Ben Hollis has made a living by showing Chicagoans how to live the W.I.L.D. (“What I Love Doing) way. An Emmy winner and 1980′s WTTW Channel 11 icon, Hollis has picked up his signature safari hat and handheld camera again, made famous by the series “W.I.L.D. Chicago,” to help promote local businesses in Lakeview.
Combining the essence of W.I.L.D. Chicago with the ease and accessibility of YouTube, Hollis is now showing his audience the W.I.L.D. side of 10 Lakeview businesses.
One of the signature elements of Hollis’ previous work was the idea of letting shop owners and employees tell their own story. That philosophy remained in the latest W.I.L.D. videos, as well.
“That’s the essence of the W.I.L.D. brand and always has been,” Hollis said. “It’s about the host getting out of the way and people telling their own story. It’s their story and their passion for their business. They’re living the W.I.L.D. life.”
The video series was an idea Hollis originally had for his home community, Andersonville. After success there and in a few surrounding suburbs, such as Berwyn, he took it to the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, which then had a lottery drawing to decide which businesses would be featured in his series. Some businesses featured include the restaurant Deleece, Lyons Family Eyecare and Southport Cafe and Grocery.
The money to fund the project comes from Special Service Area 27. But even though Hollis created the series in an effort to stimulate business, the spirit of his longtime W.I.L.D. Chicago series was still present in Lakeview edition.
“The essence of it is unchanged,” Hollis said. “[But] I’m pulling back on a bit of the more ‘out there’ shtick. My focus at [WTTW] Channel 11 was to entertain first and add humor to it. The story always came out. In Berwyn, they asked they take it out.They’re paying for it so they get the say. But I still have creative control.”
Though each location tells its own story, Hollis sticks to his tried-and-true approach of letting people speak for themselves.
“It’s a stealth improv game,” he said. “I go in and I want them to tell their story and usually that leads me to the chief point they want to make.”