You asked the questions and Huell’s production team responded! This is Part One of a three-part series of questions and answers from Ryan Morris (RM), producer; Phil Noyes (PN), producer; and Michael Garber (MB), editor.
Joel R, Anaheim
I love the episode of Huell’s visit to Anaheim, California (California’s Gold #135 Anaheim). Is there any behind the scenes footage from that episode?
RM: Huell never did “Behind the Scenes” but the show outtakes are accessible in Chapman’s Special Collections. You’ll have to make an appointment. But the outtakes are minimal – Huell left very little on the cutting room floor.
MG: As Huell’s editor, I can certainly vouch for that.
Bob T, Suisun City
At the end of some episodes a slow version of “California Here I Come” plays and this music is so beautiful to me; who is the musician that plays it and is it available on iTunes?
PN: That was a song written by an old friend of one of our editors and unfortunately it’s not available.
MG: I don’t know the name of the band, but I’m in agreement that it was a really nice melody. I always hummed along with it when we were editing. I can still remember the pacing of the song without having to see it.
I was told by a friend who was fortunate enough to meet Huell in person…He said he would never do a show on Disneyland. But my old friend couldn’t remember Huell’s reason for it. Do you?
MG: I do know that Huell didn’t like to cover major tourist attractions. He always wanted to find the least known, but most charming places that you never knew existed. Also, it’s not like Disneyland needed his support to get more visitors. Huell wanted to find small business and organizations that could use a boost to garner more attention.
RM: After he died I was going through his old tapes and found an old promotional video Huell made for Disneyland. This was around 1984, long before he started “California’s Gold.” In the video Huell trots down Main Street with an exciting new gadget to enhance your Disneyland experience called “the camcorder.” I guess he was in-between jobs.
PN: I went to Disneyland and did research for a show we wanted to do on the “Jungle Cruise,” it just never came to be.
RM: But like Michael said, Huell liked hidden gems. And I know Disneyland is full of little obscurities but it just wasn’t him. He liked The Napa Rose restaurant at Disney’s Grand Californian. Figure that one out.
I saw Huell at Burney Falls and he was filming. Did it end up on a program or the cutting room floor? I never saw that episode. Thanks for info. Loved Huell Howser.
RM: That’s from “McCloud,” one of Huell’s favorite episodes to re-run.
Huell Howser Archives (HHA): You can watch it here.
Andrew, Big Bear City
Did Huell ever do an episode in Baja CA at Estero Beach? Late eighties or early nineties.
PN: The only Baja show we ever did was the Huell’s Whale Adventures.
HHA: Huell did plan to film a series on the Missions of Baja California, but it never came to light.
David G, Big Bear
How did Huell get away with so much? I think about the time he was on the U.S. Mexico border. I loved that one. He stepped into Mexico, then back in the U.S. a couple of times. And the PR guy at the border just rolled with it. Huell did what he wanted and got away with it.
PN: Huell was sincere and people knew that he would never do anything negative about anything! I think so many people have been burned by the media that they automatically assume the worst when a reporter shows up. Not the case with Huell, so I think people gave him a lot of leeway.
RM: We did a show revisiting the Stealth Bomber and ran into some red tape from the U.S. Military, who didn’t want to release classified photos. I heard him on the phone, “I don’t need some 22-year old Lance Corporal sitting behind some desk telling me what’s up from down!” The photos appeared in my email within the hour. I thought, “I have the coolest boss in the world.” All for a few photos.
MG: Huell just had a way. Everyone loved him and if they knew who he was, he could get behind any locked door. He had a certain unassuming charm on camera, which definitely aided his cause. I think that he also liked pushing the limits of what he could do and that he knew that pushing those limits would make for a more interesting and fun show.
Jacqueline F, Sacramento
Did Huell prepare for visits or was he genuinely surprised by his discoveries in each new location? If so, THATS AMAZING!!
