Life & Times Transcript

Val Zavala >> Tonight on Life and Times --
Traditionally they stick to ethnic markets. Are immigrant business owners about to go mainstream?

Thomas Tseng >> Los Angeles has always been an immigrant gateway and, because of the growth of these businesses, now you have companies that have been operating for decades.

Maria De Lourdes Sobrino >> It's amazing that, with a little bit of sugar, water and gelatin, you have done all this.

Val Zavala >> And then, his films in the 1970s and 1980s were huge commercial hits, so why is Paul Mazursky now taking a different path?

It's all straight ahead on tonight's Life and Times.

Announcer >> Life and Times is made possible through the generous support of the L.K. Whittier Foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life by supporting innovative endeavors in the fields of medicine, health, science and education.

And by a generous grant from Jim and Anne Rothenberg.

Val Zavala >> As you may know, immigrant entrepreneurs are among the most dynamic forces in our economy. But you may think that they tend to stick to their own cultures or neighborhoods. Well, not anymore. As Toni Guinyard found out, many immigrant entrepreneurs are taking their ambitions beyond traditional ethnic markets.

Toni Guinyard >> Just take a look at the people and businesses that make up southern California. Chances are you'll come to a conclusion that you don't need a business degree to reach.

Thomas Tseng >> This is an extremely diverse region comprised of a multiplicity of complexions and languages and also to people from virtually around the world.

Toni Guinyard >> And they're being credited with building small and medium sized businesses in and around Los Angeles. Immigrant entrepreneurs, business owners who unknowingly have been operating under a microscope observed and analyzed as part of a study by the New York-based Center for an Urban Future. The name of the study? "A World of Opportunity". Thomas Tseng is principal and co-founder of the multi-cultural market research and consulting firm, New American Dimensions.

Thomas Tseng >> Our company gets hired by companies and brands that are trying to reach ethnic markets.

Toni Guinyard >>Ethnic markets that, for years, have been catered to by business owners from the same culture and background, but that business strategy is changing.

s Thomas Tseng >>And oftentimes, these businesses may start out where they are catering certain types of foods or providing certain services to a certain population. A lot of that is based on culture and language. But oftentimes, I think what businesses realize is that, in order for them to grow, they're going to have to move on beyond that immigrant base that they've always catered to.

Toni Guinyard >> Maria De Lourdes Sobrino has done just that. Sobrino is the Lulu behind the successful company that bears her nickname.

Maria De Lourdes Sobrino >> You just can't continue doing business the same way.

Toni Guinyard >>When Sobrino moved from Mexico to California and started her company, she set out to sell a gelatin dessert her mother used to make by targeting the market she knew.

Maria De Lourdes Sobrino >> It was very important for me to find the first generation Hispanics and I had to find them and I had to drive in my car and look for them in Wilmington, Carson and all these cities. That's when I started leaving my desserts in those stores and they were the ones that started supporting my product and started buying my product.

Toni Guinyard >> She was making the desserts by hand, three hundred cups a day.

Maria De Lourdes Sobrino >> I didn't even know what I was doing because I didn't have, you know, a marketing plan. I didn't know nothing about the industry, so I had to learn at the same time, number one, the culture outside of living in a new country.

Toni Guinyard >> Now, twenty-five years later, the company does about ten million dollars in sales.

Maria De Lourdes Sobrino >> We do about fifty million cups a year, about that, and it's amazing. You know, it's amazing that, with a little bit of sugar, water and gelatin, we have done all this.

Thomas Tseng >> In many ways, these businesses represent the largest or the future employers of this region. You know, I think that they are really becoming and making a tremendous impact economically here in Los Angeles.

Toni Guinyard >> It's the kind of success Pam Lund is aiming for.

Pam Lund >>I'm a first generation woman immigrant here, the first time that my family has actually had a woman come into the United States and open up an Asian-owned business here. I'm actually from India. Our background is very traditional. Women are supposed to be, you know, a housewife by a certain age.

Toni Guinyard >> She's vice president of Zeelander, a wholesale clothing and manufacturing company.

Pam Lund >> My family's background is all about business. They're fourth generation entrepreneurs, so I always knew that I wanted to go into business for myself one day.

Toni Guinyard >> Zeelander fits the profile of many small businesses examined in this Center for an Urban Future study. The company is owned by an immigrant and has fewer than ten employees. It's the type of business, according to the study, that's under-estimated in terms of economic impact. The study also found that Los Angeles County had more Asian-owned firms and Hispanic-owned businesses than any other county in the United States.

