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Huell Howser Was a Local in Every Neighborhood

There's no doubt fans of Huell Howser have spent the last few days poring over archived clips of him exploring California. It's a way to revisit how he would accent each moment of small-awe with a meme worthy twang-phrase. How he would be missed was seen when he quietly retired November 2012, prompting a collective moan from those who shared his affection for Los Angeles, and all of California.

The moan became a sad gasp with the news of him passing.

Many quickly credited Huell for discovering something they did not know about. For others, listening to Huell's rendition of charted territory made a landmark new again.

It could be said that whatever Huell was pointing at it with his hand-held microphone, then leading Luis Fuerte or Cameron Tucker on camera to get a closer look, the subject or topic held a new Los Angeles local status, or a true Californian authenticity.

And Huell left no local stone unturned.

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When he was doing early research for his series "Downtown," my blog viewfromaloft was new. Despite that, I got an email from his production company asking for my number. The next day there was a message on my phone "Hi, this is Huell Howser . . ." I called back and we talked. I passed on information about downtown murals and the Arts District.

I then suggested that he speak to Joel Bloom, the patriarch of the Arts District. It was no surprise when Howser told me he often visited Bloom to get downtown angles.

It also became clear that he kept his friendships after the camera was gone. Be it with the contacts he made in the Historic Core, or the Arts District. Downtowners almost got used to seeing him during Art Walk, being a local, talking to artists, and simply taking in the city's core like the other Angelenos.

Days after the death of Joel Bloom, I was at the General Store taking photos of the flowers and messages left behind by his neighbors and friends. Then Huell, the messenger, arrived to visit the corner of a neighborhood gatekeeper.

Then he asked me how I was. I said I was a little nervous because in a few days I was scheduled to say a few words about Joel in the chambers of City Council.  

"What are you going to say?" He asked in a quieter voice that only had a hint of twang, his eyes listening.

I admitted I wasn't sure yet.

Huell's advice was simple. "You know your neighborhood as an artist and writer," he said. "Speak from the heart. The words will follow."

I rattled off a quick paragraph.

"That's it," he said while nodding.

What I said to him went on the record at City Hall.

To me, that was Huell's gift. Getting people to say the right thing in one take.

That's gold.

 Huell, LAPD Kris Werner, and Joel Bloom at Biscuit Loft, April 2007 | Photo by Ed Fuentes


Top: Art Dealer Bert Green (left) and Huell Howser network with performance artists from Osseus Labyrint. The after party of "Trace Evidence" was held The Rosslyn July 2007. Photo by Ed Fuentes

About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
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