Harvey Levin, known for founding the controversial news site TMZ has a new passion project.
Once the native West Angelino learned about the plethora of celebrities that shop and dine on Crenshaw in Inglewood and Compton.
“South Of Wilshire” was born. While some people may have had reservations about Levin, who’s Caucasian spearheading a series about black businesses, the show was meant to be a cultural melting pot that provides small businesses with national exposure. One of the restaurants that has benefitted from the attention is Dulan’s on Crenshaw where host, Adam Glyn, challenges the contestants to answer questions for monetary prizes.
Having opened over 25 years ago in the midst of the Rodney King Riots, Dulan’s is somewhat of an historic landmark in the L.A. area. The founder of the restaurant, catering company and banquet hall, Greg Dulan also shares how the show has impacted his business.
LAS: What connection does TMZ have with the Crenshaw community that inspired the show?
Harvey Levin: Someone in my office suggested I get my haircut at New Millennium on Wilshire Blvd. It was so different from any place I had ever been; it was like a party. Everyone was laughing and having a good time and I heard the barbers talking about all of the celebs that get their hair cut there. When I went back, they were talking about other celebs that frequent businesses on Pico, Crenshaw and in Inglewood. We had been thinking about doing a game show then we said why not have it centered around all of the places that you don’t think celebrities go. You assume they’re shopping in Beverly Hills but they’re really, south of Wilshire on Crenshaw in Compton, Inglewood.
Every episode, several businesses are receiving a free one-minute commercial. The merchants and the customers share the history of the business then give clues about the celebs that have come in. Then we wrap in a form of a game show shot at Dulan’s on Crenshaw. It’s been such a joy to do this project. I really feel like we’ve connected with a part of L.A. that really hasn’t been fully represented and I think it will open people’s eyes about how vibrant communities are that they may not be familiar with.
LAS: Did you think there would be a disconnect with the face of the show being Caucasian as opposed African American?
HL: I didn’t feel like it was essential to have a white host or a black host, I wanted a good host. And Adam Glyn is someone that I’ve worked with, he’s been on TMZ and I just knew that this would be his sweet spot. I knew he could do something like this. For me, Adam as the host of the show just made a lot of sense. This shouldn’t be “exclusively” anything; [South Of Wilshire] is a melting pot.
LAS: What have you learned that you may not have been familiar with as a result of producing this show?
HL: There are challenges as far as underfunding in various parts of the city. But spirit and sense of community is so much stronger in the places we’ve been. In Hollywood and Beverly Hills for example, people stay to themselves and live away from others in their gated communities. Despite being a native West Angelino, I had never really felt a strong sense of community until “South Of Wilshire”. I now feel it because of the show. I’m hoping that people will watch the show and say, ‘I’m going to have dinner here’ or ‘I’m going to go to this bar because it looks cool’. I’m hoping that “South Of Wilshire” will help people to realize that these are places that they should patronize, not avoid.
LAS: How did Harvey present the idea to you? Did he have to convince you to film the show in your restaurant?
Greg Dulan: We do a lot of catering around L.A. and TMZ is one of our best customers. We feed their staff out at their studio in Playa Vista. One day Harvey came to me and said he had a tremendous opportunity for me at the time I didn’t know what he was talking about but later I found out that he wanted to shoot the game show portion at my restaurant. Initially, I couldn’t visualize it until he explained the premise then I said, ‘sure, lets do it’ because I don’t think anything similar has been done on TV.
LAS: Who have been some noteworthy celebs that have eaten at Dulan’s?
GD: Former California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Muhammad Ali, Janet Jackson, Steve Harvey and even one of the Kennedy’s. You just never know who’s going to come through the door.
LAS: What feedback have you received about the show?
GD: The staff enjoys seeing themselves on TV. I have friends that have called me from Atlanta and New York after seeing the show. Locally, people are recognizing the restaurant more and when they come in, they want to talk about the show so it’s been great for exposure. I grew up in this area, this is my community and I love that fact that each episode begins with “We’re at Dulan’s on Crenshaw”. It means a lot to me that “Crenshaw” is being heard around the country, I’m very proud of that. The show has been truly beneficial to this wonderful and emerging community.
South of Wilshire airs Monday-Friday on My13 FOX at 5:30pm