Not to be confused with Howell Huser, whom Howser was the basis of.
This article is about the guest star. For the character, please see Huell Howser (character).

Huell Burnley Howser (October 18, 1945 – January 7, 2013) was an American television personality, actor, voice artist, and comedian, best known for his PBS documentary series California's Gold and as the voice of the Backson in the 2011 Winnie the Pooh film.

On The Simpsons, Howser appeared as himself in "O Brother, Where Bart Thou?", where he hosted Under the Wrapper, a program similar to Food Network's Unwrapped.

On November 27, 2012, Howser retired from making new shows amid speculation in the television community that he was seriously ill.

On January 7, 2013, Howser died at his Palm Springs home, at the age of 67. He had been battling cancer for several years and his death certificate listed metastatic prostate cancer as the cause. Howser's body was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea off the coast of Los Angeles County. The episode "A Test Before Trying," which premiered on January 13, 2013, was dedicated to him and even featured his character.

On January 15, 2013, a memorial was held for Howser, who said before his death that he did not want a funeral as he did not want attention.

Howser's parents were Harold and Jewell Howser.

Early life

Howser was born Huell Burnley Howser in Gallatin, Tennessee on October 18, 1945.[1] He received his first name from a portmanteau of his parents' names Harold and Jewell, as revealed in the California's Gold episode "Smartsville." Howser received a B.A. in history from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he also served as student body president. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and on the staff of Senator Howard Baker, Howser began his television career at WSM-TV in Nashville, Tennessee. He began a series of "human interest" stories for WSM.

After working in New York as the host of WCBS-TV's Real Life show,[2] he moved to Los Angeles in 1981 to work as a reporter for KCBS-TV. During 1982-83, he served as weekend host and correspondent for Entertainment Tonight. In 1985 he joined Los Angeles television station KCET, then a PBS affiliate, as a producer of Videolog, covering short topics including lint artist Slater Barron[3] among other topics relevant to Los Angeles and adjacent communities.


California's Gold

Since 1991, California's Gold highlighted small towns, landmarks, events, or places of interest throughout California which aren't well known to the general public, with Howser conducting informal interviews with the locals. He also produced the shows California's Communities, California's Golden Fairs, Downtown, California's Water, California's Green, California's Golden Coast, California's Golden Parks, Road Trip, Visiting... with Huell Howser, California Missions, Palm Springs, Our Neighborhoods, The Bench, and various specials.

Other work

Articles written by Howser have appeared in Westways, the magazine of the Automobile Club of Southern California.[4]

In 1997, Howser featured prominently as himself alongside Tracey Ullman in character as Ruby Romaine in Tracey Takes On... Hollywood.

Howser at the Nisei Week Grand Parade in Los Angeles, California on August 19, 2007

He spearheaded an unsuccessful effort to save buildings by African-American architect Paul Williams at the Long Beach Naval Station from being demolished.[5]

Howser riding in a tandem IndyCar race car at the 2009 Long Beach Grand Prix

Howser appeared in Who Killed the Electric Car? in his capacity as a reporter, witnessing the demolition and shredding of a Honda EV+.[6]

In 2011, Howser voiced the Backson in the post-credits scene of Walt Disney Animation Studios' 2011 feature film Winnie the Pooh.

Retirement and death

On November 27, 2012, the Sacramento Bee reported that Howser was forced to retire from making new shows, amid speculation in the television community that he was seriously ill.[7]

On January 7, 2013, Howser died in his home at 2:35 AM in Palm Springs, California at age 67, 9 months shy of his 68th birthday. He had been battling cancer for several years and his death certificate listed metastatic prostate cancer as the cause of death when it was at first thought to have been natural causes. Howser's body was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea off the coast of Los Angeles County.[8]

Legacy and influence

In 2011, Howser donated his videotaped collection of California's Gold episodes, as well as those of his other series, to Chapman University. He also donated his personal papers, and a large collection of books on California history to the university.[9] The school established the Huell Howser Archive, which, when completed, will offer the public free access to the entire digitized collection of his life's work. The archive can be accessed at Chapman University, as well as on the Internet. He also gave his extensive art collection, which consists mostly of "found-object" art collected during his travels, to the university, and endowed the California's Gold Scholarship Fund. Upon his death, he bequeathed his remaining two homes to the university, the proceeds from the sale of which will be added to the scholarship fund.[10]

Testimonials to Howser's unique contribution to the celebration of California history and culture immediately were acknowledged in numerous media sources upon word of his death. OC Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano called Howser "the greatest Californian since Hiram Johnson,"[11] noting that for Howser, California was the "ultimate temple of the American dream".[12] Such an assessment reflects the high regard, in which some Californians hold Howser's achievement of a very media savvy and unabashedly enthusiastic promotion of their state's heritage.

In popular culture

Howser's distinctive style as host of his various travel shows led to him being impersonated and lampooned by many different comedians and radio personalities, such as Adam Carolla,[13] Dana Gould, and James Adomian.

Matt Groening has stated that he is a fan of Howser[14] and has featured him in two episodes of The Simpsons: "There's Something About Marrying," where a character named Howell Huser falls off a turnip truck, and "O Brother, Where Bart Thou?," where the real Howser presents a program similar to Marc Summers' Unwrapped television program. Howser received a voice credit for the episode. "A Test Before Trying" marked his death with a quick cartoon memorial shot at the end of the episode, stating: "In Memory of Huell Howser, Friend of the Simpsons and a friend of California."



  1. Template:Citation
  2. Hevesi, Dennis. "Huell Howser, Folksy Public TV Host, Is Dead at 67",. Retrieved on 11 January 2013. 
  3. Sources:
  4. Road Trip with Huell Howser articles in Westways Magazine (outside Southern California: enter zip code 90210 to access articles)
  5. Long Beach Naval Station Falls: Court throws-out celebrity appeal. The Daily Republican (July 7, 1998). Retrieved on January 10, 2013.
  6. Chris Paine. "Who Killed the Electric Car?", Plinyminor / Sony Pictures Classics{{{date}}}. 
  7. Sources:
  8. Sources:
  9. Huell Howser: Highlights from 'California's Gold' online. The Los Angeles Times (January 7, 2013). Retrieved on January 10, 2013.
  10. Sources:
  11. Remembering Huell Howser, Fan of OC Weekly, Lover of OC, Antagonist of OC Republicans. (January 7, 2013). Retrieved on January 10, 2013.
  12. "Remembering Huell, California's great adventurer", Los Angeles Times{{{date}}}. Retrieved on January 8, 2013.  NOTE: quotation is from embedded video at 3m 40s.
  13. April 2, 2008 - Mark Wahlberg and Artie Lange call into the studio; Dana Gould is in the studio. Adam Carolla (April 2, 2008). Archived from the original on 2012-07-07. Retrieved on 2008-05-08.
  14. Lloyd, Robert. "The wonder and awe that make up Huell Howser", Los Angeles Times,. 

External links

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