Huell, Luis, and 'California's Gold'


An Original Publicity Photo for California's Gold




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.


Looking back at our past brings not only memories of the late Huell Howser, but of his cameraman, Luis Fuerte.

Huell and Luis began working together back in 1987, shooting little short fillers called Videologs. A few years later, Huell Howser decided to create a show of his own and he asked Luis, a KCET cameraman at the time, if he wanted to take a year off from work at the station and follow Huell around the state. They would be making shows and telling stories. Luis, being a lover of history, agreed to do it and so Huell began the process by bringing publicity photos to PBS stations around the state. The photo above, was one of them.

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He drove around our wonderful state and, yes, he sold the idea to every one of those stations, while finding some of the stories that he would later report on. So Huell and Luis began production of the new show, named "California's Gold."

It turned out to be something like a 10-year relationship, between host and cameraman. Huell went around the state talking in front of the camera and most times he would say something like "Come on Louie, let's go see this" (whatever "this" happened to be). It was an easy way to give direction to his cameraman and, eventually, Luis became the unknown sidekick to Huell. Always following and documenting what was going on, without the use of things like Stedicams. It was just him and his camera.

As many of you have seen, Luis was taken to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, which he said was very windy. So windy, in fact, that he was holding on to the bridge and the camera at the same time. Another famous place he did the camera work at, was a "Visiting" episode about window washers. That show brought him to the top of the Tallest Building west of the Rockies, the (then) First Interstate Bank Building. It was a windy day and the window washer had some trouble with the controls, but Luis kept his cool by shooting through the camera lens and not looking down. Huell was not as lucky and he had a few dicey moments hovering 1,000 feet up on that scaffolding. It was reality TV before it became popular.

As time went on, Luis got older and carrying that heavy camera around finally got to him. He left the show and shortly thereafter retired from KCET in 2004. Once in a while he turns up at our station. The last time he visited us was the day after Huell passed away. He's grayer and obviously older, but Luis is still Luis, with his good looks and kind personality. It is always a pleasure to get see him and catch up a bit.

He is not only a part of the history of KCET, he is truly a very special part of "California's Gold" and "Visiting." I am sure that viewers miss hearing Huell call out his name in those later programs. I know I do.

This is the second 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. Up today, a look back at the late Huell Howser's long time cameraman, Luis Fuerte. Read more here.

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