When news broke this week that stalwart TV host and West Coast travel icon Huell Howser had died from natural causes, the internet erupted in a flurry of condolences and remembrances of the affable and always friendly star of long-running travelogue series, California Gold.
Howser built his beloved reputation with his down-home, personable interview style and exclamations of “Oh my God!” whenever discovering another quirky detail of his countless California destinations, ranging from a week-long look at his beloved adopted home base of Palm Springs to locally famous restaurants like historic burger joint the Apple Pan on L.A.’s West Side.
For music fans, Howser’s most endearing moment came in 2008, when the host and his California Gold crew dedicated an entire hour-long show to the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, which that year featured performances from such artists as Prince, Kraftwerk, Roger Waters and Deadmau5.
Howser brought his trademark curiosity and Southern charm to the Coachella polo fields, opening the segment with an interview with Paul Tollett, president of concert promotion company Goldenvoice and one of the festival’s founders.
Over the course of the episode, Howser watches acts like Louisville-by-way-of-New York new wavers VHS Or Beta and country star Dwight Yoakam, as well as checking in with the event’s backstage caterer and wandering both the VIP and general camping areas, seemingly as entertained by the panorama of outgoing concertgoers from around the world he interviews as they are of him.
“Night has fallen here at Coachella, and it takes on a whole ‘nother feel,” Howser observes of the scene after sunset, finding his way into the Sahara Tent, which houses most of the electronic and EDM performances. “This is like going to a dance club,” the muscular ex-Marine enthuses.
After pausing to watch electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, Howser ends up atop one of the many art sculptures in the field to watch Prince’s headlining performance, which he calls “the perfect ending to a perfect day.”
“We are deeply saddened by the news of Huell’s passing,” reads a statement from KCET, the public television network that ran California Gold for more than 20 years. “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.”
-Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local