Within 30 minutes of getting off a plane coming from Sacramento, Huell Howser was in the Oviatt Library shaking hands and taking pictures with his fans.
Howser’s fans, ranging from the age of 19 to 90, lined up in a cluster anxiously waiting to speak to the man who dedicated an entire episode of his show to the art of calligraphy.
Howser, who is known for his PBS show “California’s Gold,” was invited to speak at the Library’s newest exhibition, “Wish You Were Here: Travelers from Antiquity to Modern Times,” which showcased how people traveled and recorded all their discoveries and explorations.
“I’m always a little concerned when people start listing on all the episodes I’ve done. I tell them you gotta get out more,” Howser said in the opening of his speech.
“We thought Mr. Howser was the perfect traveler,” Cindy Ventuleth, director of development at the library, said.
Ventuleth said there was a lot of interest in getting Howser to speak at the exhibition because of his popularity.
“I’m always fascinated with the itty bitty topics,” Miriam Fish, a counselor at Grover Cleveland High School, said.
Fish, one of Howser’s devoted fans, has been watching his shows from the beginning.
For his show, Howser travels throughout the state of California and sheds light on certain topics many people may not notice in their everyday lives.
“I had no idea how big a state California was,” Howser said.
If you give any subject recognition, then it will receive attention, Howser said.
Howser shared a story of where his love for traveling and documenting his journeys originated.
When he was a little boy he was only designated a few hours of television time. Instead of cartoons he spent his hours watching Charles Coralt, who would travel in a camper and videotape his journeys.
Howser was originally from a small town in Tennessee called Gallatin that was 30 miles from a Jack Daniels distillery.
Howser came to California not with the original intention of exposing the great wonders of the state, but because he was a journalist. He had been working for CBS in New York when in 1982 they sent him to Los Angeles to be the feature reporter for the Channel 2 news.
After five years as a features reporter, he began “California’s Gold.”
His initial motivation for doing the show was because he didn’t know much about the state and thought it would be fun to travel around and meet interesting people.
After doing the show for almost 21 years, along with several others he has since developed, Howser’s motives for doing the show have evolved.
The message Howser tries to get across to his viewers is to step outside of your vicinity and look at all the interesting people that surround us.
Howser said if he never moved away from a 10-mile radius of CSUN to do his show he wouldn’t be mad. By just talking to people for five minutes you can discover an interesting story about them.
Howser presented a scenario to the audience of how society gives more attention to celebrities than they do to regular people.
If the first person in line at a popular restaurant was a heart surgeon and Paris Hilton walked up afterwards, she would get in first because of her celebrity status. The surgeon would not get that special treatment because no one would know he was a surgeon.
If you want to see who’s really important in Los Angeles try going one week without celebrities, and then go one week without the garbage cleaner and then you’ll see who’s important, Howser said.
Even though he’s not a native of California, his passion for the people and places come across in the 30-minute shows he produces.
Howser said, “(I’m) proud to be from Tennessee, but even prouder to be a Californian.”