Back in the 1980s, I learned of The Billionaire Boys Club in an eye-popping article in Esquire magazine [paywalled link]. It was total serendipity. I don’t read Esquire and can’t recall how that issue got into my hands.
Who knew I was getting a glimpse into all of the financial fraud to come since? Bernie Madoff. The Wolf of Wall Street. Enron. And more.
NBC found the story fascinating too, and did a two-part mini-series. I saw that. At least twice.
And now there’s a new movie adaptation, with the untouchable Kevin Spacey in it.
Since the Esquire article and the NBC mini-series, something about that story has changed. In this movie, Joe Hunt (if Wikipedia is to be believed, isn’t even his real name) is a duped naif under the spell of a Machiavellian Dean Karny. I don’t remember it being that way but it’s been decades since the original article and the NBC show.
Spacey, having been outed in the scandal, doesn’t play his role as he would have usually. It’s obvious he’s gay AF in it. I don’t recall if the original con artist, Ron Levin, was too. But that’s not how my memory recollects the character as portrayed in the NBC drama.
Even though details have changed, the story remains a sordid one of people wanting shortcuts to riches. As if they were, by birthright, entitled to them. Starting out on that foot will lead to prison. Go ask Joe Hunt. Go ask Bernie Madoff. Go ask Jordan Belfort. Whether or not Hunt actually killed Ron Levin is beside the point. He compiled the list of steps. He was there when it happened. The result was inevitable.
Listen: Everyone reading this blog can snicker and laugh and outright ridicule the books I point out from Orison Swett Marden. How quaint. How precious. How irrelevant, people will say.
But understand this: Following the advice of Orison Swett Marden would never lead someone down the path of fraud, of creating a Ponzi scheme, of kidnapping, extorting, and murdering people.
I’d rather stand with Marden than have the illusion of riches any day.
And as for the movie, yeah, it’s worth seeing. As what not to do in life.
Same-day update: I didn’t follow one of my rules: Always Check YouTube. The NBC adaptation is there (for now).