9 episodes

In 1960s Los Angeles, after the catastrophic Watts riots, an outsized character emerged — one who found an unexpected way to unite people across race and class. Odds are you’ve never heard of him. From L.A. Times Studios, the team behind “Dirty John” and “Man in the Window,” comes “Larger Than Life,” a docu-series about Big Willie Robinson, a 6-foot-6, muscle-bound street racer who preached peace a quarter-mile at a time. Cops and criminals, movie stars and miscreants, even Crips and Bloods — out at the drag strip, Big Willie could get them all to see eye to eye, easing tensions and making L.A. a safer and more unified place. For a time, he was a celebrated figure in L.A. — but today his legend has faded. What caused him to fall into obscurity? Reported, written and hosted by Daniel Miller from the L.A. Times. Produced by L.A. Times Studios and Neon Hum Media. Photo Illustration by Wondery.

Larger Than Life Wondery

    • Documentary
    • 4.2, 762 Ratings

In 1960s Los Angeles, after the catastrophic Watts riots, an outsized character emerged — one who found an unexpected way to unite people across race and class. Odds are you’ve never heard of him. From L.A. Times Studios, the team behind “Dirty John” and “Man in the Window,” comes “Larger Than Life,” a docu-series about Big Willie Robinson, a 6-foot-6, muscle-bound street racer who preached peace a quarter-mile at a time. Cops and criminals, movie stars and miscreants, even Crips and Bloods — out at the drag strip, Big Willie could get them all to see eye to eye, easing tensions and making L.A. a safer and more unified place. For a time, he was a celebrated figure in L.A. — but today his legend has faded. What caused him to fall into obscurity? Reported, written and hosted by Daniel Miller from the L.A. Times. Produced by L.A. Times Studios and Neon Hum Media. Photo Illustration by Wondery.

    Introducing PAPERCLIP

    Introducing PAPERCLIP

    Truth can be as strange as fiction. Such is the case with a top-secret program that brought Nazi scientists to America. From L.A. Times Studios comes "Paperclip," a podcast paid for by Amazon Studios and inspired by its Emmy-eligible dramatic series “Hunters." Starring Al Pacino and Logan Lerman. Join host Michael Ian Black as he teams up with a Cold War scholar to explore the truth about Operation Paperclip.

    Listen and subscribe now: https://link.chtbl.com/oO7jjC1a.

    This is a paid podcast funded Amazon Studios. The Los Angeles Times newsroom was not involved in the production of this podcast. The views expressed on this podcast are not necessarily the views of Amazon Studios or the Los Angeles Times.

    • 8 min
    The Last Race | 7

    The Last Race | 7

    Episode 7: Big Willie Robinson’s decision to make himself into a myth ends in tragedy. An effort to understand his legacy leads to a harrowing street race in Compton, and, ultimately, a question: What does it really mean to be larger than life?

    Learn more about the story, sign up for new episode alerts and go behind the scenes at latimes.com/LTL

    • 36 min
    Shut Down | 6

    Shut Down | 6

    Episode 6: As the drug trade and gang violence of the 1980s engulf South Los Angeles, Big Willie Robinson finds himself without a racetrack and sees his influence waning. But after the city burns again, he seizes a chance to start anew.

    Learn more about the story, sign up for new episode alerts and go behind the scenes at latimes.com/LTL

    • 38 min
    The Lie | 5

    The Lie | 5

    Episode 5: A startling revelation about Big Willie Robinson leads to a reappraisal of the street racer and his mission. As members of the Brotherhood of Street Racers try to make sense of his secret, a new truth emerges.

    Learn more about the story, sign up for new episode alerts and go behind the scenes at latimes.com/LTL

    • 35 min
    Fast and Famous | 4

    Fast and Famous | 4

    Episode 4: Big Willie Robinson has a surprising career turn in the entertainment industry, working as an actor, rubbing shoulders with A-listers and appearing in some iconic 1970s films. He even has connections to the “The Fast and the Furious” and “Star Wars” film franchises.

    Learn more about the story, sign up for new episode alerts and go behind the scenes at latimes.com/LTL

    • 33 min
    Run Whatcha Brung | 3

    Run Whatcha Brung | 3

    Episode 3: Banned from street racing in L.A. in the early 1970s, Big Willie Robinson becomes fixated with building a racetrack for the Brotherhood of Street Racers. He wants a place where all are welcome — even cops and criminals — but can he pull it off?

    Learn more about the story, sign up for new episode alerts and go behind the scenes at latimes.com/LTL

    • 30 min

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5
762 Ratings

762 Ratings

dyno christine ,

Nuanced portrayal

I don't really care about cars, or street racing for that matter -- but found myself hooked by Big Willie Robinson's story. He was a remarkable figure, and he helped a city when he was needed the most. I loved how this story unfurled, and was stunned by the twist in episode 5. Did. Not. See. That. Coming. I liked how they handled it ... you got the sense the people who made this show felt duty-bound to tell the truth. At the same time, they told the story with compassion, which is rare these days in a world of gotcha-journalism. A must-listen for L.A. history buffs, and I suppose, car people.

dsaiger ,

Amazing

Something for everyone. LA ppl, car ppl, race ppl, etc. great narration too!

Ejsaiger ,

Great piece of la history

Great reporting and storytelling! Loved the glimpse into a different time.

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