Image above: Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ © Paramount Pictures
Editor's Note: Hollywood dream team Martin Scorsese and Leonardo have paired up once again, this time to bring Jordan Belfort's memoir of his scandalous time on Wall Street - The Wolf of Wall Street - to the big screen. Whether you've seen the film yet or not, check out this extended excerpt from the book - where it all began.
PROLOGUE: A BABE IN THE WOODS
May 4, 1987
You're lower than pond scum," said my new boss, leading me through the boardroom of LF Rothschild for the first time.
"You got a problem with that, Jordan?"
"No," I replied, "no problem."
"Good," snapped my boss, and he kept right on walking.
We were walking through a maze of brown mahogany desks and black telephone wire on the twenty-third floor of a glass-and aluminum tower that rose up forty-one stories above Manhattan's fabled Fifth Avenue. The boardroom was a vast space, perhaps fifty by seventy feet. It was an oppressive space, loaded with desks, telephones, computer monitors, and some very obnoxious yuppies, seventy of them in all. They had their suit jackets off, and at this hour of morning - 9:20 a.m. - they were leaning back in their seats, reading their Wall Street Journals, and congratulating themselves on being young Masters of the Universe.
Being a Master of the Universe; it seemed like a noble pursuit, and as I walked past the Masters, in my cheap blue suit and clodhopper shoes, I found myself wishing I were one of them. But my new boss was quick to remind me that I wasn't. "Your job" - he looked at the plastic nametag on my cheap blue lapel - "Jordan Belfort, is a connector, which means you'll be dialing the phone five hundred times a day, trying to get past secretaries. You're not trying to sell anything or recommend anything or create anything. You're just trying to get business owners on the phone." He paused for a brief instant, then spewed out more venom. "And when you do get one on the phone, all you'll say is: 'Hello, Mr. So and So, I have Scott holding for you,' and then you pass the phone to me and start dialing again. Think you can handle that, or is that too complicated for you?"
"No, I can handle it," I said confidently, as a wave of panic overtook me like a killer tsunami. The LF Rothschild training program was six months long. They would be tough months, grueling months, during which I would be at the very mercy of assholes like Scott, the yuppie scumbag who seemed to have bubbled up from the fiery depths of yuppie hell.
Sneaking peaks at him out of the corner of my eye, I came to the quick conclusion that Scott looked like a goldfish. He was bald and pale, and what little hair he did have left was a muddy orange. He was in his early thirties, on the tall side, and he had a narrow skull and pink, puffy lips. He wore a bow tie, which made him look ridiculous. Over his bulging brown eyeballs he wore a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles, which made him look fishy - in the goldfish sense of the word.
"Good," said the scumbag goldfish. "Now, here are the ground rules: There are no breaks, no personal calls, no sick days, no coming in late, and no loafing off. You get thirty minutes for lunch" - he paused for effect - "and you better be back on time, because there are fifty people waiting to take your desk if you fuck up."
He kept walking and talking as I followed one step behind, mesmerized by the thousands of orange diode stock quotes that came skidding across gray-colored computer monitors. At the front of the room, a wall of plate glass looked out over midtown Manhattan. Up ahead I could see the Empire State Building. It towered above everything, seeming to rise up to the heavens and scrape the sky. It was a sight to behold, a sight worthy of a young Master of the Universe. And, right now, that goal seemed further and further away.
"To tell you the truth," sputtered Scott, "I don't think you're cut out for this job. You look like a kid, and Wall Street's no place for kids. It's a place for killers. A place for mercenaries. So in that sense you're lucky I'm not the one who does the hiring around here." He let out a few ironic chuckles.
I bit my lip and said nothing. The year was 1987, and yuppie assholes like Scott seemed to rule the world. Wall Street was in the midst of a raging bull market, and freshly minted millionaires were being spit out a dime a dozen. Money was cheap, and a guy named Michael Milken had invented something called "junk bonds," which had changed the way corporate America went about its business. It was a time of unbridled greed, a time of wanton excess. It was the era of the yuppie.
As we neared his desk, my yuppie nemesis turned to me and said, "I'll say it again, Jordan: You're the lowest of the low. You're not even a cold caller yet; you're a connector." Disdain dripped off the very word. "And 'til you pass your Series Seven, connecting will be your entire universe. And that is why you are lower than pond scum. You got a problem with that?"
"Absolutely not," I replied. "It's the perfect job for me, because I am lower than pond scum." I shrugged innocently.
Unlike Scott, I don't look like a goldfish, which made me feel proud as he stared at me, searching my face for irony. I'm on the short side, though, and at the age of twenty-four I still had the soft boyish features of an adolescent. It was the sort of face that made it difficult for me to get into a bar without getting proofed. I had a full head of light brown hair, smooth olive skin, and a pair of big blue eyes. Not altogether bad-looking.
But, alas, I hadn't been lying to Scott when I'd told him that I felt lower than pond scum. In point of fact, I did. The problem was that I had just run my first business venture into the ground, and my self-esteem had been run into the ground with it. It had been an ill-conceived venture into the meat and seafood industry, and by the time it was over I had found myself on the ass end of twenty-six truck leases - all of which I'd personally guaranteed, and all of which were now in default. So the banks were after me, as was some belligerent woman from American Express - a bearded, three-hundred-pounder by the sound of her - who was threatening to personally kick my ass if I didn't pay up. I had considered changing my phone number, but I was so far behind on my phone bill that NYNEX was after me too.
We reached Scott's desk and he offered me the seat next to his, along with some kind words of encouragement. "Look at the bright side," he quipped. "If by some miracle you don't get fired for laziness, stupidness, insolence, or tardiness, then you might actually become a stockbroker one day." He smirked at his own humor. "And just so you know, last year I made over three hundred thousand dollars, and the other guy you'll be working for made over a million."
Over a million? I could only imagine what an asshole the other guy was. With a sinking heart, I asked, "Who's the other guy?"
"Why?" asked my yuppie tormentor. "What's it to you?" Sweet Jesus! I thought. Only speak when spoken to, you nincompoop! It was like being in the Marines. In fact, I was getting the distinct impression that this bastard's favorite movie was An Officer and a Gentleman, and he was playing out a Lou Gossett fantasy on me - pretending he was a drill sergeant in charge of a substandard Marine. But I kept that thought to myself, and all I said was, "Uh, nothing, I was just, uh, curious."
"His name is Mark Hanna, and you'll meet him soon enough." With that, he handed me a stack of three-by-five index cards, each of them having the name and phone number of a wealthy business owner on it. "Smile and dial," he instructed, "and don't pick up your fucking head 'til twelve." Then he sat down at his own desk, picked up a copy of The Wall Street Journal, and put his black crocodile dress shoes on the desktop and started reading.
I was about to pick up the phone when I felt a beefy hand on my shoulder. I looked up, and with a single glance I knew it was Mark Hanna. He reeked of success, like a true Master of the Universe. He was a big guy - about six-one, two-twenty, and most of it muscle. He had jet-black hair, dark intense eyes, thick fleshy features, and a fair smattering of acne scars. He was handsome, in a downtown sort of way, giving off the hip whiff of Greenwich Village. I felt the charisma oozing off him.
"Jordan?" he said, in a remarkably soothing tone.
"Yeah, that's me," I replied, in the tone of the doomed. "Pond scum first-class, at your service!"
