Huell Howser charmed, amazed with his local stops

The iconic TV host, who died Sunday night at age 67, made many stops in the Inland Valley in his travels. I chatted up some who met him for Wednesday’s column.

His archives are online at Chapman University’s website, where you can search by topic or city or watch clips.

Two local stops that didn’t make my column were at the Pomona Public Library, where he did a well-remembered segment on the Goddess of Pomona statue circa 1989, and Glendora’s Donut Man, a 1999 episode set to air again at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on KCET.

Share your memories or comments about Howser below.

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“Saturday Night Live’s” soap opera parody, “The Californians,” mentioned Rancho Cucamonga this past week. Says one character:

“You’ve got to stay away from Devon. He’s no good for you. He’s broken hearts in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Santa Clarita and Redondo Beach. I don’t want him to go to your apartment in Angelino Heights.”

Every episode is like a geography lesson. And a driving lesson, what with characters discussing their exact route to get anywhere. Watch the episode here. Thanks to reader Robert Garcia for the link.

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‘Celebrity Wife Swap’ features Ontario mom


ABC’s “Celebrity Wife Swap” isn’t my typical TV viewing (my typical TV viewing is to leave the set off) but Tuesday’s episode involved Ontario, so why not?

Former child actress Tina Yothers, who played Jennifer Keaton on “Family Ties,” lives in south Ontario. She swapped households with actress Niecy Nash of “Reno 911,” “Dancing With the Stars” and “Clean House,” who lives in Northridge.

I’d never heard of either of them or watched either series, so some of the voyeur factor was lost on me. Anyway, the alleged “country” aspects of Ontario (!) are played up, and life in similarly suburban Northridge is presented as glamorous.

Nash thinks she’s a diva, Yothers thinks she’s normal, and hijinx ensue. Somehow, though, Nash comes off as a better mother. She’s more open-minded than Yothers, willing to take a different approach to parenting based on Yothers’ suggestions, whereas Yothers didn’t want to hear it about her own kids. Kind of interesting.

If you’ve got 43 minutes to kill, you can watch the episode here.

Photo: Jason Merritt/FilmMagic

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Ontario woman grills Brad Pitt on ‘Oprah’

Reader Nancy Bumstead said she was watching “Oprah” on Wednesday when a viewer from Ontario — our Ontario — named Christina asked a question of guest Brad Pitt via Skype video about his tattoos, with which the fan seemed, um, rather strangely interested. And knowledgeable.

Watch a YouTube video of the 2:13 encounter here.

Christina describes herself as a “forever fan” of Pitt’s of “about 17 years.” I love how “Oprah” shows Ontario on a map next to Christina’s face. It should be helpful when the restraining order comes through.

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Craig Ferguson in Pomona

Tying in with today’s column, here’s the clip from YouTube of the “Late Late Show” host in Pomona…even if he thinks it’s San Bernardino. Here’s Ferguson reciting the Pledge in Pomona.

Here he is taking the citizenship test, in L.A. by the looks of it, and here’s his take on why he loves America.

After deadline for my column, the Kristin Bell clip turned up on YouTube as well. The “circus grounds” comment comes up after the 9-minute mark.

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Lela’s returns, but only on Fox

When the downtown Pomona restaurant Lela’s closed last summer, the fate of the “Kitchen Nightmares” reality show taped at the restaurant also seemed to be in question. After all, the premise is that brash TV chef Gordon Ramsay would visit a failing restaurant and try to turn it around. Lela’s obviously wasn’t going to be a success story. Would the episode air even though the restaurant was gone?

That question has been answered. The episode about Lela’s is scheduled to air Wednesday. The synopsis, from the “Nightmares” website:

“Chef Ramsay tries to rev up business for Lela’s, an upscale restaurant in desperate need of clientele. When Gordon gets in the kitchen and starts criticizing the menu items, the executive chef is less than thrilled and they have a showdown in front of the entire staff. Find out if the changes stick and if the owner Lela will withstand this type of behavior in her restaurant.”

That’s at 9 p.m. on Fox.

* Update: A blow-by-blow account of the episode can be read, and marveled at, here, and the episode in all its, um, glory can be watched here.

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The Huell thing

Some people think Huell Howser is too corny to be taken seriously, but I like him. His show Friday featured the Claremont Packing House, the subject of a column of mine a few weeks back when the place was rehabbed and reopened, so I tuned in with interest.

One historical tidbit: In the 1970s there was a commercial worm farm in the basement, only the worms reproduced faster than they could be sold. The rest of the story I knew, but it was fun to see Howser touring the place and interacting with Jerry and Nancy Tessier and Ginger Elliott, all of whom I had interviewed as well.

Howser is an enthusiast, you have to give him that. In fact he’s sometimes more enthusiastic than the people actually invested in the subject. Marveling at the new College Heights sign out front, a nod to the original citrus association that packed lemons in the building, he exclaimed: “You’re really reigniting an interest and a curiosity about the history of Claremont!”

Two favorite bits:

* The only “wow,” a Huell Howser trademark, came at an unlikely moment.
Howser: “Did this place always have a second story?”
Jerry Tessier: “They actually added a second story about 1945.”
Howser: “Wow.”

* He listened to someone at the Claremont Forum’s used bookstore talk about how book sales provide money to send paperbacks to prisoners. To clarify things for viewers, Howser (in jest) (I think) asked: “So you don’t have to be a prisoner to shop here?”

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