LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Just weeks ago, painter Richard Hutchins was homeless, living in shelters on Skid Row, but a chance encounter and a viral video changed his fortune and brought the likes of Hollywood and Oprah Winfrey calling.
Charlie “Rocket” Jabaley is a Grammy and Emmy award-winning brand builder, best known for discovering stars like 2 Chainz and Travis Porter. He was shopping for groceries when he ran into Hutchins at the famous ‘Rock and Roll’ Ralphs on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and made a viral video of their encounter. Both of their worlds were about to be rocked.
“When we pull up to the Ralphs, there’s this guy sitting on the corner, on a shopping cart, and he says to us now, ‘nephew, let me drive that car,’ he liked our Jeep,” Jabaley, who has a nonprofit organization called the Dream Machine Foundation, told CBS2 News This Morning’s Suzanne Marques.
“I call everybody nephew, that’s respect for the younger generation to me,” Hutchins said. “I said, ‘what y’all doing, nephew.’ So Charlie shook my hand. He said, ‘I’m Charlie,’ and put a $100 bill in my hand. They asked me my issues and told them what had happened in my life.”
Richard was a successful artist years ago, until several life setbacks, including time in prison, where he made paint using candy and coffee. After he was released, his art studio burned down. He’d been living in shelters until that chance meeting with Charlie, who asked Richard what his dream was.
“And it was very specific,” Jabalay said. He said, ‘I just want my art to make people happy. I want to see it in an art gallery or watch somebody look at my art and be inspired.’”
His life would never be the same. Jabalay bought him art supplies, and while Hutchins painted, Jabalay also got to work making Hutchins’ dreams come true through his nonprofit organization. In a matter of weeks, he set up an art website for Hutchins, hosted a star-studded red carpet and art show at the Sofitel in Hollywood on June 24. Hutchins started selling art to celebrities like Steve Harvey and Oprah Winfrey.
“Richard, you’re not charging enough money,” Winfrey told Hutchins in a recent Zoom call.
“I saw something, like an Angela Davis portrait, it’s like $150,” Winfrey added. “Listen, I’m gonna pay $1,500 for that, because it needs to be at least ten times what you’re asking for.”
So far, Hutchins’ art has made more than $200,000.
With Jabalay by his side, Hutchins is already making plans to pay it forward. He has not forgotten where he came from.
“President Biden, great man, madam vice president, great woman, but someone would have to come down here and literally walk Skid Row,” Hutchins said. “I have never seen a sitting president come to Skid Row, ever.”
Hutchins said he never spent the night in a tent. He always stayed at shelters.
“I’m afraid to lay my head down in a tent at night,” Hutchins said. “I’m serious, they burn tents up. And the women is dying there, God bless them, oh my God. What the mayor has to do, they need to get someone off of Skid Row…put them on the board, make them a member of that committee.”
Anyone struggling with homelessness — or struggling to feed their family and at risk of becoming homeless — can call 211 for help. For an extensive list of resources through the L.A. County Homeless Services Authority, click here.