He laughed warmly, and the shoulder pads of his $2,000 gray pin-striped suit rose and fell with each chuckle. Then, in a voice louder than necessary, he said, "Yeah, well, I see you got your first dose of the village asshole!" He motioned his head toward Scott. I nodded imperceptibly. He winked back. "No worry: I'm the senior broker here; he's just a worthless piker. So disregard everything he said and anything he might ever say in the future."
Try as I might, I couldn't help but glance over at Scott, who was now muttering the words: "Fuck you, Hanna!"
Mark didn't take offense, though. He simply shrugged and stepped around my desk, putting his great bulk between Scott and me, and he said, "Don't let him bother you. I hear you're a first-class salesman. In a year from now that moron will be kissing your ass."
I smiled, feeling a mixture of pride and embarrassment. "Who told you I was a great salesman?"
"Steven Schwartz, the guy who hired you. He said you pitched him stock right in the job interview." Mark chuckled at that. "He was impressed; he told me to watch out for you."
"Yeah, I was nervous he wasn't gonna hire me. There were twenty people lined up for interviews, so I figured I better do something drastic - you know, make an impression." I shrugged my shoulders. "He told me I'd need to tone it down a bit, though."
Mark smirked. "Yeah, well don't tone it down too much. High pressure's a must in this business. People don't buy stock; it gets sold to them. Don't ever forget that." He paused, letting his words sink in. "Anyway, Sir Scumbag over there was right about one thing: Connecting does suck. I did it for seven months, and I wanted to kill myself every day. So I'll let you in on a little secret" - and he lowered his voice conspiratorially - "You only pretend to connect. You loaf off at every opportunity." He smiled and winked, then raised his voice back to normal. "Don't get me wrong; I want you to pass me as many connects as possible, because I make money off them. But I don't want you to slit your wrists over it, 'cause I hate the sight of blood." He winked again. "So take lots of breaks. Go to the bathroom and jerk off if you have to. That's what I did, and it worked like a charm for me. You like jerking off, I assume, right?"
I was a bit taken aback by the question, but as I would later learn, a Wall Street boardroom was no place for symbolic pleasantries. Words like shit and fuck and bastard and prick were as common as yes and no and maybe and please. I said, "Yeah, I, uh, love jerking off. I mean, what guy doesn't, right?"
He nodded, almost relieved. "Good, that's real good. Jerking off is key. And I also strongly recommend the use of drugs, especially cocaine, because that'll make you dial faster, which is good for me." He paused, as if searching for more words of wisdom, but apparently came up short. "Well, that's about it," he said. "That's all the knowledge I can impart to you now. You'll do fine, rookie. One day you'll even look back at this and laugh; that much I can promise you." He smiled once more and then took a seat before his own phone.
A moment later a buzzer sounded, announcing that the market had just opened. I looked at my Timex watch, purchased at JCPenney for fourteen bucks last week. It was nine-thirty on the nose. It was May 4, 1987, my first day on Wall Street.
Just then, over the loudspeaker, came the voice of LF Rothschild's sales manager, Steven Schwartz. "Okay, gentlemen. The futures look strong this morning, and serious buying is coming in from Tokyo." Steven was only thirty-eight years old, but he'd made over $2 million last year. (Another Master of the Universe.) "We're looking at a ten-point pop at the open," he added, "so let's hit the phones and rock and roll!"
And just like that the room broke out into pandemonium. Feet came flying off desktops; Wall Street Journals were filed away in garbage cans; shirtsleeves were rolled up to the elbows; and one by one brokers picked up their phones and started dialing. I picked up my own phone and started dialing too. Within minutes, everyone was pacing about furiously and gesticulating wildly and shouting into their black telephones, which created a mighty roar. It was the first time I'd heard the roar of a Wall Street boardroom, which sounded like the roar of a mob. It was a sound I'd never forget, a sound that would change my life forever. It was the sound of young men engulfed by greed and ambition, pitching their hearts and souls out to wealthy business owners across America.
"Miniscribe's a fucking steal down here," screamed a chubby-faced yuppie into his telephone. He was twenty-eight, and he had a raging coke habit and a gross income of $600,000. "Your broker in West Virginia? Christ! He might be good at picking coal-mining stocks, but it's the eighties now. The name of the game is hightech!" "I got fifty thousand July Fifties!" screamed a broker, two desks over.
"They're out of the money!" yelled another.
"I'm not getting rich on one trade," swore a broker to his client. "Are you kidding?" snapped Scott into his headset. "After I split my commission with the firm and the government I can't put Puppy Chow in my dog's bowl!"
Every so often a broker would slam his phone down in victory and then fill out a buy ticket and walk over to a pneumatic tubing system that had been affixed to a support column. He would stick the ticket in a glass cylinder and watch it get sucked up into the ceiling. From there, the ticket made its way to the trading desk on the other side of the building, where it would be rerouted to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for execution. So the ceiling had been lowered to make room for the tubing, and it seemed to bear down on my head.
By ten o'clock, Mark Hanna had made three trips to the support column, and he was about to make another. He was so smooth on the phone that it literally boggled my mind. It was as if he were apologizing to his clients as he ripped their eyeballs out. "Sir, let me say this," Mark was saying to the chairman of a Fortune 500 company. "I pride myself on finding the bottom of these issues. And my goal is not only to guide you into these situations but to guide you out as well." His tone was so soft and mellow that it was almost hypnotic. "I'd like to be an asset to you for the long term; to be an asset to your business - and to your family."
Two minutes later Mark was at the tubing system with a quartermillion-dollar buy order for a stock called Microsoft. I'd never heard of Microsoft before, but it sounded like a pretty decent company. Anyway, Mark's commission on the trade was $3,000. I had seven dollars in my pocket. By twelve o'clock I was dizzy, and I was starving. In fact, I was dizzy and starving and sweating profusely. But, most of all, I was hooked. The mighty roar was surging through my very innards and resonating with every fiber of my being. I knew I could do this job. I knew I could do it just like Mark Hanna did it, probably even better. I knew I could be smooth as silk. To my surprise, rather than taking the building's elevator down to the lobby and spending half my net worth on two frankfurters and a Coke, I now found myself ascending to the penthouse with Mark Hanna standing beside me. Our destination was a five-star restaurant called Top of the Sixes, which was on the forty-first floor of the office building. It was where the elite met to eat, a place where Masters of the Universe could get blitzed on martinis and exchange war stories.
The moment we stepped into the restaurant, Luis, the maître d', bum-rushed Mark, shaking his hand violently and telling him how wonderful it was to see him on such a glorious Monday afternoon. Mark slipped him a fifty, which caused me to nearly swallow my own tongue, and Luis ushered us to a corner table with a fabulous view of Manhattan's Upper West Side and the George Washington Bridge.
Mark smiled at Luis and said, "Give us two Absolut martinis, Luis, straight up. And then bring us two more in" - he looked at his thick gold Rolex watch - "exactly seven and a half minutes, and then keep bringing them every five minutes until one of us passes out."
Luis nodded. "Of course, Mr. Hanna. That's an excellent strategy." I smiled at Mark, and said, in a very apologetic tone, "I'm sorry, but I, uh, don't drink." Then I turned to Luis. "You could just bring me a Coke. That'll be fine." Luis and Mark exchanged a look, as if I'd just committed a crime. But all Mark said was, "It's his first day on Wall Street; give him time."