Pam Lund >> It's actually very important to include the small businesses because there are a lot of us out there that are doing our own thing quietly, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we should not be heard because we are actually contributing a significant amount to California's economies.

Toni Guinyard >> And that contribution is reflected in efforts being made to both promote immigrant-owned businesses to mainstream consumers and, in turn, promote so-called mainstream products to immigrant consumers. It's become big business spawning conventions and seminars.

Marwan Ahmad >>Even though our benefit explored them in less a market, we are trying to explore the outside market.

David Takata >> We are teaching, we are evangelizing and we're making those connections to people.

Toni Guinyard >> David Takata is President of Multi-Cultural Holdings, organizer of this trade show for marketing and advertising agencies. In this one room, displays promoting everything from Asian television to Spanish and Middle-Eastern newspapers and magazines.

David Takata >> When you look at the census data, the influx of immigrants, first generation, second generation ethnic folks into what are increasingly large cities, it's becoming a statistic that the people can't ignore.

Toni Guinyard >> As if they needed reminding, the numbers in dollars and cents splash on a screen.

Carl Kravetz >> The Latino market, which is where my expertise is, is expected by the end of this decade, and that's only three years from now, to have a trillion dollars in spending power.

Toni Guinyard >> It's the market on which the restaurant, El Gallo Giro, built its success.

Alex Alvarette >> Our target is the first Mexican generation and then the second, obviously.

Toni Guinyard >> Perhaps one of the most surprising twists yet are reflections of the ever-changing marketplace and the background of its owners and founders.

Alex Alvarette >> To keep the restaurant open, we have three investors, two from Mexico and one from France. But the France, he grew up in Mexico. He loved Mexico. He loved traditional Mexican cuisine. So they worked together and they opened the first El Gallo Giro in Santa Ana.

Toni Guinyard >> That was in 1988. There are now twelve restaurants. Thomas Tseng says the most dramatic changes in the marketplace are yet to come.

Thomas Tseng >> Los Angeles has always been an immigrant gateway and, because of the growth of these businesses now, you've had companies that have been operating for decades. A lot of these businesses are now passing over the ownership and the management of these businesses to their kids. You know, there definitely is a sort of generational clash, I think, between philosophy and styles of conducting business among, say, between immigrant entrepreneurs and their native-born sons and daughters.

Toni Guinyard >> As for Maria De Lourdes Sobrino, the image of her American-born daughter now graces the company logo. But what's next for Lulu's Desserts?

Maria De Lourdes Sobrino >> The company really took me like hostage here. You can't go. You have to stay.

Toni Guinyard >> Stay and plan the next move. I'm Toni Guinyard for Life and Times.

Announcer >> is the place to look for the very latest on Life and Times. You'll find previews of upcoming stories, plus transcripts and audio of past episodes and links to some of our most interesting features. Just go to, scroll down the page and click on "Life and Times".

Val Zavala >> Few headlines have brought as much unwanted attention to the Los Angeles Fire Department as the Tennie Pierce case. He's the firefighter who almost got paid $2.7 million dollars for an allegedly racist prank, the now famous dog food incident. Well, the case is going to trial, but no matter what happens in the courtroom, it's clear that the case has touched a nerve. There's even disagreement within the black community.

For a very lively conversation, we brought three people together at our Kitchen Table. Joe Hicks is with CommUnity Advocates, Inc. Najee Ali is head of Project Islamic Hope. He believes the Pierce case has merit. And Larry Elder is a radio talk show host on KABC who believes the Pierce lawsuit is absurd. Our Kitchen Table segment is funded by Ralph Tornberg.

Joe Hicks >> We're talking about the fire department today. As you know, the Tennie Pierce case has spurred a lot of discussion about the fire department. We get a little bit of the Tennie Pierce thing, but the larger argument being made that -- two arguments actually -- that Tennie Pierce simply demonstrates all the racism rampant in the fire department.

The second argument that was made is that it shows how much racism is still a part of society, particularly here in Los Angeles. And Najee Ali says what to that?

Najee Ali >> Well, certainly, the Tennie Pierce case got national attention and just really highlighted and focused not just on racism, but sexism, and it really showed that we still have a long way to go within the fire department to root out what we say is a cultural institution of racism and sexism within the department.

