Huell Howser, longtime host of the public television show California's Gold, has died, our sister publication OC Weekly reports.
Howser retired from broadcasting unexpectedly last year. He produced the show at facilities at L.A. station KCET.
According to OC Weekly …
The news will come as a shock to his legions of fans, all who were puzzled when Howser announced his retirement late last year …
His show was a folksy look behind the scenes at some of the icons of the California landscape, from farms to beaches, hot dog stands to museums.
The beloved personality died at the age of 67.
[Added at 12:55 p.m.]: KPCC (89.3 FM) also confirmed Howser's passing and published this brief bio snippet from his own website:
Huell Howser moved to Los Angeles in 1981 from his home state of Tennessee to become a reporter for KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, he had no idea he'd fall in love…with California. His enthusiasm for his new home inspired the idea for the television series that started it all, California's Gold. Huell had a simple idea: if he traveled the state with an open heart and an open mind, a microphone and a camera, he would uncover a treasure of California stories.
We spoke to Howser last year and one thing that stood out from our conversation was his pride over having produced California's Gold himself. He raised his own funds from viewers (and, apparently, some underwriters) for the endeavor, he told us.
[Update at 1:17 p.m.]: KCET director of communications Ariel Carpenter told LA Weekly that Howser died of natural causes
last night overnight.
She said the KCET “SoCal Connected” would honor Howswer with a segment tonight (at 5:30 p.m., with a rebroadcast at 10 p.m.).
Past episodes of California's Gold would be continue to be broadcast on KCET, Carpenter said.
The station invited viewers to post about him on its site.
[Update at 2:30 p.m.]: Ryan Morris, a producer for Howser, a friend, and a spokesperson for the family, told us he died early this morning at his home.
He said a caretaker told him of Howser's passing.
An official at the Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner's office told the Weekly Hauser's death of natural causes in the Palm Springs area was reported to them about 2:35 a.m. today.
KCET, meanwhile, issued a statement, sent to the Weekly and other outlets, this afternoon:
We are deeply saddened by the news of Huell's passing. This is a tremendous personal and professional loss to his friends and colleagues, as well as his legions of fans. Huell 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. Huell was able to brilliantly capture the wonder in obscurity. From pastrami sandwiches and artwork woven from lint to the exoticism of cactus gardens and the splendor of Yosemite–he brought us the magic, the humor and poignancy of our region. We will miss him very much.
[Added at 3:12 p.m.]: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sent this statement to the Weekly and other outlets:
I'm saddened to hear of the death of my friend Huell Howser, a Los Angeles treasure and California icon.
Although he was originally from Tennessee, Huell loved California more than most natives. His long-running television program, California's Gold, shared with audiences the best our state has to offer. Huell would travel anywhere to show viewers the beauty and variety of the Golden State, from its most famous landmarks to the least known sights. And his boundless enthusiasm and curiosity was infectious, making us all see these places with the same amazement he did.
His death is a loss that will be felt throughout Los Angeles and California. He will be greatly missed.
L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge sent us this statement:
A great Californian left us today. Huell Howser was my friend for over three decades, and no one knew this state better. He had a great ability to find fresh faces in old places, and he paid tremendous attention to our incredible California infrastructure. Huell was an advocate for good.
I remember introducing him to Charlie Turner, the honorary mayor of Griffith Park, back when Huell was working at KNXT (now KCBS) on human interest stories. I remember seeing him at Musso and Frank's. But I most remember the day in 2001 when Huell swore me in as a new Councilmember.
Just last night, I was watching Huell's segment on a lighthouse in Del Norte County, which he described with incredible joy. No one can replicate that amazing enthusiasm. We've really lost the mother lode of California gold.
[Added at 3:23 p.m.]: KCET this afternoon issued some details about its “dedication” to Howser's memory on “SoCal Connected” tonight (at 5:30 p.m. with a repeat at 10 p.m.):
Tonight, SoCal Connected will air a special dedication in memory of Huell Howser (67), longtime host of KCET's California's Gold as well as Visiting with Huell Howser, California's Golden Parks and California's Green. For nearly three decades, Howser shone light on some of California's most interesting and notable landmarks, events and destinations, from the celebrated to the obscure.
Special guests, the station says, will include:
Al Jerome, President and CEO, KCET
Mary Mazur, COO, KCET
Phil Noyes, Producer, Huell Howser Productions
Louis Fuerte, Cameraman, Huell Howser Productions
DJ Walde, Los Angeles historian, author and SoCal Connected contributor