Luis looked at me, compressed his lips, and nodded gravely. "That's perfectly understandable. Have no fear; soon enough you'll be an alcoholic."
Mark nodded in agreement. "Well said, Luis, but bring him a martini anyway, just in case he changes his mind. Worse comes to worst, I'll drink it myself."
"Excellent, Mr. Hanna. Will you and your friend be eating today or just imbibing?"
What the fuck was Luis talking about? I wondered. It was a rather ridiculous question, considering it was lunchtime! But to my surprise, Mark told Luis that he would not be eating today, that only I would, at which point Luis handed me a menu and went to fetch our drinks. A moment later I found out exactly why Mark wouldn't be eating, when he reached into his suit-jacket pocket, pulled out a coke vial, unscrewed the top, and dipped in a tiny spoon. He scooped out a sparkling pile of nature's most powerful appetite suppressant - namely, cocaine - and he took a giant snort up his right nostril. Then he repeated the process and Hoovered one up his left.
I was astonished. Couldn't believe it! Right here in the restaurant! Among the Masters of the Universe! Out of the corner of my eye I glanced around the restaurant to see if anyone had noticed. Apparently no one had, and, in retrospect, I'm sure that they wouldn't have given a shit anyway. After all, they were too busy getting whacked on vodka and scotch and gin and bourbon and whatever dangerous pharmaceuticals they had procured with their wildly inflated paychecks.
"Here you go," said Mark, passing me the coke vial. "The true ticket on Wall Street; this and hookers." Hookers? That struck me as odd. I mean, I'd never even been to one! Besides, I was in love with a girl I was about to make my wife. Her name was Denise, and she was gorgeous - as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside. The chances of me cheating on her were less than zero. And as far as the coke was concerned, well, I'd done my share of partying in college, but it had been a few years since I'd touched anything other than pot. "No thanks," I said, feeling slightly embarrassed. "The stuff doesn't really agree with me. It makes me ... uh ... nuts. Like I can't sleep or eat, and I ... uh ... well, I start worrying about everything. It's really bad for me. Really evil."
"No problem," he said, taking another blast from the vial. "But I promise you that cocaine can definitely help you get through the day around here!" He shook his head and shrugged. "It's a fucked-up racket, being a stockbroker. I mean, don't get me wrong: The money's great and everything, but you're not creating anything, you're not building anything. So after a while it gets kinda monotonous." He paused, as if searching for the right words. "The truth is we're nothing more than sleazoid salesmen. None of us has any idea what stocks are going up! We're all just throwing darts at a board and, you know, churning and burning. Anyway, you'll figure all this out soon enough."
We spent the next few minutes sharing our backgrounds. Mark had grown up in Brooklyn, in the town of Bay Ridge, which was a pretty tough neighborhood from what I knew of it. "Whatever you do," he quipped, "don't go out with a girl from Bay Ridge. They're all fucking crazy!" Then he took another blast from his coke vial and added, "The last one I went out with stabbed me with a fucking pencil while I was sleeping! Can you imagine?"
Just then a tuxedoed waiter came over and placed our drinks on the table. Mark lifted his twenty-dollar martini and I lifted my eight-dollar Coke. Mark said, "Here's to the Dow Jones going straight to five thousand!" We clinked glasses. "And here's to your career on Wall Street!" he added. "May you make a bloody fortune in this racket and maintain just a small portion of your soul in the process!" We both smiled and then clinked glasses again. In that very instant if someone told me that in just a few short years I would end up owning the very restaurant I was now sitting in and that Mark Hanna, along with half the other brokers at LF Rothschild would end up working for me, I would have said they were crazy. And if someone told me that I would be snorting lines of cocaine off the bar in this very restaurant, while a dozen high-class hookers looked on in admiration, I would say that they had lost their fucking mind.
But that would be only the beginning. You see, at that very moment there were things happening away from me - things that had nothing to do with me - sta ting with a little something called portfolio insurance, which was a computer-driven stock-hedging strategy that would ultimately put an end to this raging bull market and send the Dow Jones crashing down 508 points in a single day. And, from there, the chain of events that would ensue would be almost unimaginable. Wall Street would close down business for a time, and the investment-banking firm of LF Rothschild would be forced to shut its doors. And then the insanity would take hold. What I offer you now is a reconstruction of that insanity - a satirical reconstruction - of what would turn out to be one of the wildest rides in Wall Street history. And I offer it to you in a voice that was playing inside my head at that very time. It's an ironic voice, a glib voice, a self-serving voice, and, at many times, a despicable voice. It's a voice that allowed me to rationalize anything that stood in my way of living a life of unbridled hedonism. It's a voice that helped me corrupt other people - and manipulate them - and bring chaos and insanity to an entire generation of young Americans.
I grew up in a middle-class family in Bayside, Queens, where words like nigger and spick and wop and chink were considered the dirtiest of words - words that were never to be uttered under any circumstances. In my parents' household, prejudices of any sort were heavily discouraged; they were considered the mental processes of inferior beings, of unenlightened beings. I have always felt this way: as a child, as an adolescent, and even at the height of the insanity. Yet dirty words like that would come to slip off my tongue with remarkable ease, especially as the insanity took hold. Of course, I would rationalize that out too - telling myself that this was Wall Street and, on Wall Street, there's no time for symbolic pleasantries or societal niceties. Why do I say these things to you? I say them because I want you to know who I really am and, more importantly, who I'm not. And I say these things because I have two children of my own, and I have a lot to explain to them one day. I'll have to explain how their lovable dad, the very dad who now drives them to soccer games and shows up at their parent-teacher conferences and stays home on Friday nights and makes them Caesar salad from scratch, could have been such a despicable person once. But what I sincerely hope is that my life serves as a cautionary tale to the rich and poor alike; to anyone who's living with a spoon up their nose and a bunch of pills dissolving in their stomach sac; or to any person who's considering taking a God-given gift and misusing it; to anyone who decides to go to the dark side of the force and live a life of unbridled hedonism. And to anyone who thinks there's anything glamorous about being known as a Wolf of Wall Street.
Six Years Later
CHAPTER 1: A WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING
The insanity had quickly taken hold, and by the winter of '93 I had this eerie feeling that I'd landed the starring role in one of those reality TV shows, before they came into vogue. The name of my show was Lifestyles of the Rich and Dysfunctional, and each day seemed to be growing more dysfunctional than the last. I had started a brokerage firm named Stratton Oakmont, which was now one of the largest and by far the wildest brokerage firm in Wall Street history. The word on Wall Street was that I had an unadulterated death wish and that I was certain to put myself in the grave before I turned thirty. But that was nonsense, I knew, because I had just turned thirty-one and was still alive and kicking. At this particular moment, a Wednesday morning in mid-December, I was sitting behind the controls of my twin-engine Bell Jet helicopter on my way from the 30th Street Heliport in midtown Manhattan to my estate in Old Brookville, Long Island, with enough drugs running through my circulatory system to sedate Guatemala.
It was a little after three a.m., and we were cruising along at a hundred twenty knots somewhere over the western edge of Long Island's Little Neck Bay. I remember thinking how remarkable it was that I could fly a straight line while seeing two of everything, when suddenly I began to feel woozy. Then all at once the helicopter was in the midst of a steep dive and I could see the black waters of the bay rushing toward me. There was this terrible vibration coming from the helicopter's main rotor, and I could hear the panic-stricken voice of my copilot coming through my headset, screaming frantically, "Jesus Christ, boss! Pull up! Pull up! We're gonna crash! Holy shit!"