If it was just an aberration, if Tennie Pierce was the only African American who was a victim of discrimination, we would not have all these other plaintiffs coming forward now stating that they've also been racially discriminated against by the fire department.

Joe Hicks >> Is it fair to assume that, in 2007, you've got a fire department of a major city in America that's got a bunch of bigots wearing sheets at night or something that are ready to discriminate against black folks and, I assume, other minorities as well as women? Is that a fair assumption?

Larry Elder >> No, it is not a fair assumption to make. We are living in a city that's got an Hispanic mayor. The City Council has an Hispanic. We had a black mayor who got elected four consecutive times. To act as if this is the 1950s and this is Rosa Parks on the bus is ridiculous. The reason there are more suits coming out, Joe and Najee, is because people see a cash register. Rin-Tin-Tennie Pierce, which is what I call him, had been with the fire department for some --

Joe Hicks >> -- wait a minute. Rin-Tin-Tennie --

Larry Elder >> -- Rin-Tin-Tennie. Remember the dog? Rin-Tin-Tennie Pierce was there twenty-some odd years. If there were other instances of racism against him, we certainly would have heard about it by now. These guys were playing a prank on somebody who referred to himself as "The Big Dog".

This was after a volleyball game when he said, "Feed the Big Dog", which is an expression in sports, and they were trying to play a joke on him. They put some dog food in his spaghetti, he took a few bites and, all of a sudden, he is the victim of a racist witch-hunt and now he gets $2.7 million dollars. Do you know, Najee, what I would eat for $2.7 million dollars?

Najee Ali >> We understand there's a history of firefighters involving themselves in pranks and it's really a fraternity, but as Mr. Pierce stated, these pranks that were pulled on him were racially motivated. That's why we feel we should support him with his claims because feeding someone dog food is not a prank. It's something that we feel was racially motivated and something that no human being should be forced to do.

Joe Hicks >> There's apparently some survey done among black firefighters, amazingly large number of female firefighters also apparently, that indicates that they experience some kind of discrimination of one sort or another. Do you think the Los Angeles Fire Department is essentially a bigoted organization?

Najee Ali >> Not overall, but obviously we have some members of the fire department, because of the culture of racism, who have discriminated against their fellow firefighters and it's caused great concern among black firefighters and women in particularly who have stated they've been the victims of racism within the department.

Larry Elder >> And sexism, yeah.

Joe Hicks >> Why do you think so many black or female firefighters indicate that they've experienced "some sort of discrimination" in the fire department?

Larry Elders >> It's hard to say, Joe, probably a lot of factors. It's a macho culture, very few women and it is a culture where there's a lot of gallows humor that's used. People call people names. People call people names racially. I have friends who are cops and some of them are black and some of them are white.

You should hear some of the things they say to each other and then they start laughing. So it's a very, very intense job. You are more likely to be killed as a firefighter than you are as a police officer, so a lot of people engage in this kind of stuff just to release tension.

Joe Hicks >> So do you think that maybe too many minority or female fire department figures might hold their race on their sleeve or maybe be too sensitive with this issue? Might that not be part of some of this polling of people saying they are experiencing some kind of discrimination?

Najee Ali >> Well, Joe, I think obviously I feel their claims of racism and sexism within the department are valid. Not just in the fire department, but in other city institutions such as the police department and other city departments. We've always heard claims of racism and sexism, so I think it's time for the city to have a zero tolerance policy against hazing and make sure these things that, once they come from a city employee, are investigated.

Larry Elder >> I agree with that. They should be investigated and they should be handled on a case by case basis. Nobody is saying that racism in the department is zero. You have racist heart surgeons. You have racist center fielders in baseball.

Joe Hicks >> Is there such a thing as institutionalized racism? Is that real?

Najee Ali >> I believe there's a culture of racism that certain firefighters and police officers have engaged in and we have to take each case by case to make sure that each claim is investigated and whether there's a fair case or not.

Joe Hicks >> But I'm looking at a headline here, Larry, because some black leaders are apparently using the Tennie Pierce case to say that what it's an example of is a larger pattern of racism America decided. The headline says "L.A. Blacks Say Racism Raising Its Head Again".

