Carlyle Groups David Rubenstein on Why Hollywood is a Uniquely American Invention

Hollywood is a “uniquely American” construct that is deeply intertwined with the concept of the United States as a land of rags-to-riches opportunity. That’s the view shared by David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-chair of investment giant Carlyle Group, after his visit to the Hollywood hills for an episode of his new PBS series “Iconic America: Our Symbols and Stories.”

“The whole culture of Hollywood is one that is uniquely American,” Rubenstein says on the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” in discussing the episode of “Iconic America” that is devoted to the Hollywood sign. The series debuts April 26.

“What we try to do in these so-called symbols of our country, is to talk about things that are really uniquely American. Obviously there’s Bollywood in India, but generally, if you think about making movies, you think about Hollywood, and a uniquely American kind of enterprise,” Rubenstein says.

“The American Dream is kind of a Horatio Alger concept where you start with nothing and you rise up to success in our country. And the American Dream is something that people generally believe in this country. But a subset of that is the Hollywood dream. You might not be well educated. You might not be extremely talented in the view of some of your peers. But you go to Hollywood and you’re discovered as an actor or actress and all of a sudden, you’re Marilyn Monroe. And so that dream still lives on and many, many people go to Hollywood,” he says.

Rubenstein jokes that the first thing you learn when going to Hollywood is that none of the major studios are actually located in Hollywood, with Netflix being a major exception. But the name and the sign endure as symbols of the potential to build an empire on the back of a cartoon mouse or other humble beginnings.

Carlyle Group is one of the world’s largest investment firms with more than $370 billion in assets under management. Rubenstein co-founded the firm in 1987 after working as a lawyer in Washinton, D.C. and as a domestic policy advisor to the Carter administration.

These days, Rubenstein’s curiousity about as big as his fortune, and he indulges it in nonfiction series that he hosts for PBS and for Bloomberg news. “Iconic America” reflects Rubenstein’s passion for history and his deep concern that not enough of us know enough about our history to avoid repeating the bad parts.

“The theory about history is that you don’t learn the past, you’re condemned to relive it,” he says. “And the theory of our country is that it’s a representative democracy, but it requires a informed citizenry. And we don’t have an informed citizenry so much anymore. So as part of what I’m trying to do is to kind of educate Americans more about our history.”

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

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