Huell Howser with his camera interviews Marleni Salgado. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles…)
Re "Folksy television host," Obituary, Jan. 8
Huell Howser was no hick with a microphone. I knew him for more than 30 years, and believe me, what we saw on TV was only part of him.
Yes, the exuberance was sincere. He was extremely bright and complex, however, with an edge to his thinking that never surfaced on the screen. He had strong opinions about many things, including historic preservation — that was his passion. And also media.
Privately, he was savagely critical of contemporary media, especially local TV news, which he felt, rightly, observed Los Angeles almost exclusively through a distorted prism of street violence and celebrities. To him, the true celebrities were the ordinary people he profiled, and he showed his viewers how special they were. With each telling, it seemed like he had dug up a patch of earth we walked on every day and showed us the teeming life just beneath the surface.
The writer is a former Times television critic.
Howser may not have realized it, but he too was part of "California's Gold."
Sixteen years ago, I moved here with my parents from Pennsylvania with not the faintest idea of what California had to offer apart from movie making, the Golden Gate Bridge and Disneyland. Enter Huell Howser.
His love for California was obvious, whether he was highlighting the majesty of Yosemite, the secrets hidden in the Mojave Desert or the cultural experience of Los Angeles. It doesn't matter if you're a native Californian or a transplant like myself — Howser had a way of making you fall in love with California all over again.
He will be missed.
During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, I saw Howser on PBS. He had only a sound guy and cameraman on Hollywood Boulevard in front of Sears. He walked right up to the entrance as looters swarmed and asked, "Whatcha doin' that for?" They were stuck for an answer.
He had the biggest backbone in the city, making all the rest look hollow. For this alone, he has my undying respect.
With Howser's premature passing, all of us who revel in the nooks, crannies and charms of California have lost a true friend. I had the pleasure of working with him on a program he did about Silver Lake Reservoir several years ago, and his friendliness, enthusiasm and professionalism were matchless.
Howser was a joy to talk to and watch. We are all going to miss him.
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