Larry Elder >> And we have black on black crime. We have brown on brown crime. We have a situation in Harbor Gateway where a small number of blacks are being brutalized by Hispanics. We have a city that is under-funded, a police department that is under-funded, and this is what these so-called black leaders are spending their time doing? Defending a guy who ate three or four bites of dog food? It's insulting. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

Najee Ali >> I base my support for Mr. Pierce and I think other leaders did also after the meeting and talking to his lawyer and hearing his story, but more importantly, looking at the facts that the City Council voted for him to get the settlement and the mayor vetoed it and that's what really set off an alarm for us to find out what's going on down at City Hall.

Joe Hicks >> What does that say about our City Council that, with rare exception, I think three who voted?

Larry Elders >> That they're a bunch of wimps. You pull out the race card and they're going to cave for it.

Joe Hicks >> A couple of quick predictions. In March, this case comes back before a judge, I assume. A quick prediction about what's going to happen.

Najee Ali >> I believe that Mr. Pierce will be successful and win his lawsuit. In fact, I believe it's going to cost the city much, much more money which is why Rocky Delgadillo granted the money to begin with.

Larry Elders >> Unfortunately, I agree with Najee. This thing will very likely result in some sort of jury verdict because we got a bunch of O.J. jurors who are going to be very sympathetic and are going to buy into that argument. I don't know whether it will be more than a $2.7 million. I hope not. But whatever it is, it ought to be appealed.

Joe Hicks >> Time for me to pack my bags and leave. Okay, guys.

Larry Elders >> I'm filing a lawsuit! Wait a minute! There's some dog food in my tea (laughter)!

Joe Hicks >> (Laughter) Thanks a lot, guys.

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Val Zavala >> He has a list of movie credits that would be the envy of anyone in Hollywood. "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice", "An Unmarried Woman", "Down and Out in Beverly Hills". But now Paul Mazursky is taking those decades of experience and directing a play in a small theater near downtown Los Angeles. It's called the "Catskill Sonata" at the Hayworth Theatre.

Paul Mazursky >> "When you catch the kid with the cigarette, don't wait until he gets it out. As soon as he takes the pack out, "Does your father know you smoke?"

Val Zavala >> The last time Mazursky directed a play, Kennedy was president. The seventy-six year old film director, producer, screenwriter and actor has all the nuances down.

Paul Mazursky >> "So you don't have to wait. Just grab it, take one out and throw it back at him. You know what I mean?"

Val Zavala >> If Mazursky seems to be enjoying this, it's because his own career began on stage at Brooklyn College and then summer stock.

Paul Mazursky >> When I played Willie Loman, "Death of a Salesman". I met Arthur Miller years later. I said, "I'm the youngest Willie Loman ever and I did it with talcum powder on my hair." And I said, "In spite of how bad I probably was, the play still worked."

Val Zavala >> One of his performances led to a small role in a Stanley Kubrick film, but more importantly, it landed him in California. In 1969, he directed "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice", the first of many hits.

[Film Clip]

Paul Mazursky >> They were all made in the Hollywood system. No matter what you say about the Hollywood system, it was easier. You knew it would be released, the money was there, the crews and all of that. You know, it wasn't a cinch and maybe I was lucky. I don't know. But the seventies were very kind to me and to others. I'm not the only one.

Val Zavala >> But in the 1990s, moviemaking got tougher and today he's found it nearly impossible to get his favorite scripts green-lighted.

Paul Mazursky >> That may be an older guy saying "the good old days", but let me put it this way. In the 1970s and the 1980s, I was free to make "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice", "Alex in Wonderland", "Blume in Love, "Harry and Tonto", "An Unmarried Woman" "Next Up Greenwich Village", "Moscow on the Hudson", "Tempest", "Moon Over Parador" and "Enemies: A Love Story". I was free to make those movies. A little trouble here and there, but I got them made. It's tougher now.

Val Zavala >> Economically? Or to get the --

Paul Mazursky >> -- they cost a lot more money and they want to open big on Friday, so they're looking for, you know, what they think will be very commercial.

Val Zavala >> Maybe that's why his latest film is decidedly non-commercial.

Val Zavala >> It's a documentary that follows a secular Jew, Mazursky, to an annual gathering of twenty-five thousand Hasidic Jews at the grave of a revered rabbi in the Ukrainian town of Uman. How did he get swept into this?