RM: Huell prepared himself with some questions and had a general idea for the story but he liked to learn alongside the audience. Planning can quickly lead to boredom. His reactions had to be completely genuine because he was not a good actor.
MG: That’s a very good point, Ryan. I think Huell wanted to find a surprise in every trip so that he had something to build to in each episode.
Ross A, Rosemead
Did Huell ever drop the “F” bomb, or use any bad words while filming? If so, I could only imagine…#imisshimsomuch #foreverhuell
PN: Huell barely swore off the air and certainly never did in front of the camera. He was very old fashioned on that front.
MG: That’s a funny question to me. Huell was always very specific about not letting me watch too much of the outtakes. He always saw me as the first audience of sorts, so he was always looking for my authentic reactions while editing. So, I have no idea because I never heard much more than what was on the air.
RM: In the office, I remember hearing it twice in 8 years. Huell used profanity sparingly for maximum effect. It’s like “Okay, Huell’s definitely not happy today.”
Cindy B, San Diego
I heard that there is a recent episode about jacaranda trees. Is this available online to watch?
RM: The Jacaranda show was 100% Huell’s idea; it came to him when he was quite ill and suddenly philosophical. Most people complain about the trees while others enjoy their messy charm. Huell hoped the audience would pick up the little allegories in his shows.
MG: This is one of my favorite episodes because it is the last episode I edited with Huell before he passed away.
HHA: The Jacaranda episode is California’s Gold #15006, one of the final episodes. It will be posted on our website within the next two months. Please check back.
Mark K, Davis
In 2001, Huell visited the two windmills (Dutch and Murphy Windmill) in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park (California’s Gold #3012 Windmills). At the time, Murphy windmill was in disrepair and yet to be restored. Huell had wanted to re-visit this windmill when it was restored. He was probably unable to do this when it was actually restored in 2012, but my question is, do you know if he was aware that it finally was restored and re-opened to the public with much fanfare in the Spring of 2012?
RM: Huell was on top of everything so he probably knew about the 2012 re-opening. But we had no plans to film at the site. 2012 was a tough year so we stayed in L.A. Huell would often film a 50 or 60-second “intro” to update our audience then throwback to the original episode. He had an almost psychic sense of when sites were opening, closing, being restored, relocating… those sorts of things.
Dorothy W, Newhall
Can you still purchase episodes of California’s Gold? My mother, Dody Wheaton, took Huell on the walking tour of the State Capitol gardens (California’s Gold #405 Our State’s Front Yard) and I would like to get a DVD copy. When she passed away in 2005 the PBS station in Sacramento did a Capitol episode retrospective and he did a new prologue to the episode when it ran in her honor.
RM: You can still purchase DVDs at www.calgold.com. If the site only offers VHS, call (818) 710-0016 and ask about a DVD. As you may recall, your mother gave Huell a walking tour of the Capitol’s grounds in a 1993 episode called “Our State’s Front Yard.” But only KVIE-Sacramento would have access to the 2005 retrospective. The tape might be in their vaults.
Jason H, Sacramento
What’s out there in terms of unaired episodes (from any of his series), and what are the chances they get aired? Were there any episodes that Huell couldn’t wait to make, but things just never came together for them to be made?
MG: He really wanted to shoot an episode about the The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. Unfortunately, he became too sick before he could shoot it.
PN: Pretty much everything we shot made it into a show. We had one or two shows that Huell felt didn’t cut the mustard and that usually had to do with unruly animals. As far as shows-to-be-made, we had six file cabinets filled with story ideas. Huell could have done the show for another 50 years.
RM: The story idea files were massive. As for the unedited “shelved” shows, they’re gone. When we downsized from the KCET building to our smaller office at Crossroads of the World, I walked in on Huell throwing master tapes from countless unedited shows into a big grey garbage can. Deleting history. He was covered in sweat and huffed “Whew! That took me all day!” But there is one hidden, unaired trip you can find with some Googling. I’ll give you a hint: Ghost Mountain.