte, or even walking up a few new streets at home--to appreciate place.
posted by smirkette at 9:52 PM on November 28, 2012

Back in the 1990s, he used to do a show where he would just go out to various neighborhoods around LA and talk to the people he randomly encountered there. (Was it Road Trip? Visiting? Dude's had a lot of shows.) Most of Howser's series are boring in a very sweet, comforting way, they're perfect for days when you're home with the flu. But this show was something else.

He would go out to South Central and walk up to these groups of scary-looking guys. At first they would bristle at the sight of him, but then he'd start shaking hands and saying HA! (That's how he says hi.) Within 30 seconds, it was like they were old pals. The LA riots were still a raw wound, and he was marching into Compton with a mic and his ever-loyal cameraman Louie, showing his audience that the strangers he found there didn't have to stay strangers, that they were worth getting to know, that we were all still neighbors.

Off-camera he can apparently be rather particular and hard-to-know, and he's smarter than you'd guess. The Huell we see on TV isn't all there is to the man, but he puts on that sunny, aw-shucks persona for a reason. He chooses to be that friendly and open to people. He's spent his career introducing us to each other, and being amazed and delighted by who we are and what we do.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:59 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Adomain is hilarious, but Dana Gould has been doing it for a long time on the (now insufferable) Adam Corolla Show.

This one is good, but there is one where they watch him going to a cafe with a painting of Richard Burton that is so goddamn funny I almost drove off the road.
posted by lattiboy at 11:17 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

and his ever-loyal cameraman Louie

Oh God -- Luis! "Hey Luis! Would you look at all those flies? Gosh!"
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:10 AM on November 29, 2012

My favorite one is where he goes into a giant colon

Visiting...With Huell Howser #1107 - COLOSSAL COLON

Seriously, scroll down to 1107 and there is a film clip.
posted by Melsky at 4:07 AM on November 29, 2012

He's kind of a doofus but I went through a phase checking out all the California's Gold videos from the library, many were interesting.
posted by Rash at 8:42 AM on November 29, 2012

I unironically love the whole series of Huell Howser programs. His unbridled enthusiasm for the most mundane topics was infectious. I can't think of anyone else who could keep me completely captivated for a full half hour with show topics as seemingly dull as guitar strings, a guy with a bunch of palm trees in his yard, a horseradish festival, the many uses of pig ears or rehoming a fish who got too big for his tank. Somewhere I think I still have my Broguiere's Dairy commemorative Huell Howser eggnog bottle

Of course, his "Huell-isms" are legendary to the point where he has his own drinking game.

I think my favorite Huell Howser quirk was when he would have any sort of food themed show that took place in a restaurant. Inevitably, Huell would walk up to some random patron, innocently trying to eat a meal, and not only ambush them with an interview, but also would pick up his or her plate and start handling the food.
posted by The Gooch at 9:35 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

There’s a road in the Atlanta area called Hugh Howell that we always call Huell Howser in tribute. Sometimes we forget and call it that in front of others which gets odd looks.
posted by bongo_x at 11:18 AM on November 29, 2012

My favorite episode of any of Huell's shows was one where he was contacted by an older gentlemen who had a weird rock in his yard and wanted to know what it was and could it be from space. Huell takes the man and the rock to JPL and have the scientists check it out. In the process, you get to follow along as the scientists explain their work start to finish in a-MAY-zing detail!

I love that Huell basically has a master key to all of California and an interrupt-level equivalent to that of the President.
posted by quartzcity at 7:10 PM on November 29, 2012

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