Home | National | The most debauched banker of all: The shocking life of the man Leonardo DiCaprio portrays in new film The Wolf Of Wall Street

The most debauched banker of all: The shocking life of the man Leonardo DiCaprio portrays in new film The Wolf Of Wall Street

By
Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font

By David Leafe

PUBLISHED: 18:24 EST, 20 December 2013 | UPDATED: 18:39 EST, 20 December 2013

0

View
comments

Behind the gleaming black-glass facade of the sprawling office building, on a sales floor almost the size of a football pitch, a pretty young woman sat on a wooden stool, wearing only a bikini as she faced the collective scrutiny of hundreds of her colleagues.

Outnumbering the women by ten to one, the men stood baying in their sharp suits and crisp shirts as they relished this latest in a long line of tasteless spectacles that punctuated their working lives.

Today this semi-clad office junior was having her long blonde hair shaved off in return for the cash she needed for a breast enlargement operation.

The high life: Leonardo DiCaprio as corrupt banker Jordan Belfort in the new film The Wolf Of Wall Street

The high life: Leonardo DiCaprio as corrupt banker Jordan Belfort in the new film The Wolf Of Wall Street

Previous depravities had included a dwarf-tossing contest, and betting on whether a senior manager would dare to gulp down a live goldfish. Unfortunately for the fish, that manager did go through with it.

But then, at the corrupt American stockbroking firm of Stratton Oakmont, there was no telling what each day might bring.

This was a workplace where the staff were encouraged to snort cocaine, consort with prostitutes who worked the underground car park, and have sex with each other in the company’s glass-walled lift.

Anything went as long as it kept the hungry young sales staff selling the dodgy investments which made millions of dollars each day for their boss Jordan Belfort, himself only in his early 30s.

In 1999, Belfort would be found guilty of swindling investors out of $200 million (£120 million) and sentenced to 22 months in prison, but until then he indulged in a life of astonishing excess.

Infamous: Jordan Belfort and partner at the film's premiere

Infamous: Jordan Belfort and partner at the film's premiere

Confessing that he had taken enough drugs ‘to sedate Guatemala’, he once insisted on an ill-advised sailing trip while high and wrote off both his 167ft yacht and personal helicopter in one afternoon.

He boasted of having made love to his wife on a ‘mattress’ of $3 million, made up of stacks of $100 notes, and slept with hundreds of call-girls in luxury hotel suites across the world.

Some were so ‘high-class’ that they took only credit cards but what they charged didn’t matter to Belfort, a man who was raking in the dollar equivalent of £30 million a year by his late 20s and once made £7 million in just three minutes.

Now, inevitably, Hollywood has taken up his story.

Taking the nickname in which he rejoiced as its title, the new Martin Scorsese film The Wolf Of Wall Street sees Belfort played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who has likened his character’s penchant for humiliating public spectacle and debauchery to that of Ancient Rome’s most dissolute Emperor.

‘He was like a modern-day Caligula,’ DiCaprio said. ‘He held nothing back. He was unapologetic about his lust for wealth and his mad consumption.’

In one scene, crumpled-up $100 bills are tossed into rubbish bins in an extravagant parody of basketball.

In another, a bikini-clad woman has great wads of cash taped around her body, ready to be covered up by her clothes so that she can smuggle it out of the country and into Swiss bank accounts.

But even so, the film may struggle to capture the true scale of Belfort’s fast living.

As Belfort admits in the memoirs which inspired the movie, much of that consumption was a playing out of his adolescent fantasies.

Upon making his first million, he bought a white Ferrari Testarossa, the exact make and colour of car he had seen Don Johnson drive in Miami Vice, his favourite TV show when he was growing up in a tough working-class neighbourhood in Queens, New York.

Born in 1962, the son of two accountants, he hawked ice-creams on the beach as a teenager and then sold meat and seafood door-to-door before finding far more profitable outlets for his salesmanship on Wall Street.

In May 1987, he joined the investment banking firm of L. F. Rothschild, cold-calling companies to find potential clients for its brokers.

