KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at kcet.org/50.
I don't go to many events, but once in a while something strikes me as important enough to try to change that. Huell Howser's Videolog Reunion felt like one of those occasions. He spent the better part of the '80s documenting interesting people and subjects on short fillers called Videologs. The shorts varied from around three minutes long to almost eight (for the Elephant Man's story). Just before he launched his new series "California's Gold," Huell decided in late 1988 to bring all these people together at the Bullocks Tea Room and to have a party to celebrate those Videologs that we all knew so well.
The Bullocks Tea room was the top floor of the Bullocks Wilshire Building located in the mid-Wilshire District of Los Angeles, which is now owned by the Southwestern Law School. It was the perfect place to have this event, with the Tea Room itself harking back to an older, kinder and gentler Los Angeles.
They were all there, or so it seemed. The Elephant Man, The Yogurt Man, The L.A. Times String Lady, The Cobbler Man, with lots of cobbler for us to eat. The Del Rubio Triplets (guitars in hand) were there to sing for us, too. I was in heaven.
Huell brought Louie his cameraman along that day. You can read more about Luis, here.
From this event, Huell made a 30-minute show that only aired (I believe) one time, on December 29, 1988. I know that if it had aired more times, I probably would have watched it again and again. There was no way you could see everyone and make the connection between them and what their Videolog show was about. There are things that are burned in my memory though.
The Yogurt Man, who made yogurt every day in his oven at home, was over 100 years old and had a handshake that felt like iron! I couldn't believe it and neither could my husband. We shook hands out back, in the parking lot of the building. He seemed like a very kind man.
The parking lot was also where we got to see the Del Rubio Triplets, who were three identical triplets who sang for a living. I saw them drive off in their old blue car. I had heard that they performed at nursing homes, for just gas money and seeing them in that old car confirmed that. I should have taken a photo.
The Cobbler Man's cobbler was the most wonderful thing. William Gore Sr. used honey in his recipe, instead of sugar and that definitely made a difference. It was so good, that it turned up at a couple of KCET parties over the months that followed. Here is the old Cobbler Man Videolog to check out.
I also remember the fake food guys from Iwasaki Images of America. They were giving out fake food and mine ended up being a very realistic strawberry, which I had on my desk at work for years after. I can attest to the fact that they make first-rate fake foods.
I have a memory that The Elephant Man, Charlie Franks, was there. It is a hazy one, but I believe he was so old by then, that he just sat at a table and held court. His story about him and Nita the elephant is probably the most well-known of the Videlogs. He died less than a year later, in August of 1989. Check out this poignant Elephant Man Videolog.
It was a wonderful afternoon, Huell as you can see, was at his best, enjoying a gathering that only he could have put together. There were balloons made by one of his videolog subjects and I still have mine... but I don't dare even try to blow the thing up. Maybe it's just better seeing it in photos.
This is another in a series of posts where Cathy Bower, KCET's Broadcast Operations Coordinator, looks back at some interesting moments and events during the station's 50 years on the air. Read more entries here.