Crowds turn out for a memorable Huell Howser visit


California broadcast icon Huell Howser charmed his Chapman University audience.


“This is a love fest tonight.”

Without a doubt, as evidenced by the adoring, applauding and camera-toting audience that overflowed Memorial Hall at Chapman University on Thursday night.  Attendees heard a special talk by California broadcast icon Huell Howser,  the host of California’s Gold, whose presentation was punctuated with multiple outbreaks of applause.

Ribbing the crowd for its enthusiastic response to his folksy chat laced with humor and homespun wisdom, Howser joked: “I’m beginning to feel like a Baptist preacher up here” and that if they all weren’t careful he just might pass the collection plate around because “I work for PBS, not CBS.”

In fact, though, Howser was the generous one Thursday evening. At the end of Howser’s talk, Chapman President Jim Doti announced that the broadcaster had endowed a “California’s Gold Scholars” scholarship fund at the university. The gift will support students who, like Howser, see life as “a glass half full.”

That hallmark enthusiasm was in rich evidence during his talk. Howser regaled the audience with stories of his forays through 30 years of his broadcasting career in California, from climbing to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge to yakking it up with the inmates of Folsom Prison. He grinned at the audience when he revealed that he knew people were fond of imitating his Tennessee accent – “I know that’s going on.” And he teased that he would never retire, but just someday die on the air and “drop dead in a sand dune.”

But Howser’s core message to the capacity crowd was that they can approach everyday life with the same kind of gusto he brings to his programs, where the stories of ordinary people and local places always stand out as something extraordinary.

“These adventures are available to everyone,” he said. “You can have your own adventures in your own back yard.”

Howser’s visit to Chapman University was in conjunction with the donation of his papers, California book collection, mementoes and copies of all his programs to Leatherby Libraries. The programs will be digitized and made available by the library. An exhibit of Howser’s mementos is currently on display in the second floor of Leatherby Libraries.

Dawn Bonker