On his first day, he was taken to lunch in Rothschild’s penthouse restaurant by his boss, who brazenly snorted cocaine at the table and recommended it as a means of making Belfort ‘dial faster’.

'Caligula': Leonardo DiCaprio has likened his character's penchant for humiliating public spectacle and debauchery to that of Ancient Rome¿s most dissolute Emperor

'Caligula': Leonardo DiCaprio has likened his character's penchant for humiliating public spectacle and debauchery to that of Ancient Rome¿s most dissolute Emperor

Belfort's firm Stratton Oakmont was a workplace where the staff were encouraged to snort cocaine, consort with prostitutes who worked the underground car park, and have sex with each other in the company¿s glass-walled lift

Belfort's firm Stratton Oakmont was a workplace where the staff were encouraged to snort cocaine, consort with prostitutes who worked the underground car park, and have sex with each other in the company's lift

Within a year, he had set up Stratton Oakmont in a suburb of Long Island. Based at first in a former car repair workshop, with only a few desks and phones, the company specialised in a scam known as ‘pump and dump’.

Buying cheap shares in a company, Belfort and his staff then inflated their value by talking up the company’s prospects to the potential investors they cold-called.

If enough of them bought into the company, too, the price rocketed and Belfort then sold his over-valued shares, pocketing the profit and not caring that the price then slumped, causing huge financial losses to his victims.

He chose them carefully, targeting the richest 1 per cent of Americans, an elite of ‘closet degenerate gamblers who can’t withstand the temptation to keep rolling the dice again and again’.

Key to his success was realising that ‘young men and women who possess an intelligence quotient in the range of Forrest Gump on three hits of acid can be taught to sound like Wall Street wizards as long as you write every last word down for them’.

These ‘Strattonite’ brokers, many of them barely out of school, were told that ‘no one hangs up the phone until a customer buys or dies’.

Following exactly the scripts written by Belfort, even a novice could earn $250,000 (£150,000) in his first year, and he would be out of the door if he wasn’t making more than a million by year three.

‘Kids still sporting teenage acne and only recently acquainted with a razor blade were going out and buying mansions,’ he recalled.

In those lavish homes, the Strattonites held wild summer parties where prostitutes and strippers were honoured guests and young Stratton girls danced topless before getting intimate with their male counterparts, ‘rutting away under the clear blue sky like barnyard animals, happy to put on a show for an expanding live audience’.

The hedonism continued at the smart new offices that the company occupied as its workforce expanded to more than 1,000 employees.

Drugged up: At one point, Belfort was taking 22 different stimulants and medications including cocaine, morphine and valium

Drugged up: At one point, Belfort was taking 22 different stimulants and medications including cocaine, morphine and valium

There, Belfort boasted, the glass lift was christened by a young male broker who was pleasured in it by a 17-year-old female sales assistant.

She then serviced another seven Strattonites, including Belfort himself, ministering to them under their desks in a perverse twist on the office shoe-shine.

When these carnal merry-go-rounds threatened to get in the way of business, Belfort issued a crude notice announcing that the offices would be a ‘F*** Free Zone’ between the hours of 7am and 8pm, but the drug-taking and carnival atmosphere continued unabated.

Employees brought pets into the office, one parading round a nappy-wearing chimpanzee, another a macaw whose vocabulary came to include the words ‘F*** off’ and key words from the Strattonites’ sales scripts.

Small wonder they nicknamed their workplace Disneyland for Dysfunctional People.

Belfort’s home life was no less colourful. He had married his first wife Denise when he had nothing, but they divorced soon after he became wealthy and he began an affair with Nadine Caridi, a British-born model he met on holiday in the Hamptons on America’s East Coast.

In a strange twist to the story, he would later persuade her aunt, a retired English teacher who is played in the film by Joanna Lumley, to let him use her name to launder millions of dollars into Swiss bank accounts.

She died of a stroke before the plan got properly under way.

