Huell Howser, the enthusiastic presenter of tv shows about his adopted state, could get excited about almost anything it seemed.
That was especially true when the Tennessee native visited the Hollywood sign in Griffith Park for an episode of "California's Gold."
"Well here we are back at the good old Hollywood sign," Howser said on camera, "because there has been a last minute, very interesting, very exciting development in our story about the history of this grand old sign!"
But Howser, who died Monday at age 67 in Palm Springs, can be remembered for more than his warmth and folksy charm. He treasured California and its history, and that made him a preservationist and conservationist to many observers.
OC Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano, who first broke the news of Howser's passing, said Howser was "the greatest Californian since Hiram Johnson." The former California governor, from 1911 to 1917, was considered a leading American progressive, according to historians.
Arellano said in a phone interview Tuesday he drew the comparison because Howser on one level, like Johnson, was "fighting the entrenched powers that be."
"Huell's gift was letting people know what a beautiful and unique place we live in, from the smallest of businesses to the biggest of stories," Arellano said. "For Huell everything in California was golden.
"Every place you could visit, whether it's the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hollywood sign, or some unheard-of place in town or out in the desert, they were all equal to him, and they were all valuable, and he showed the smaller places were of equal value."
Arellano said he first met Howser four years ago, and they kept in touch as acquaintances, but he'd been watching Howser's shows for about 20 years.
"He was the ultimate champion of California," Arellano said. "There was no greater advocate of the state's hope and promise. He made his living and he had a nice life. But that is not why he did what he did, to make money. For him it was 'This is California. Let's celebrate this.'"
For more of Arellano's perspective on Howser, read his remembrance here.