Then we were level again.
My loyal and trusted copilot, Captain Marc Elliot, was dressed in white and sitting before his own set of controls. But he'd been under strict orders not to touch them unless I either passed out cold or was in imminent danger of smashing into the earth. Now he was flying, which was probably best. Captain Marc was one of those square-jawed captain-types, the sort who instills confidence in you at the mere sight of him. And it wasn't only his jaw that was square; it was his entire body, which seemed to be comprised of squarish parts, unit-welded together, one atop the other. Even his black mustache was a perfect rectangle, and it sat on his stiff upper lip like an industrial-grade broom.
We'd taken off from Manhattan about ten minutes ago, after a long Tuesday evening that had spiraled way out of control. The night had started out innocently, though - at a trendy Park Avenue restaurant named Canastel's, where I'd had dinner with some of my young stockbrokers. Somehow, though, we'd ended up in the Presidential Suite at the Helmsley Palace, where some very expensive hooker named Venice, with bee-stung lips and loamy loins, had tried using a candle to help me achieve an erection, which turned out to be a lost cause. And that was why I was running late now (about five and a half hours, to be exact), which is to say I was in deep shit, once again, with my loyal and loving second wife, Nadine, the righteously aspiring husband-beater.
You may have seen Nadine on TV; she was that sexy blond who tried to sell you Miller Lite beer during Monday Night Football, the one walking through the park with the Frisbee and the dog. She didn't say much in the commercial, but no one seemed to care. It was her legs that got her the job; that and her ass, which was rounder than a Puerto Rican's and firm enough to bounce a quarter on. Whatever the case, I would be feeling her righteous wrath soon enough.
I took a deep breath and tried to right myself. I was feeling pretty good now, so I grabbed hold of the stick, sending a signal to Captain SpongeBob SquarePants that I was ready to fly again. He looked a bit nervous, so I flashed him a warm, comrade-in-arms sort of smile and offered him a few kind words of encouragement through my voice-activated microphone. "Ooo gone get hazdiz duzy pay fuh dis, buzzy," said I, who was trying to say, "You're going to get hazardous duty pay for this, buddy."
"Yeah, that's great," replied Captain Marc, releasing the controls to me. "Remind me to collect, if we should happen to make it home alive." He shook his square head in resignation and amazement, then added, "And don't forget to close your left eye before you start your descent. It'll help with the double vision." Very shrewd and professional, this square captain of mine was; in fact, he happened to be quite the party animal himself. And not only was he the only licensed pilot in the cockpit, but he also happened to be the captain of my 167-foot motor yacht, the Nadine, named after my aforementioned wife. I gave my captain a hearty thumbs-up sign. Then I stared out the cockpit window and tried to get my bearings. Up ahead I could see the red-and-white-striped smokestacks that rose up from out of the wealthy Jewish suburb of Roslyn. The smokestacks served as a visual cue that I was about to enter the heart of Long Island's Gold Coast, which is where Old Brookville is located.
The Gold Coast is a terrific place to live, especially if you like blue-blooded WASPs and overpriced horses. Personally, I despise both, but somehow I ended up owning a bunch of overpriced horses and socializing with a bunch of blue-blooded WASPs, the latter of whom, I figured, viewed me as a young Jewish circus attraction. I looked at the altimeter. It was at three hundred feet and spiraling downward. I rolled my neck like a prizefighter stepping into the ring, beginning my descent at a thirty-degree angle, passing over the rolling fairways of the Brookville Country Club and then easing the stick right and cruising over the lush treetops on either side of Hegemans Lane, where I started my final descent onto the driving range at the rear of the property.
Working the foot pedals, I brought the helicopter into a stationary hover about twenty feet above the ground and then attempted to land. A little adjustment with the left foot, a little adjustment with the right foot, a little less power to the collective, a tiny bit of back pressure to the stick, and then all at once the helicopter slammed into the ground and started rising again.
"Oh, zit!" I muttered, on the way up. Out of panic, I slammed down the collective and the helicopter began sinking like a stone. And then all at once - SLAM! - we landed with a giant thud. I shook my head in amazement. What an incredible rush that was! It wasn't a perfect landing, but who cared? I turned to my beloved captain, and with great pride I slurred, "Am I goodz, buzzy, or am I goodz!"
Captain Marc cocked his square head to the side and raised his rectangular eyebrows high on his square forehead, as if to say, "Are you out of your fucking mind?" But then he began nodding slowly, his face breaking out into a wry smile. "You're good, buddy. I have to admit it. Did you keep your left eye shut?" I nodded my head. "It zwork like charm," I mumbled. "You za best!"
"Good. I'm glad you think that." He let out a tiny chuckle. "Anyway, I gotta bolt out of here before we get ourselves in trouble. Want me to call the guardhouse to come get you?"
"No, I fine, buzzy. I fine." With that, I undid my safety restraints, gave Captain Marc a mock salute, and opened the cockpit door and climbed out. Then I wheeled about and closed the cockpit door and banged two times on the window, to let him know that I'd been responsible enough to close the door, which gave me a feeling of great satisfaction, insofar as a man in my condition could be sober enough to do that. Then I wheeled about once more and headed for the main house, straight into the eye of Hurricane Nadine.
It was gorgeous outside. The sky was filled with countless stars, twinkling brilliantly. The temperature was unseasonably warm for December. There wasn't a stitch of wind, which gave the air that earthy, woodsy smell that reminds you of your childhood. I thought of summer nights at sleepaway camp. I thought of my older brother, Robert, whom I'd recently lost touch with after his wife threatened to sue one of my companies for sexual harassment, at which point I took him out for dinner, got too stoned, and then called his wife an asshole. But, still, they were good memories, memories from a much simpler time. It was about two hundred yards to the main house. I took a deep breath and relished the scent of my property. What a fine smell it had! All the Bermuda grass! The pungent smell of pine! And so many soothing sounds! The ceaseless croaking of the crickets! The mystical hooting of the owls! The rushing water from that ridiculous pond and waterfall system up ahead!
I had purchased the estate from the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, Dick Grasso, who bore an odd resemblance to Frank Perdue, the chicken salesman. Then I dumped a few million into various improvements - most of it sucked into that ridiculous pond and waterfall system and the remainder sucked into a state-of-the-art guardhouse and security system. The guardhouse was manned twenty-four hours a day by two armed bodyguards, both of whom were named Rocco. Inside the guardhouse were banks of TV monitors that received images from twenty-two security cameras positioned throughout the estate. Each camera was tied to a motion sensor and floodlight, creating an impenetrable ring of security.
Just then I felt a tremendous gust of air, so I craned up my neck to watch the helicopter ascend into the darkness. I found myself taking small steps backward, and then the small steps became bigger steps, and then ... Oh, shit! I was in trouble! I was about to hit the dirt! I wheeled about and took two giant steps forward, extending my arms out like wings. Like an out-of-control ice skater I stumbled this way and that, trying to find my center of gravity. And then, all at once ... a blinding light! "What the fuck!" I put my hands to my eyes, shielding myself from the searing pain of the floodlights. I had tripped one of the motion sensors and was now a victim of my own security system.