Ahead of his wedding to Nadine, his stag night saw him fly 100 employees, and almost as many prostitutes, to Las Vegas for a drug-fuelled orgy.

A further £600,000 went on jetting 300 guests to the Caribbean island of Anguilla to celebrate the nuptials with a week-long, all-expenses-paid holiday in a five-star hotel.

The partying was so intense that he later claimed that Anguilla’s president told him they would all have been under arrest for drug possession if they hadn’t brought so much business to the island.

At their estate on Long Island, the newlyweds’ many extravagances included a £30,000 canopy of white Chinese silk over their bed, and the hiring of a husband-and-wife team of marine biologists, paid £110,000 a year between them, to look after the lavish pond and waterfall system.

The proud owner of two helicopters, Belfort flew them even when high on drugs and his full-time co-pilot, Captain Marc Elliot, was forbidden to touch the controls unless Belfort had actually passed out cold.

Based on the book: 'His attitude was something that I felt needed to be put up on the screen,' said DiCaprio

Based on the book: 'His attitude was something that I felt needed to be put up on the screen,' said DiCaprio

On one occasion, after netting £12 million in a single deal, Belfort bought a vintage Aston Martin worth £150,000.

He then spent a further £60,000 on turning it into a car worthy of James Bond, complete with a radar jammer, a number plate that slid back to reveal a strobe light that would blind pursuers, and a device to drop nails on the road and puncture their tyres.

The key difference between this vehicle and those driven by 007 was that its trappings drew so much power from the car’s battery that it broke down every time he took it out and it remained in his garage, virtually undriven.

Much of the rest of Belfort’s money was blown on drugs. At one point, he was taking 22 different stimulants and medications including cocaine, morphine and valium.

But his particular vice was Quaalude, a recreational drug based on a prescription sedative so powerful that it is banned in many countries.

In August 1993, he woke to find himself strapped down to his seat in the first-class compartment of a Geneva-bound Swiss Air plane, apparently too drugged out on Quaaludes to remember having sexually assaulted an air stewardess.

After his Swiss banking contacts pressured the airline to let him off, he then had the nerve to ask for the stewardess’s phone number.

Jordan Belfort at the wheel of his speedboat off St Barts in the Caribbean

Jordan Belfort at the wheel of his speedboat off St Barts in the Caribbean

When that request was rebuffed, he booked into a hotel room, took yet more Quaaludes and hired a beautiful Ethiopian prostitute who waited patiently beside him as he took a phone call from his wife.

His dependency on Quaaludes was such that, when he ran short of the drug in a £9,000-a-night suite at the Dorchester in London, he woke his secretary at 4am New York time, telling her to send his chauffeur over on Concorde with a fresh supply.

It was in a Quaalude-induced state of agitation that, in 1995, he shouted down the captain of his beautiful, teak-decked motor yacht, built for fashion designer Coco Chanel, and insisted that he put to sea off Sardinia in a force-eight gale.

When a storm hit and they began to sink, Belfort and the other 18 people on board were winched to safety but the yacht and his expensive toys — a helicopter sited on deck and eight jet-skis — were lost.

On his way back to the U.S., he ran up £430,000 in hotel bills, almost half of which went on a gold bangle, studded with rubies and emeralds, he bought for his wife Nadine after yet another druggy episode saw him falling asleep into a chocolate souffle.

By then, they had two small children, a three-year-old daughter, Chandler, whose birth was marked with the purchase of a £36,000 crib, and a baby son, Carter — and his addictions were threatening their marriage.

They only grew worse after December 1996 when financial regulators, who had long had their eye on Stratton Oakmont, accused the company of defrauding its customers and ordered it to be closed down.

A few months later, Nadine discovered that Belfort had taken a knife to hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of soft furnishings, slashing open sofa cushions in search of a missing rock of crack cocaine.

