This will be long…but then so is the film. It resonates with me personally because for so long I lived an aspect of this story. Not a broker nor a mark…I was a TRADER. I lived five blocks away, on the river in Battery Park City. I arose -assuming I had slept – at 5 or 6, setting up my trades for the day. I traded gold, silver, pork bellies, soybeans; you name it, I probably traded it at some point. Stock indices in particular, based on the DOW or S&P. Derivatives. I traded derivatives of derivatives of derivatives. Essentially bets based upon nothing material. There was really no “there” there…but brokers loved them because brokers collected COMMISSIONS, coming in and going out.
At one point while shooting THE COTTON CLUB, Richard Gere asked me, as I broke for the payphones at Silvercup Studios, “Are you calling your bookie?” I thought for a moment and smiled, thinking my broker wore a much nicer suit…but that was not far from the mark. In truth, he was much more like my DEALER…because by then I was in full addiction mode.
Years later, my broker called me out here to say hello. I’d known his wife and kids, I’d helped put them thru private schools. And knew that he was essentially a financial jock sniffer. He wanted to be around people that were around stars. We call them star-fuckers; my working friends understand what that means. I told him I bore him no ill will. I was saner now and I understood that he’d been simply doing his job, when he “took my action”, knowing how poor my judgment, my lack of discipline, my self-destructiveness. I told him that he was NOT my friend; a friend would have cut me off, would never have enabled me to descend so deeply into the depravity of gambling. And I hung up.
I’ve seen an article written by the daughter of Leo’s character. She bemoans what she calls “the glamorization of The Wolf” and his ilk. But Scorsese’s film is not about the family of the predators, its about the predators. The drug use, the sexuality, the depravity, the venality, the excess is representative of a macho culture that exploited ALL sexes, scoffed at ALL standards of behavior. Money is, to many irresistible…and ultimately corrupting. These people behaved as most people with too much money and power behave. I totally get that. And much of our economy and culture relies upon that depravity. Such appetites find many vendors waiting to satisfy their needs.
“It’s hard to cheat an honest man.” Well, not really. But it’s harder to cheat someone who recognizes that more often than not, something too good to be true, generally is. It’s a fascinating, addictive film depicting just one period in financial history and quite accurately, too. There have been other such times; there will be more ahead. Jonah Hill and Leo are predictably great..and lately Jon Bernthal keeps popping up on screen, to my delight.
The scene on the yacht with the FBI was filmed “in my back yard”, the yacht condominium on the Hudson in front of the Wintergarden in BPC. Across the street from where the Twin Towers once stood. In the late 80’s they charged $2000 per foot for yearly rentals. Malcolm Forbes parked his yacht there. Trump was turned away, his yacht was simply too long…which I’m sure he bragged to every woman within earshot. But I struggled to keep up with the scene, because I was so obsessed with taking in the background, the esplanade along which I walked, the courtyard where I taken Beau Hoa Binh, my black Maine Coon for walks, on a leash each day.
My final trade with my broker happened out here in LA. I’d had therapy, I’d stopped trading, I slowly paid off my indebtedness to Citibank (at 18%). Quarter of a million. That’s what I OWED. I’d lost far, far more, over the years. But I was always good at earning money, just not so competent about using it wisely. I now knew better…but a final spasm of self-destructiveness rose up – and I placed a derivative bet – essentially that the market would go down. Within weeks, the market was rising with a full head of steam. Typical, Tucker. I was disgusted with myself but found forgiveness. Just don’t do it again, Tucker. Weeks passed…maybe months. I one day opened a brokerage statement from Pru-Bache that showed a trading profit of five figures. Well, that’s gotta be a mistake But several days later, I called. “Hey, how have you been, Tucker? I wondered when I was going to hear from you. Boy, that position has caught on fire!”
I held my tongue…but then asked him to quote me my positions. He told me that I had a call option (a derivative bet) on the S&P that was deeply in profit, now worth about $18K. How could that be? I asked him to sell it. He did. I asked him for the fill. I got it. I hung up. Days later the check arrived. I was very suspicious. I deposited it. It cleared. WTF?
There were several possibilities. A/ He’d misunderstood my original order and gone long instead of short. B/ I mistakenly entered the wrong intention. C/ He’d independently reversed my intentions, knowing how often I misread a market. D/ He’d taken a position on my behalf, as a solid for all the bad trades we’d shared. I never asked. I walked away from trading, accepting that if the only way I could succeed at trading was to be totally wrong about market direction and manage to bet AGAINST my best instincts, THAT should be sufficient proof to discourage any further speculation.
Go see this movie. And ask yourself, given the opportunity and environment, how might you have fared…