On today's Morning Edition, Shereen Marisol Meraji had a great piece about the memorial of Southern California public-television staple Huell Howser, who died of cancer earlier this month.
On Tuesday, hundreds of people turned out to remember him. As Meraji says, for these fans, Howser was "a man who took them to places they never knew they wanted to go and introduced them to people they never knew they wanted to meet."
Howser's show might take him to a park or a local business, but wherever he went, he was invariably excited. Amazing is the word that comes up over and over; he found everything he encountered "amazing."
Howser's fans are a diverse group: Meraji talks to "friend of Huell Howser" Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons. "In this world of cynicism and pseudosophistication," Groening says, "a guy who is willing to be genuine is really refreshing." Howser's enthusiasm won over even the Simpsons' writers, who Groening acknowledges are a cynical bunch, but who loved the host's eternally excitable presence.
At the tribute, fans sang along with Howser's rendition of "California, Here I Come." Meraji says Howser was a person who could unite the enormously diverse population of the state, not by complaining about the usual gripes like smog and traffic, but by "remind[ing] us every single day why this place is so awesome."
(Just a note from me: It's a terrific piece, and you should really hear the audio.)