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Huell Howser: 'California's Gold' host had a clear vision for show

Huell Howser amidst the poppies, California's Gold.
Huell Howser amidst the poppies, California's Gold.
Huell Howser

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Just this past week, Chapman University unveiled a brand new exhibit dedicated to Huell Howser, the late host of public television's "California's Gold." There's a replica of Huell's office, pieces from Huell's art collection and tons of artifacts from Huell's long TV career. 

Off-Ramp producer Kevin Ferguson went to the exhibit's opening and ran into Michael Garber, who edited Huell's work from 2004 until his last episode.

"I had heard of Huell, because I had seen him on KCET every so often, when I'd be flipping around on a Sunday afternoon," said Garber. "There'd be this guy running around California with a hand mic asking people questions."

Garber eventually got a job at KCET, but it wasn't until 2004 that he ended up with Huell Howser. He heard Howser was looking to hire a digital editor through Craigslist, of all places.  

"We set up a meeting, I showed him some of the whiz-bang things I could do, like real time color correction," said Garber. "I made his face purple or something...That really impressed him!"

Garber worked with Huell on over 500 episodes, and while he acknowledges the show has a raw feel, the editing was very intentional. 

"Huell, in particular, was extremely controlling in the edit room. He really knew what he wanted and it was an experience learning to let go as an editor," said Garber. "He wanted the scene to play out for itself."

In 2011, Garber himself made an appearance on "Visiting with Huell Howser," and talked cow tongue. In an earlier episode, the editor saw Huell balk at the idea of eating the bovine tasting organ.

"I was incensed in the edit session," said Garber. "I grew up watching  my mom eat tongue sandwiches at delis and loving tongue."

Howser decided to give Garber an opportunity to air his grievances on TV, and the two filmed an entire episode at Langer's Deli to cow tongue.

"I was nervous," Garber said. "As soon as he started asking questions and put his hand on my shoulder, I thought 'OK.' He's directing this journey, he knows what's gonna look good on camera."