Remembering Huell Howser

As we prepared a recap of our film festival tour in 2012, we thought it was important to first acknowledge and honor Huell Howser, the Producer and host of “California’s Gold” on PBS for 18 years, who passed away on January 7. Huell was known for his boundless enthusiasm for the people and history of California, for his extremely likeable, sincere personality, and for his dedication to historical preservation.

Harvey always knew Huell would be an important person to speak with about Bible Storyland, first to determine if Huell knew about the park and could provide more information, and, if not, to tell him about it. So when Harvey saw Huell seven years ago in the lobby at a live theatrical performance in Westwood, he declared to his wife Debi, “I have to ask if he knows about Bible Storyland!” True to his television persona, Huell was gracious and sincerely interested. He said it was the first time he had heard of the theme park but he’d like to learn more, and asked Harvey to send information about it.

After reviewing the package of materials from Harvey, Huell confirmed, “This is amazing. And I’ve never heard of it.” Harvey suggested they produce an episode of “California’s Gold” (PBS) about Bible Storyland. Huell’s producers felt that since the park was never built there wouldn’t be enough for Huell to show and do on camera, even if he visited the site in Rancho Cucamonga which was intended for the park.

One evening in early 2012, soon after the documentary “Bible Storyland” was completed, Harvey received a call from Huell, seemingly out of the blue. Huell had watched our DVD and tracked down Harvey’s phone number. Harvey and Huell spoke on the phone for 45 minutes about Bible Storyland and a variety of topics. Huell told Harvey he strongly disliked how technology was pulling people away from their families.

During their conversation, Harvey asked Huell for a quote about “Bible Storyland”. Huell asked why anyone would care what he thought about the film. Such a humble man he was! Harvey assured Huell that his quote would be helpful to future audiences, and Huell provided the following:

“‘Bible Storyland’ is a wonderful look at an honest to goodness chapter in California’s folk history. They really wanted to create a Bible theme park in the ’60’s and Harvey Jordan has researched it all in this documentary that is not only thorough, but respectful. It’s a real investigative eye-opener and fun to watch!”

Huell Howser will be honored at a public memorial today (January 15, 2013) at the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles. At 5pm, several honored guests will speak about his life, including Charles Phoenix who is featured in our film.

You can read more about Harvey’s conversation with Huell in the “Los Angeles Times” Article “Huell Howser: ‘The real deal,’ on and off camera” (1/8/13) written by Paul Thornton.

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