When we heard that Huell Howser had passed away a week ago, it was as if a family member had left us. Despite the online tributes and stories in the paper, I just could not bring myself to believe it. And I still can’t.
Every evening for as far back as I can remember, we would all sit around the television to watch California’s Gold, and we still watch the reruns whenever we can. Everyone seems to have a favorite episode; The Lint Lady of Long Beach, the soda pop in the bottle store (Galco’s), Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidential Yacht; the U.S.S. Potomac, Broguiere's Dairy, In-N-Out Burger, Yosemite and the State Parks and the road trips, to mention a few. He was a regular part of our daily routine, and in a sense, truly a part of our family.
On December 20th, 2009 I wrote a book; Beach of The King, (fka. Playa Del Rey), and sent a signed copy to Huell as a Christmas gift. To my surprise, I received an immediate email thanking me. That same year my daughter Katherine secretly wrote to Huell, and as a birthday gift, he sent me an autographed photograph, and along with a photograph of Fritz Burns; sent to me by local photographer Doug Linnet, they sit framed by my writing space.
Over the course of the next few years Huell or his Producer, Harry Pallenberg and I corresponded about an idea I had for a California’s Gold episode. Huell was fascinated by not only the history of the region, but also about the new developments occurring in Playa Del Rey and Playa Vista. Huell was also very interested in the history of the Los Angeles Motordrome; a board racing track that had been built on the Playa Del Rey Wetlands in 1910.
He was also interested in the story of silent film star Mae Murray, who had built, and lost, her “castle” on the sand at the estuary of Ballona Creek. In fact, Mae Murray is the subject of my next book; The Day The Circus Came To Town; Mae Murray, 1925-- at Playa Del Rey.
Several appointments were made, but we could just never seem to nail down a time, and by the summer of 2012 his emails were much more infrequent. He was very busy, he explained, and thanked me for my patience. And then suddenly, the emails abruptly stopped.
As a writer, you learn to deal with rejection, and I moved on. I was sure however that one day Huell would call me and we do the show on the history of Playa Del Rey. Of course I now know why the emails stopped, and I wish that I had the chance to say good-bye to him.
Did you get that, Louie?