The pain was excruciating. My eyes were dilated from all the drugs, my pupils as big as saucers. Then, the final insult: I tripped in my spiffy crocodile dress shoes and went flying backward and landed flat on my back. After a few seconds the floodlight went off, and I slowly lowered my arm to the side. I pressed my palms against the soft grass. What a wonderful spot I picked to fall on! And I was an expert at falling, knowing exactly how to do it without hurting myself. The secret was to just go with it, like a Hollywood stuntman did. Better still, my drug of choice - namely, Quaaludes - had the wonderful effect of turning my body into rubber, which further protected me from harm.
I resisted the thought that it was the Quaaludes that had made me fall in the first place. After all, there were so many advantages to using them that I considered myself lucky to be addicted to them. I mean, how many drugs made you feel as wonderful as they did, yet didn't leave you with a hangover the next day? And a man in my position - a man burdened with so many grave responsibilities - couldn't afford to be hungover, now could he!
And my wife ... well, I guess she'd earned her scene with me, but still; did she really have that much reason to be angry? I mean, when she married me she knew what she was getting into, didn't she? She had been my mistress, for Chrissake! That spoke volumes, didn't it? And what had I really done tonight? Nothing so terrible, or at least nothing that she could prove! And around and around that twisted mind of mine went - rationalizing, justifying, then denying, and then rationalizing some more, until I was able to build up a healthy head of righteous resentment. Yes, I thought, there were certain things that went on between rich men and their wives that dated all the way back to the caveman days, or at least back to the Vanderbilts and Astors. There were liberties, so to speak, certain liberties that men of power were entitled to, that men of power had earned! Of course this wasn't the sort of thing I could just come out and say to Nadine. She was prone to physical violence and she was bigger than me, or at least the same size, which was just one more reason to resent her.
Just then I heard the electric whir of the golf cart. That would be Rocco Night, or perhaps Rocco Day, depending on when their shifts changed. Either way, some Rocco was coming out to fetch me. It was amazing how everything always seemed to work out. When I fell down, there was always someone to pick me up; when I got caught driving under the influence, there was always some crooked judge or corrupt police officer to make an accommodation; and when I passed out at the dinner table and found myself drowning in the soup du jour, there was always my wife, or, if not her, then some benevolent hooker, who would come to my aid with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It was as if I was bulletproof or something. How many times had I cheated death? It was impossible to say. But did I really want to die? Was my guilt and remorse eating at me that voraciously - so much, in fact, that I was trying to take my own life? I mean, it was mind-boggling, now that I thought about it! I had risked my life a thousand times yet hadn't gotten so much as a scratch. I had driven drunk, flown stoned, walked off the edge of a building, scuba dived during a blackout, gambled away millions of dollars at casinos all over the world, and I still didn't look a day over twenty-one.
I had lots of nicknames: Gordon Gekko, Don Corleone, Kaiser Soze; they even called me the King. But my favorite was the Wolf of Wall Street, because that was me to a T. I was the ultimate wolf in sheep's clothing: I looked like a kid and acted like a kid, but I was no kid. I was thirty-one going on sixty, living dog years - aging seven years for every year. But I was rich and powerful and had a gorgeous wife and a four-month-old baby daughter who was living, breathing perfection.
Like they say, it was all good, and it all seemed to work. Somehow, and I wasn't sure how, I would end up beneath a $12,000 silk comforter, sleeping inside a royal bedchamber draped with enough white Chinese silk to make silk parachutes for an entire squadron of paratroopers. And my wife ... well, she would forgive me. After all, she always had.
And with that thought, I passed out.
CHAPTER 2: THE DUCHESS OF BAY RIDGE
December 13, 1993
T he next morning - or, if you want to get technical about it, a few hours later - I was having an awesome dream. It was the sort of dream that every young man hopes and prays for, so I decided to go with it. I'm alone in bed, when Venice the Hooker comes to me. She kneels down at the edge of my sumptuous kingsize bed, hovering just out of reach, a perfect little vision. I can see her clearly now ... that lusty mane of chestnut brown hair ... the fine features of her face ... those juicy young jugs ... those incredibly loamy loins, glistening with greed and desire. "Venice," I say. "Come to me, Venice. Come to me, Venice!"
Venice moves toward me, walking on her knees. Her skin is fair and white and shimmers amid the silk ... the silk ... there's silk everywhere. An enormous canopy of white Chinese silk is suspended from above. Billows of white Chinese silk hang down at all four corners of the bed. So much white Chinese silk ... I'm drowning in white fucking silk. In this very instant the ludicrous figures come popping into my mind: the silk cost $250 a yard, and there have to be two hundred yards of it. That's $50,000 of white Chinese silk. So much white fucking silk.
But that's my wife's doing, my dear aspiring decorator - or, wait, that was last month's aspiration, wasn't it? Isn't she an aspiring chef now? Or is she an aspiring landscape architect? Or is it a wine connoisseur? Or a clothing designer? Who could keep track of all her fucking aspirations? So tiring it is ... so tiring to be married to Martha Stewart in embryo.
Just then I feel a drop of water. I look up. What the hell? Storm clouds? How can there be storm clouds inside the royal bedchamber? Where's my wife? Holy shit! My wife! My wife! Hurricane Nadine!
I woke up to the angry yet gorgeous face of my second wife, Nadine. In her right hand was an empty twelve-ounce water glass; in her left hand was her own balled-up fist, punctuated by a seven-carat, yellow canary diamond in a platinum setting. She was less than five feet away, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet, like a prizefighter. I made a quick mental note to watch out for the ring.
"Why the fuck did you do that?" I yelled halfheartedly. I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand and took a moment to study Wife Number Two. God, she was a real piece of ass, my wife! I couldn't begrudge her that even now. She was wearing a tiny pink chemise that was so short and low cut that it made her look more naked than if she were wearing nothing at all. And those legs of hers! Christ, they looked scrumptious. But, still, that was beside the point. I needed to get tough with her and show her who was boss. Through clenched teeth, I said, "I swear to God, Nadine, I'm going to fucking kill - "
"Oh, I'm really fucking scared," interrupted the blond firecracker. She shook her head in disgust, and her little pink nipples popped out of her next-to-nothing outfit. I tried not to stare, but it was difficult. "Maybe I should go run and hide," she quipped. "Or maybe I'll just stay here and kick your fucking ass!" The last few words she screamed. Well, maybe she was boss. Either way, she had definitely earned her scene with me; there was no denying that. And the Duchess of Bay Ridge had a vicious temper. Yes, she was a duchess, all right - a Brit by birth, who still carried a British passport. It was a wonderful fact she never failed to remind me of. Yet, it was all very ironic, since she had never actually lived in Britain. In fact, she had moved to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, when she was still a baby, and it was there, in the land of dropped consonants and tortured vowels, where she was raised. Bay Ridge; it's that tiny corner of the earth where words like fuck and shit and bastard and prick roll off the tongues of young natives with the poetic panache of T. S. Eliot and Walt Whitman. And it was there that Nadine Caridi - my lovable English, Irish, Scottish, German, Norwegian, and Italian mutt-of-a-duchess - learned to tie her curses together, as she was learning to tie the laces on her roller skates.
It was sort of a grim joke, I thought, considering that Mark Hanna had warned me about going out with a girl from Bay Ridge all those years ago. His girlfriend, as I recalled, had stabbed him with a pencil while he was sleeping; the Duchess preferred throwing water. So, in a way, I was ahead of the game. Anyway, when the Duchess got angry it was as if her words were bubbling up from out of the rancid gullet of the Brooklyn sewer system. And no one could make her angrier than me, her loyal and trustworthy husband, the Wolf of Wall Street, who less than five hours ago was in the Presidential Suite of the Helmsley Palace with a candle in his ass.
