[NOTE: Last night when I took a few notes for this post, I was able to read the WSJ article on which it was based. Now, when I'm wanting to take another look in order to actually write my post, the article seems to have dived behind a firewall. So some of this is written from my memory of the article.]
I am not planning to watch the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
It’s not exactly—how shall I say it?—my cup of tea. But if you’re interested, here’s a short version of the real story on which it’s based.
The movie is about sex, drugs, rock and roll—and greed—on Wall Street. Except that it’s not. As article author Ronald L. Rubin points out, the offenders were not even on Wall Street and what they were doing was not Wall Street business as usual, it was a criminal enterprise.
Perpetrators Belfort and Porush weren’t just the greedy Wall Street 1% whom Obama likes to excoriate and link with the right (while the Democrats quietly cozy up to them). They were crooks and sociopaths. Is “sociopath” too strong a word for Belfort, the Wolf himself? I think it’s just right, as illustrated at the end of the piece when Rubin repeats a joke Belfort cracked when Rubin asked him whether his conscience didn’t bother him, bilking old ladies out of their life savings. Belfort laughed and said “Yeah, that’s why we did so many drugs.”
Belfort’s a good-looking man, and a successful one, too, even now that he’s out of prison and has to pay back some of the money he scammmed. He’s a “motivational speaker” in his most recent incarnation; a great profession for a con man, don’t you think? And it’s fitting that there’s now a movie about him, because his inspiration was a movie:
Belfort’s background in finance was limited. After dropping out of dental school, he sold frozen lobsters and steaks door-to-door; one of his first experiences in sales came from hawking ices as a kid. He proved to be a great talker and fearless mimic, modeling himself after his hero, Gordon Gekko, the ruthless corporate raider in Wall Street, a favorite film, and assumed what he called “a devilish alter ego.”
The New York Magazine article details even more of Belfort’s sociopathy, although it never uses the word. A hero for our times.