The man who changed celebrity: Harvey Levin’s unstoppable rise

“Short, gay, Jewish geek” Harvey Levin went from small-time lawyer to powerful leader of trashy gossip giant TMZ, revolutionising the meaning of celebrity in the process.


Harvey Levin has made and destroyed stars with his smutty, shocking headlines, creating Kim Kardashians while ruining Mel Gibsons.

This short, gay, Jewish geek has changed how we see fame, uncovering the scandal and dirt that publicists work so hard to hide from the public. Has Levin become one of the untouchables he despises? Or will the public eventually find his world too shallow and hateful to love?

TMZ — which stands for Thirty Mile Zone, the hallowed ring of Hollywood studios — has turned digging into every detail of celebrity life into an art form. Rather than accept the carefully managed wedding stories and red carpet photos, it trades in being an outsider, passing on whispered tales of misbehavior and secret vices.

The difference was that Levin was all about the scoops. The first exclusive landed in 2005 before the website was even ready — a report of a car crash involving Paris Hilton, Greek shipping heir Stavros Niarchos and Rod Stewart’s daughter Kimberly. The best part was the hotel heiress’s brilliant line, delivered while blowing a kiss: “We love the police”. TMZ sent it out via email.

Levin set up a crack team that digs through LA court files every day to be first with stories of divorce, drunken car crashes and drug arrests. Instead of relying on freelancers, he hired his own paparazzi to ensure loyalty, hard work and no extra fees for the best results.

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