"So tell me, you little shit," snapped the Duchess, "who the fuck is Venice, huh?" She paused and took an aggressive step forward, and all at once she struck a pose, with her hips cocked in a display of insolence, one long, bare leg slewed out to the side, and her arms folded beneath her breasts, pushing her nipples out into plain view. She said, "She's probably some little hooker, I bet." She narrowed her big blue eyes accusingly. "You don't think I know what you're up to? Why, I oughta smash your fucking face in, you ... you little ... ugghhhhh!" It was an angry groan, and the moment she'd finished groaning she gave up her pose and began marching across the bedroom - marching on the custom-made beige and taupe $120,000 Edward Fields carpet. And she marched fast as lightning, all the way to the master bathroom, which was a good thirty feet away, where she turned on the faucet, refilled the water glass, turned off the faucet, and came marching back, looking twice as angry. Her teeth were clenched in unadulterated rage, making her square model-girl jaw really stand out. She looked like the Duchess from Hell.
Meanwhile, I was trying to gather my thoughts, but she was moving too fast. I had no time to think. It had to be those fucking Quaaludes! They had made me talk in my sleep again. Oh, shit! What had I said? I ran the possibilities through my mind: the limousine ... the hotel ... the drugs ... Venice the Hooker ... Venice with the candle - Oh, God, the fucking candle! I pushed the thought out of my mind.
I looked over at the digital clock on the night table: It was 7:16. Jesus! What time had I gotten home? I shook my head, trying to get out the cobwebs. I ran my fingers through my hair - Christ, I was soaked! She must have dumped the water right over my head.
My own wife! And then she called me little - a little shit! Why had she called me that? I wasn't that little, was I? She could be very cruel, the Duchess. She was back now, less than five feet away, holding the water glass out in front of her, with her elbow cocked out to the side: her throwing position! And that look on her face: pure poison. yet, still ... such undeniable beauty! Not only her great mane of golden blond hair but those blazing blue eyes, those glorious cheekbones, her tiny nose, that perfectly smooth jawline, her chin with its tiny cleft, those creamy young breasts - a bit worse for the wear after breast-feeding Chandler, but nothing that couldn't be fixed with $10,000 and a sharp scalpel. And those legs ... God almighty, those long bare legs of hers were off the charts! So perfect they were, the way they tapered so nicely at the ankle yet stayed so luscious above the knee. They were definitely her best asset, along with her ass.
It was only three years ago, in fact, when I had first laid eyes on the Duchess. It was a sight I found so alluring that I ended up leaving my kind first wife, Denise - paying her millions up front in one lump sum plus fifty thousand a month in non-tax-deductible maintenance, so she would walk away quietly without demanding a full-blown audit of my affairs.
And look how fast things had deteriorated! And what had I really done? Say a few words in my sleep? What was the crime in that? The Duchess was definitely overreacting here. In fact, at this point, I had every reason to be mad at her too. Perhaps I could maneuver this whole thing into a quick round of make-up sex, which was the best sex of all. I took a deep breath and said with complete and utter innocence, "Why are you so mad at me? I mean, you ... you kinda got me confused here."
The Duchess responded by cocking her blond head to the side, the way a person does after they've just heard something that completely defies logic. "You're confused?" she snapped. "You're fucking confused? Why ... you ... little ... bastard!" Little, again! Unbelievable! "Where do you want me to start? How about you flying in here on your stupid helicopter at three in the morning, without so much as a fucking phone call to say you'd be late. Is that normal behavior for a married man?"
"And a father, no less! You're a father now! Yet you still act like a fucking infant! And does it even matter to you that I just had that ridiculous driving range sodded with Bermuda grass? You probably fucking ruined it!" She shook her head in disgust, then she plowed on: "But why should you give a shit? You're not the one who spent your time researching the whole thing and dealing with the landscapers and the golf-course people. Do you know how much time I spent on that stupid fucking project of yours? Do you, you inconsiderate bastard?" Ahhh, so she's an aspiring landscape architect this month! But such a sexy architect! There had to be some way to turn this all around. Some magic words. "Honey, please, I'm - " A warning through clenched teeth: "Don't - you - honey - me! You don't ever get to call me honey ever again!"
"But, honey - "
That time I saw it coming, and I was able to pull the $12,000 silk comforter over my head - deflecting most of her righteous wrath. In fact, hardly a drop of water even touched me. But, alas, my victory was short-lived, and by the time I pulled down the comforter she was already marching back to the bathroom for a refill. Now she was on her way back. The water glass was filled to the rim; her blue eyes were like death rays; her model-girl jaw looked a mile wide; and her legs ... Christ! I couldn't keep my eyes off them. Still, there was no time for that now. It was time for the Wolf to get tough. It was time for the Wolf to bare his fangs. I removed my arms from beneath the white silk comforter, careful not to get them tangled in the thousands of tiny pearls that had been hand-crocheted onto the fabric. Then I cocked my elbows, like chicken wings, giving the irate Duchess a bird's-eye view of my mighty biceps. I said, in a loud, forthright voice, "Don't you dare throw that water at me, Nadine. I'm serious! I'll give you the first two glasses out of anger, but to keep doing it again and again ... well, it's like stabbing a dead body when it's lying on the floor in a pool of blood! It's fucking sick!"
That seemed to slow her down - but only for a second. She said, in a mocking tone, "Will you stop flexing your arms, please? You look like a fucking imbecile!"
"I wasn't flexing my arms," I said, unflexing my arms. "You're just lucky to have a husband who's in such great shape. Right, sweetie?" I smiled my warmest smile at her. "Now get over here right this second and give me a kiss!" Even as the words escaped my lips I knew I'd made a mistake.
"Give you a kiss?" sputtered the Duchess. "What are you, fucking kidding me?" Disgust dripped off her very words. "I was an inch away from cutting your balls off and sticking them in one of my shoe boxes. Then you'd never find them!"
Jesus Christ, she was right about that! Her shoe closet was the size of Delaware, and my balls would be lost forever. With the utmost humility, I said, "Please give me a chance to explain, hon - I mean sweetie. Please, I'm begging you!"
All at once her face began to soften. "I can't believe you!" she said, through tiny snuffles. "What did I do to deserve this? I'm a good wife. A beautiful wife. Yet I have a husband who comes home at all hours of the night and talks about another girl in his sleep!" She started moaning with contempt: "Uhhhhh ... Venice ... Come to me, Venice."
Jesus Christ! Those Quaaludes could be a real killer sometimes. And now she was crying. It was a complete disaster. After all, what chance did I have of getting her back into bed while she was crying? I needed to switch gears here, to come up with a new strategy. In a tone of voice normally reserved for someone who's standing on the edge of a cliff and threatening to jump, I said, "Put down the glass of water, sweetie, and stop crying. Please. I can explain everything, really!"
Slowly, reluctantly, she lowered the glass of water to waist level. "Go ahead," she said in a tone ripe with disbelief. "Let me hear another lie from the man who lies for a living."