Paul Mazursky >> I have an oculist who makes eyeglasses. His name is David Moretski. David's always cleaning my glasses, you know. "Paul, you should go to Uman in the Ukraine." I said, "Well, you know, my grandfather is from the Ukraine, but he left. Why should I go there?" "Paul, these glasses are dirty. Why? Because there's a place in Uman where thousands of Hasidic men go on Roshashana to pray at the gravesite of a great rabbi who died in 1810 and said, "If you come to my gravesite and pray, you'll have a great year."

Val Zavala >> And did he have a good year?

Paul Mazursky >> Well, I did because I started to do this play and I have two great daughters and four great-grandchildren and a great wife. I've been married fifty-three years and twenty-eight of those years have been fabulous (laughter).

Val Zavala >> (Laughter) I won't ask about what the other ones were. I hope they were the last half.

Paul Mazursky >> No, no, they're all great. Then I'm doing this play and it's exciting because it's not like a movie. In a movie, you come and we do the scene we're doing now. That's the whole day's work. I get a master shot, then I got you and I got me, maybe a couple of close-ups and that's the day's work.

In a play, you're working like a dog to do the whole thing with nine actors and very little time. We've got to run through the play twice today. But the beginning of it, the memory of it, if you go a little, because it's a rush of memory.

Val Zavala >> The play, the "Catskill Sonata", takes place in the 1950s at a summer resort. It's the McCarthy era and some writers who were blacklisted were able to find work in the Catskills.

Paul Mazursky >> "I think I could be good at that kind of picture (laughter)."

Val Zavala >> The writer is Michael Elias. Both he and Paul spent time in the Catskills. Michael was thrilled when Paul said he'd direct the play.

Michael Elias >> He brings a wealth of experience on how to get great performances from the actors. He's terrific at blocking and moving them around and he's inventive and he's got great energy. I don't think I could have found anybody better.

Paul Mazursky >> "Did you like the yellow better?"

>> "Yeah, I liked the yellow a little better."

Paul Mazursky >> "Then wear the yellow. I want you to be happy. I mean it."

Val Zavala >> Mazursky has ridden the Hollywood roller coaster from flops to Oscar nominations. At this stage in life, he isn't too worried about what will come next. Something interesting always seems to come along.

Paul Mazursky >> I might teach at the AFI this fall. They want me to. I'll see. I don't know. I talk to young filmmakers. My daughter is a young filmmaker.

Val Zavala >> Oh, yeah?

Paul Mazursky >> Yeah, Jill.

Val Zavala >> What advice do you give her?

Paul Mazursky >> Well, I just tell her, "Don't be down when say no, and keep going." She's written and had made about four movies. My other daughter was a casting director, Meg, and she quit because she hated to say no (laughter). I mean it. She couldn't stand it.

Val Zavala >> Definitely not in the right business.

Paul Mazursky >> And my wife, the reason we're married so long, I think, is, of course, I love her. She's a very smart woman. She's not interested in fame and fortune and all that stuff. She really isn't.

Val Zavala >> She's very smart.

Paul Mazursky >> She hopes everything, but she doesn't. She's very smart. She doesn't suffer a bad review, you know.

Val Zavala >> How about you? Your skin has gotten thicker over time.

Paul Mazursky >> Oh, I've suffered some bad reviews, but I've had so many good ones. I've had some good ones as well that were also ironically twisted. Like Stanley Kaufman who reviewed for the New Republic is a great critic. When he saw "Enemies: a Love Story", my movie based on the novel by Isaac Singer with Anjelica Huston and Lena Horne and Ron Silver, he wrote something like, "Who would have thought that Paul Mazursky could make this masterpiece?" So he rapped me in the face --

Val Zavala >>-- (laughter) even a compliment is back-handed.

Paul Mazursky >> But then a great compliment. No, it was great.

Val Zavala >> Mazursky's return to the theater doesn't mean he hasn't got a script or two he'd still like to make into a movie.

Paul Mazursky >> My feeling now is that maybe some miracle will happen and they'll want to do some movie that I have in the drawer. All filmmakers as they get older have films in the drawer.

Val Zavala >> The "Catskill Sonata" runs through April 14. You can call 800-838-3006 for tickets. And that's our program. I'm Val Zavala. For everyone at Life and Times, thanks for watching. We'll see you next time.

Announcer >> Life and Times was made possible through the generous support of the L.K. Whittier Foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life by supporting innovative endeavors in the fields of medicine, health, science and education.

And by a generous grant from Jim and Anne Rothenberg.

Sponsored in part by:
L.K Whitter Foundation

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