I’ve been in awe of Huell Howser since I first started watching his “Videolog” shows on KCET way back when dinosaurs like Payphoneasaurus and Eveningnewspaperus Rex still roamed the earth.
In other words: a LONG time ago.
Not only was I immediately impressed with the infectious, manchild-like enthusiasm and energy he brought to exploring so many obscure aspects of his adopted state, but also the waltz of his Tennessee twang not often heard on airwaves on this side of the country –Â as well as the massive biceps he would display that ever-threatened to bust the seams of the short-sleeved shirts he wore.
And despite how things changed, for the next 35 years, Huell remained Huell, always there with a microphone at the end of one of his massive arms, and always ready to be sincerely amazed by things that might not really be all that amazing.
As chance would have it I got to meet and shake Howser’s hand and express my gratitude. Susan and I had opted one weekend morning back in, like, 2005 or so, to go to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, that runs the length of Ivar between Sunset and Hollywood boulevards. After wandering around and buying veggies and stuff, we went to the food area to get something to eat. I forget what we ended up getting, but as soon as we sat down to dig in, there he was, larger than life, walking amongst the tables headed in our direction.
“Huell Howser!” I called out and stood up. And he smiled that big grin of his. He drew closer and I stuck my hand out. “I love everything you do, sir!” was the best I could come up with as he grabbed my hand and shook it with a bit of a humble shrug.
Without a moment more passing he brought that energy of his to bear and asked us if we’d tried the food at one of the nearby booths. We told him we had not.
“Oh you really should,” he said followed, of course, by: “It’s amazing!”
And he was past us and heading onward through the crowd.
I sat back down and looked at Susan. “Huell fucking Howser!” was all I said. In amazement.
When Howser announced his retirement a short while ago I went into mourning a bit at the realization there’d be nothing new from him to see on television. I read of the speculation that his abrupt departure might have been necessitated by illness, but I ignored that because it was tough enough processing a Huell-less TV landscape, much less a California without him.
So when I heard the news yesterday afternoon from my mom, I continued on with my day, my first reaction being one of denial in hoping my mom was wrong. But inwardly I knew she wasn’t. And a shortwhile later when I checked online, I knew there was no escaping that I’d lost one of my favorite television personalities and California had lost its tour guide.
I take solace in knowing he’ll live forever in reruns, this one being one of my absolute favorites: