Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Remembering Huell Howser, "Another Fahn Example of Caluhfoorrrnya's Gold..."

RIP HUELL HOWSWER. Here I am with Gloria Pink, heir of Pink's Hot Dogs (she's the one in the pink blazer) and Huell at Pink's 65th anniversary in Nov. 2004.

Pink's heir Gloria Pink, Huell Howser, Michael Aushenker - November 11, 2004

I crossed paths with Huell Howser three times...

1) was back in the early '90s. It's a really hilarious story but I can't go into it here.

3) was in 2009. I had emailed his website. I was working at the Palisadian-Post newspaper, one of the few (at the time) to have its own printing press on site, and the Post was about to celebrate its 85th anniversary. As Huell's only Pacific Palisades episodes were a trip to Will Rogers State Park and the release of a large catfish into the pond at the Self-Realization Center, I lobbied that the Palisades was under-represented on his show. To my surprise, he called me at the office one day to personally discuss it. We talked for about 45 minutes in which he said he would try but he was too swamped with other assignments. It was one of the coolest rejections ever.

2) was November 11, 2004. I'll never forget it because I had just seen on TV that Yassir Arafat had croaked as I headed out the door that evening to Pink's, where they were celebrating their 65th anniversary by making everything on the menu 65cents for 65 minutes. I had learned about the event from a rerun of "Visiting with Huell Howser," in which the venerable hot dog stand had presented Huell with his own hot dog (the Huell Dog - two hot dogs in a tortilla). When I got to Pink's, the excitement was palpable. They had a pink cadillac out front, klieg lights, the works. As always at Pink's, I was waiting on a long line.

When Huell Howser showed up in his signature windbreaker, it was like Beatlemania had erupted. People were hanging out of their cars on La Brea, shouting "HUUUUUEEELLL!" The fanfare was crazy. He had everyone on line smiling and fawning with his Southern charm.

When Huell finally got to me on line, I asked Gloria's husband if he would take a photo of me, Gloria and Huell. Richard Pink obliged. As we posed for this photo, I joked with Huell, I said, "Huell! You've got 'California's Gold,' 'California's Green,' 'California Parks,' 'Road Trip with Huell Howser,' 'Visiting with Huell Howser...' Is there any air time left on PBS for any other shows?"

He laughed as he slapped a muscular arm onto my shoulder and he said, in that distinctive accent, "Are you, lahk, some kahnd of co-MEEE-dian?"

He was truly awesome. What I loved about Huell and his shows is that he truly celebrated the charms and history of Los Angeles and greater California (and beyond--I even learned about a few places in Tuscon I'd like to visit one day....). Thanks to Huell Howser, not only did you never stop learning about your own backyard, but he inspired you to observe and appreciate more carefully wherever you may be. Appreciating the small things, after all, is what truly makes life a rich and beautiful pageant.

RIP HUELL HOWSER ...and thank you very much.

1 comment:

Javier Hernandez said...

Mikey, these are great memories! The fact that you and Huell crossed paths several times is itself California gold....

He was a remarkable man, indeed. What a great service he's done to the State of California in spotlighting a huge amount of people and places that give this state it's true luster. Far too many times are we saddled with mediocre and phone politicians and celebrities... Huell is truly deserving of our respect and admiration.

Thanks for sharing these memories.