That was true. The Wolf did lie for a living, although such was the nature of Wall Street, if you wanted to be a true power broker. Everyone knew that, especially the Duchess, so she really had no right to be angry about that either. Nonetheless, I took her sarcasm in stride, paused for a brief moment to give myself extra time to coagulate my bullshit story, and I said, "First of all, you have the whole thing backward. The only reason I didn't call you last night was because I didn't realize I'd be getting home so late until it was almost eleven. I know how much you like your beauty sleep, and I figured you'd be sleeping anyway, so what was the point of calling?"
The Duchess's poisonous response: "Oh, you're so fucking considerate. Let me go thank my lucky stars for having such a considerate husband." Sarcasm oozed off her words like pus.
I ignored the sarcasm and decided to go for broke. "Anyway, you took this whole Venice business completely out of context. I was talking to Marc Packer last night about opening a Canastel's in Venice, Calif - "
"You're a fucking liar!" she screamed, grabbing a matching silk bathrobe off the back of some obscenely expensive white fabric chair. "A total fucking liar!"
I let out an obvious sigh. "Okay, Nadine, you've had your fun for the morning. Now come back into bed and give me a kiss. I still love you, even though you soaked me."
That look she gave me! "You want to fuck me now? I raised my eyebrows high on my forehead and nodded eagerly. It was the look a seven-year-old boy gives his mother in response to the question: "Would you like an ice-cream cone?" "Fine," screamed the Duchess. "Go fuck yourself!" With that, the luscious Duchess of Bay Ridge opened the door - the seven-hundred-pound, twelve-foot-high, solid mahogany door, sturdy enough to withstand a twelve-kiloton nuclear explosion - and walked out of the room, closing the door gently behind her. After all, a slammed door would send the wrong signal to our bizarre menagerie of domestic help. Our bizarre menagerie: There were five pleasantly plump, Spanish-speaking maids, two of which were husband-and-wife teams; a jabbering Jamaican baby nurse, who was running up a thousand-dollar-a-month phone bill, calling her family in Jamaica; an Israeli electrician, who followed the Duchess around like a lovesick puppy dog; a white-trash handyman, who had all the motivation of a heroin-addicted sea slug; my personal maid, Gwynne, who anticipated my every need no matter how bizarre it might be; Rocco and Rocco, the two armed bodyguards, who kept out the thieving multitudes, despite the fact that the last crime in Old Brookville occurred in 1643, when white settlers stole land from the Mattinecock Indians; five full-time landscapers, three of which had recently been bitten by my chocolate-brown Labrador retriever, Sally, who bit anyone who dared go within a hundred feet of Chandler's crib, especially if their skin was darker than a brown paper bag; and the most recent addition to the menagerie - two full-time marine biologists, also a husband-and-wife team, who, for $90,000 a year, kept that nightmare-of-a-pond ecologically balanced.
And then, of course, there was George Campbell, my charcoal-black limo driver, who hated all white people, including me.
Yet, with all these people working at Chez Belfort, it didn't change the fact that, right now, I was all alone, soaking wet, and horny as hell, at the hands of my blond second wife, the aspiring everything. I looked around for something to dry myself off with. I grabbed one of the cascading billows of white Chinese silk and tried to wipe myself. Christ! It didn't help a bit. Apparently the silk had been treated with some sort of water repellent, and all it did was push the water from here to there. I looked behind me - a pillowcase! It was made of Egyptian cotton; probably a three-million thread count. Must've cost a fortune - of my money! I removed the pillowcase from the overstuffed goose-down pillow inside it and started wiping myself. Ahhh, the Egyptian cotton was nice and soft. And such terrific absorption! My spirits lifted. I scooted over to my wife's side of the bed to get out of the wet spot. I would pull the covers over my head and return to the warm bosom of my dream. I would return to Venice. I took a deep breath ... Oh, shit! The Duchess's scent was everywhere! All at once I felt the blood rushing to my loins. Christ - she was a frisky little animal, the Duchess, with a frisky little scent! No choice now but to jerk off. It was all for the best, anyway. After all, the Duchess's power over me began and ended below my waist. I was about to do a little self-soothing when I heard a knock at the door. "Who is it?" I asked, in a voice loud enough to get through the bomb-shelter door.
"Iz Gwaayne," answered Gwynne.
Ahhh, Gwynne - with her wonderful Southern drawl! So soothing it was. In fact, everything about Gwynne was soothing. The way she anticipated my every need, the way she doted on me like the child she and her husband, Willie, were never able to conceive.
"Come in," I replied warmly.
The bomb-shelter door swung open with a tiny creak. "Guh mawnin, guh mawnin!" said Gwynne. She was carrying a sterling silver tray. There was a tall glass of light iced coffee and a bottle of Bayer aspirin resting on it. Tucked beneath her left arm was a white bath towel.
"Good morning, Gwynne. How are you this fine morning?" I asked with mock formality.
"Oh, I'm fine ... I'm fine!" Ahhhm fahyn ... Ahhhm fahyn! "Well, I see you're over on your wife's side of the bed, so I'll just walk right on over there and bring you your iced coffee. I also brought a nice soft towel for you to wipe yourself with. Mrs. Belfort told me you spilled some water on yourself."
Un-fucking-believable! Martha Stewart strikes again! All at once I realized that my erection had given the white silk comforter the appearance of a circus tent - shit! I elevated my knees with the speed of a jackrabbit. Gwynne walked over and placed the tray on the antique night table on the Duchess's side of the bed. "Here, let me dry you off!" said Gwynne, and she leaned over and began dabbing the white towel on my forehead, as if I were an infant. Holy Christ! What a fucking circus this house was! I mean, here I was, lying flat on my back, with a raging hard-on, while my fifty-five-year-old plumpish black maid, who was an anachronism from a bygone era, leaned over with her drooping jugs three inches from my face and wiped me with a five-hundred-dollar monogrammed Pratesi bath towel. Of course, Gwynne didn't look even the slightest bit black. Ohhh, no! That would be way too normal for this household. Gwynne, in fact, was even lighter than me. The way I had it figured, somewhere in her family tree, perhaps a hundred fifty years ago, when Dixie was still Dixie, her great-great-great-great- grandmother had been the secret love slave of some wealthy plantation owner in south Georgia. Whatever the case, at least this extreme close-up of Gwynne's drooping jugs was sending the blood rushing out of my loins and back to where it belonged, namely, my liver and lymph channels, where it could be detoxified. Still, the mere sight of her hovering over me like this was more than I could bear, so I kindly explained to her that I was capable of wiping my own forehead.
She seemed a bit sadder for that fact, but all she said was, "Okay," which came out as, Ohhhhkaii. "Do you need some aspirin?" Daya need sum airrrsprin? I shook my head. "No, I'm fine, Gwynne. Thanks anyway, though." "Ohhhhkaii, well how 'bout some of them little white pills fer yer back?" she asked innocently. "Would you like me to get you some of those?"
Christ! My own maid was offering to fetch me Quaaludes at seven-thirty in the morning! How was I supposed to stay sober? Wherever I was, there were drugs close behind, chasing after me, calling my name. And nowhere was it worse than at my brokerage firm, where virtually every drug imaginable lined the pockets of my young stockbrokers. Yet my back did actually hurt me. I was in constant chronic pain from a freak injury that occurred right after I'd first met the Duchess. It was her dog that did me in - that little white bastard of a Maltese, Rocky, who barked incessantly and served no useful purpose other than to annoy every human being he came into contact with. I had been trying to get the little prick to come in from the beach at the end of a summer Hamptons day, but the little bastard refused to obey me. When I tried to catch him he ran circles around me, forcing me to lunge over to try to grab him. It was reminiscent of the way Rocky Balboa had chased around that greasy chicken in Rocky II before his rematch with Apollo Creed. But unlike Rocky Balboa, who became fast-as-lightning and ultimately won his rematch, I ended up rupturing a disk and being bedridden for two weeks. Since then I'd had two back surgeries, both of which had made the pain worse. So the Quaaludes helped with the pain - sort of. And even if they didn't, it still served as an excellent excuse to keep taking them.
