Sometimes when you’re wondering, “where on earth am I going to pluck the next subject of a Funny Names Blog post?”, one falls from the heavens into your lap. Or in this case, from the library. And technically not in my lap, but you catch my drift, surely.
Oh yes, last night the Wife brought home a DVD series called California’s Water. It’s about water in California. But more importantly, it’s hosted by highly enthusiastic personality Huell Burnley Howser. I was impressed with Huell from the first moment he appeared on screen, yelping something like “Look at the size of that dam! Exactly how big is that dam, Jim?”, and here I am writing about him.
Huell Howser was born in Gallatin, Tennessee in 1945 to parents Jewell and Harold Howser. The sharper ones among you might have realized his unusual first name is actually a mix of his parents’ first names, a method of naming children I find highly agreeable. Huell went on to serve in the Marine Corps but his eventual career started when he returned to Tennessee and began to host human interest stories for the local network, in shows like “The Happy World of Huell Howser”.
Indeed, he seems incredibly happy on screen, blurting out questions and exclamations to his interviewees in a style so folksy and enthusiastic it is irresistible. Others have found him a delight as well, including Simpsons creator Matt Groening, who included a character called Howell Huser in an episode of the show, seen falling off a turnip truck. Howser later voiced a character himself, completing the circle (or is it just a triangle? – may just be a straight line really. But that’s not important right now.)
For a great example of just how great a guide into “things I didn’t know” Huell was, watch this clip of him in the woods with an avocado-eatin’ dog.
Huell Howser was best known for his California’s Gold travel show, highlighting little-known small towns or landmarks around the state, but he also produced tons of documentaries for state public television on things like water, the state’s parks and other themes.
Howser died early this year of a long illness, and donated most of his possessions, including two houses to Chapman University. The school is in turn creating an archive of Huell Howser’s work. If you want to learn a whole lot of things you never knew before alongside a very excited guide, take a trip over there. It’ll be great.