Thursday, July 9, 2015

California Gold cameraman Luis Fuerte recalls life with Huell

Luis Fuerte, award-winning cameraman for the late Huell Howser, of the California Gold television show, recounted his travels and fond memories of his employer and friend for the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society on Thursday, July 2. (Paul Prado Photography)

By Paul Prado
Special to Highland Community News

On Thursday, July 2, the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society hosted a lecture by cameraman Luis Fuerte. Fuerte was the editor, lighting director, sound engineer, on air operations person, and cameraman for the late Huell Howser, who hosted KCET’s California Gold.

Fuerte spoke of his travels and times filming with the ever-curious, effervescent, and spontaneous Huell Howser.

“One day, Huell said, ‘Luis (pronounced Louie), I have an idea for a show called California Gold,’” Fuerte said. Fuerte said the format of the show came about during a four-day shoot at a train festival in Sacramento. “That is the first actual California Gold as we see it today.”

Having the privilege to work with a dynamic personality, Fuerte said, “I could tell when he (Howser) needed a break or when things weren’t working out. I could read Huell real well. We worked well as a team. I learned to read him so well, with the tone of his voice”.

Someone asked if the shows were scripted. Fuerte said, “He (Howser) always wanted to be surprised, you remember his famous, ‘Golleeey’ or ‘Reeeeally!’ He knew about the story, but not a lot. He would stop at flowers in a field, and do a story. He was easy going. He could get people to talk to him. He could do a story on a door knob (implying that Howser was that interested in what he saw). He loved working.”

In 2001, after many instances of telling Howser that he wanted to retire from the show, Fuerte gave his last notice to leave California Gold and started his own business.

Howser’s entire collection of his California Gold series was given to Chapman University. The university constructed a replica of his office and has every episode cataloged in a newly constructed building in Howser’s honor. There are pictures of Fuerte, with Howser, in the exhibit that is free to the public.

“The program was good. It was very well done,” said Charles Kiel of the Highland Area Historical Society. “It’s great to meet the guy behind the camera. He contributed a lot to the show California Gold. We’re grateful to Huell and Luis for their part in preserving history. The show was a good documentary about things.”

“We can now put a face to the name when Huell would always say, “Hey, Luis (Louie) get a shot of this!’ He brought to us things that we didn’t know about in California. Those little things; like a “door knob,” commented Kathy Toy of Highland.

Fuerte is scheduled to have a book of his memories, travels, and work experience with Howser published in the near future. The book is aptly titled, “Hey, Louie Take a Look at This!”