And I wasn't the only one who hated that little shit of a dog. Everyone did, with the exception of the Duchess, who was his sole protector and who still let the mutt sleep at the foot of the bed and chew on her panties, which for some inexplicable reason made me jealous. Still, Rocky would be sticking around for the foreseeable future - until I could figure out a way to eliminate him that the Duchess wouldn't pin on me. Anyway, I told Gwynne thanks but no thanks for the Quaaludes, and, once more, she seemed a bit sadder for the fact. After all, she had failed to anticipate my every need. But all she said was, "Ohhhhkaii, well, I already set the timer on your sauna so it's ready for you right now" - raghite nahow - "and I laid out your clothes for you late last night. Is your gray pinstripe suit and that blue tie with the little fishees on it ohhhhkaii?" Christ, talk about service! Why couldn't the Duchess be more like that? True, I was paying Gwynne $70,000 a year, which was more than double the going rate, but, still ... Look what I got in return: service with a smile! Yet my wife was spending $70,000 a month - on the low side! In fact, with all those fucking aspirations of hers, she was probably spending double that. And that was fine with me, but there had to be a certain trade-off here. I mean, if I needed to go out once in a while and swing the schlong here or dang the gong there, then she oughta cut me just a little bit of slack, shouldn't she? Yes, certainly so - in fact, so much so that I started nodding my head in agreement with my own thoughts. Apparently, Gwynne took my nodding as an affirmative answer to her question, and she said, "Ohhhhkaii, well, I'll just go on out and get Chandler ready so she's nice and clean for you. Have a nice shower!" Cheery, cheery, cheery! With that, Gwynne left the room. Well, I thought, at least she killed my hard-on, so I was better off for the encounter. As far as the Duchess was concerned, I'd worry about her later. She was a mutt, after all, and mutts were well-known for their forgiving nature.
Having worked things out in my mind, I downed my iced coffee, took six aspirin, swung my feet off the bed, and headed for the sauna. There I would sweat out the five Quaaludes, two grams of coke, and three milligrams of Xanax that I had consumed the night before - a relatively modest amount of drugs, considering what I was truly capable of. Unlike the master bedroom, which was a testament to white Chinese silk, the master bathroom was a testament to gray Italian marble. It was laid out in an exquisite parquet-like pattern, the way only those Italian bastards know how to do it. And they sure as hell hadn't been scared to bill me! Nonetheless, I paid the thieving Italians in stride. After all, it was the nature of twentieth-century capitalism that everyone should scam everyone, and he who scammed the most ultimately won the game. On that basis, I was the undefeated world champ.
I looked in the mirror and took a moment to regard myself. Christ, what a skinny little bastard I was! I was very muscular, but, still ... I had to run around in the shower to get wet! Was it the drugs? I wondered. Well, perhaps; but it was a good look for me, anyway. I was only five-seven, and a very smart person had once said you could never be too rich or too thin. I opened the medicine cabinet and took out a bottle of extra-strength Visine. I craned back my neck and put six drops in each eye, triple the recommended dose.
In that very instant, an odd thought came bubbling up into my brain, namely: What kind of man abuses Visine? And, for that matter, why had I taken six Bayer aspirin? It made no sense. After all, unlike Ludes, coke, and Xanax, where the benefits of increasing the dose are plain as day, there was absolutely no valid reason to exceed the recommended doses of Visine and aspirin. Yet, ironically, that was exactly what my very life had come to represent. It was all about excess: about crossing over forbidden lines, about doing things you thought you'd never do and associating with people who were even wilder than yourself, so you'd feel that much more normal about your own life. All at once I found myself becoming depressed. What was I going to do about my wife? Christ - had I really done it this time? She seemed pretty angry this morning! What was she doing right now? I wondered. If I had to guess, she was probably yapping on the phone to one of her friends or disciples or whatever the fuck they were. She was somewhere downstairs, spewing out perfect pearls of wisdom to her less-than-perfect friends, in the genuine hope that with a little bit of coaching she could make them as perfect as she was. Ahhh, that was my wife, all right - the Duchess of Bay fucking Ridge! The Duchess and all her loyal subjects, those young Stratton wives, who sucked up to her as if she were Queen Elizabeth or something. It was totally fucking nauseating. Yet, in her defense, the Duchess had a role to play and she played it well. She understood the twisted sense of loyalty that everyone involved with Stratton Oakmont felt for it, and she had forged ties with the wives of key employees, which had made things that much more solid. Yes, the Duchess was a sharp cookie. Usually she would come into the bathroom in the morning while I was getting ready for work. She was a good conversationalist, when she wasn't busy telling me to go fuck myself. But usually I had brought that on myself, so I really couldn't blame her for it. Actually, I really couldn't blame her for anything, could I? She happened to be a damn good wife, in spite of all that Martha Stewart crap. She must've said "I love you" a hundred times a day. And as the day progressed she would add on these wonderful little intensifiers: I love you desperately! I love you unconditionally! ... and, of course, my favorite: I love you to the point of madness! ... which I considered the most appropriate of all.
Yet, in spite of all her kind words, I still wasn't sure I could trust her. She was my second wife, after all, and words are cheap. Would she really be there with me for better or worse? Outwardly, she gave every indication that she genuinely loved me - constantly showering me with kisses - and whenever we were out in public, she held my hand or put her arm around me or ran her fingers through my hair. It was all very confusing. When I was married to Denise I never worried about these things. She had married me when I had nothing, so her loyalty was unquestioned. But after I made my first million dollars, she must have had a dark premonition, and she asked me why I couldn't get a normal job making a million dollars a year? It seemed like a ridiculous question at the time, but back then, on that particular day, neither of us knew that in less than a year I'd be making a million dollars a week. And neither of us knew that in less than two years, Nadine Caridi, the Miller Lite girl, would pull up to my Westhampton beach house on July Fourth weekend and step out of that banana-yellow Ferrari wearing a ridiculously short skirt and a pair of white go-to-hell pumps. I had never meant to hurt Denise. In fact, it was the furthest thing from my mind. But Nadine swept me off my feet, and I swept her off hers. You don't choose who you fall in love with, do you? And once you do fall in love - that obsessive sort of love, that all-consuming love, where two people can't stand to be apart from each other for even a moment - how are you supposed to let a love like that pass you by?
I took a deep breath and slowly exhaled, trying to push all this Denise business back down below the surface. After all, guilt and remorse were worthless emotions, weren't they? Well, I knew they weren't, but I had no time for them. Forward motion; that was the key. Run as fast as you can and don't look back. And as far as my wife went - well, I would right things with her too. Having worked things out in my mind for the second time in less than five minutes, I forced myself to smile at my own reflection and then headed for the sauna. Once there, I would sweat out the evil spirits and start my day anew.
Image above: Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Wolf of Wall Street' © Paramount Pictures