Huell in the Antelope Valley amongst California Poppies (source: Cameron Tucker)
I am utterly gutted to hear that Huell Howser has passed away.
I heard the news as I was writing about my exploration of Irvine for this blog, and simultaneously planning on exploring the route of the Expo Line Phase II tomorrow. If it weren’t for Huell, I may not have had the idea of doing either. (When I was approached about working for KCET, one of the names I proposed was California's Fools Gold, a self-deprecating homage -- they went with Block By Block instead). I’m sure he inspired a lot of other people to go on adventures in their back yards too (this page has a map showing the communities he visited). Even though I never had the pleasure of meeting him, I will miss him terribly.
Huell canoeing on Mono Lake (source: Cameron Tucker)
At the amazing Gourmet Cobbler Factory in Pasadena -- in the San Gabriel Valley (image: KCET)
It's impossible to know how many adventures Huell Howser inspired. I suspect that he's one of John Rabe's biggest heroes. (Check out Rabe’s episode with him here). I loved his earnestness, enthusiasm, unpretentiousness, boundless sense of adventure, energy, and intelligence. Despite the fact that Angelenos are constantly told that we are obsessed with celebrity, glamour, fame and fortune; Howser showed thankfully little interest in any of that. He even seemed to hint at a healthy disgust with politicians and ambivalence for authority.
Instead he championed the everyday, the immigrant, the ignored, the uncelebrated and in doing so showed what really makes California truly special.