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California TV Icon Huell Howser Dies at 67; He Visited Several Nearby Cities

The "California's Gold" television host died in Palm Springs of natural causes.

Click on the map above to learn about Howser's visit to that community (credit: KCET).

Longtime Southern California television host Huell Howser, who used his folksy interviewing style to introduce viewers to little-known Golden State locales and residents, died Monday at age 67.

Howser, a native Tennessean with a twang to match, died in Palm Springs at 2:35 a.m. of natural causes, according to the Riverside County coroner's office. Howser's spokesman, Ryan Morris, told City News Service that Howser died at his home following a long illness.

Some of Howser's visits: Davis and Winters

Morris, who declined to give details on Howser's illness, said there would be no public or private services.

"He was very against any sort of tribute or funeral," Morris said, adding that Howser would joke, "We all have to die."

He declined to list survivors, saying Howser's family requested privacy.

Howser, who retired from KCET in November, was best known for hosting the series California's Gold, which ran for 19 years on PBS stations, including KCET in Southern California.

"We are deeply saddened by the news of Huell's passing," according to a statement by KCET President/CEO Al Jerome. "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. ... 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."

Howser, often lampooned for his accent and wide-eyed wonder at roadside attractions, became so well-known while hosting California's Gold that his character was incorporated into two episodes of The Simpsons.

Howser started his television career at WSM in Nashville after working for U.S. Sen. Howard Baker and serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. The University of Tennessee graduate whose unusual first name is a combination of his parents' -- Harold and Jewell -- became a well-known television personality in Nashville for his human interest stories.

He later hosted a magazine-style series at WCBS in New York City before moving to Los Angeles in 1981 to work for KCBS-TV. He later served a stint as a weekend Entertainment Tonight host (1982-83) and eventually joined KCET in 1985.

At KCET, he started Videolog, short programs featuring people's unique stories. The series later became California's Gold.

Howser quietly retired late last year, amid rumors of failing health. Morris told the Los Angeles Times in November that Howser would stop filming new shows, saying he "is just trying to get away from television and enjoy some free time."

Morris told City News Service that Howser donated his work to Chapman University in Orange. He donated episodes of California's Gold and all his other public television shows to Chapman in 2011 so they can be digitized, put on the Internet and "made available free to a worldwide online audience," according to Chapman's website.

Howser, who had lived in the El Royale Apartments in Los Angeles, also once owned an unusual Newberry Springs home known as "The Volcano House."

The KCET show SoCal Connected plans to air special segment on Howser at 5:30 p.m. Monday, then again at 10 p.m.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called Howswer "a Los Angeles treasure and California icon."

"Although he was originally from Tennessee, Huell loved California more than most natives," the mayor said. "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," Villaraigosa said. "His death is a loss that will be felt throughout Los Angeles and California.  He will be greatly missed."

City Councilman Tom LaBonge also hailed Howser, saying the state had "lost a great one."

"Noboby comes near Huell in his love of people, his love of California, his love of a manhole cover, a street light, an art deco building," according to LaBonge, who was sworn into office by Howser in 2001.

"... If he ran for governor, there would be never another election," LaBonge added.

- City News Service

Bil Paul January 08, 2013 at 10:38 PM
He was one of a kind. A bit corny and "gee-whiz," but I would keep watching. I think he was born with a microphone in his hand.
Lloyd H watnee III January 09, 2013 at 02:44 AM
I will miss him greatly and will have to find my own travel destinations with out his advice and that is truely sad. Take care huell and I will keep looking for california gold because it is "that amazing".
Adam January 09, 2013 at 04:48 PM
I'm really sad that Huell has passed. He was the only famous person I really wanted to meet. I always thought it would be awesome to be at some random spot in CA and see him walking with a camera. I wanted to walk up and be just as excited about what ever was in frount of us as he was. Rest in Peace Huell :)
Marcy van der Linden January 09, 2013 at 07:36 PM
First of all sorry to the Howser family for their loss. I'm really shocked, my husband and I liked watching Huell on his different shows that he did throughout California. The very last show that we watched of his, was when he went to see California's Old Faithful Geyser, in Calistoga. He waited quite some time for that geyser to go off. It was funny as he talked to the lady who ran the park and many others to pass the time. It went off once and it was a little one, then the big one happened and Huell's face lit up like a kid in a candy store. He said " "Wow now look at that". Gonna miss that guy and the different words he used to describe things. Rest in Peace Huell....
Harold Edwards January 11, 2013 at 11:15 AM
R.i.p.Huell,he was like California's very own Gomer Pyle.His TV show will live on for a long time to come. His California Gold was always a pleasure to watch.
David Simpson June 17, 2013 at 05:44 PM
I'm a 3rd generation Californian and I hardly knew of a third of the places Huell visited and took us along. Thank you Huell! Thanks to you and your curiosity generations will learn about our Golden State! David Simpson - Elk Grove

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