Coming soon: The Wolf of Wall Street opens on December 25, 2013

Coming soon: The Wolf of Wall Street opens in the U.S. on December 25, and in the UK on January 17

What a team: DiCaprio Posing with frequent director Martin Scorsese

What a team: DiCaprio Posing with frequent director Martin Scorsese

Nadine finally left him when, heavily stoned, he kicked her downstairs in front of their young daughter and drove his Mercedes convertible into his garage door with little Chandler sitting unbuckled in the front seat beside him.

Belfort was charged with fraud and money laundering the following year. In prison, he was inspired to write his story after reading Tom Wolfe’s satirical novel The Bonfire Of The Vanities.

He found he could relate to Wolfe’s ‘Masters Of The Universe’, those Wall Street yuppies who shared his ‘childish sense of self-entitlement’.

Now 50, he tours the world as a motivational speaker, advocating business techniques that will bring ‘massive wealth . . . without sacrificing integrity and ethics’.

That may seem ironic coming from a man once described as a ‘twisted Robin Hood who steals from the rich and gives to himself’, but Belfort insists that only someone who has made his mistakes can warn off others contemplating such a path of corruption.

It would be nice to think they could be thus deterred. But while most people were appalled by Gordon Gekko’s ‘greed is good’ character in the film Wall Street, Belfort admits he was once deeply impressed by him.

With trailers from this new film showing seas of cocaine, glamorous pool parties and Leonardo DiCaprio cavorting with models, it seems entirely possible that those unscrupulous characters who have it in them to be Masters Of The Universe will come away from it not repulsed, but inspired.

MOST WATCHED NEWS VIDEOS

MOST READ NEWS

 

 
 

Colorado News

Get the latest Colorado news, sports, weather, entertainment, business & political news and more from Colorado Newsday.
 
  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text

Rate this article

0
 
 

Photo Galleries

PHOTOS: Plastic Surgery Celebrity Awkward family photos 
 
UPDATED: Faces of Meth PHOTOS: Celebrities all a-Twitter

More galleries ››

 
 
 
  1. Drunk tractor driver decapitates three people in head-on crash (1.50)

  2. Spoiled’ teen takes parents to court (1.00)

  3. Terms of Service (0)

  4. Colorado Newsday Privacy Policy (0)

  5. Kim Kardashian denied access to Vanity Fair party (0)

  6. Russian troops threaten to shoot Ukrainian soldiers in tense stand-off (0)

  7. Boxer vows to fight on – after 51st defeat in row (0)

  8. Forbes rich list names world’s youngest billionaires (0)

  9. Pregnant woman drives kids into ocean in Florida (0)

  10. Oprah Winfrey tells Lindsay Lohan to ‘cut the bull****’ in trailer for new reality show Lindsay (0)

  11. Denver Man Michael McGinley threatened to kill wife in phone call at DA’s office (0)

  12. Couple stole little girl's iPod in Aurora (0)

  13. Former director of Breckenridge Film Festival Dawna Foxx given 5 years for embezzling $300K (0)

  14. Knee injury to sideline Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan 6-8 weeks (0)

  15. Washington teen boys invited to dress up as their favorite celebrities for Spirit Week are sent home from high school when they show up Nicky Minaj and Miss America (0)

  16. JFK hiring people to screen possible Ebola patients but they're only paying $19 per hour  (0)

  17. Russian ship carrying hundreds of tons of fuel feared to run aground and cause a spill on British Columbia's northern coast  (0)

  18. 'When the anger comes, you have to do it': Brazilian serial killer breaks silence over his 39-victim spree and admits the number of people he murdered may be EVEN HIGHER (0)

  19. Courtroom evacuated and jail locked down for FOUR HOURS after prisoner who claimed to have Ebola is rushed to hospital and checked  (0)

  20. Scientists doubt mans claims that spider burrowed into him through his SCAR (0)

  21. President of Liberia apologizes to Dallas mayor for Ebola landing in the U.S. after first patient flew from disease-ravaged country and has infected at least two nurses (0)

  22. Dead hand: Deck of 52 Most-Wanted Iraqi playing cards given to soldiers at the start of the war shows the fall of Saddam 'The Ace of Spades' Hussein's army (0)

  23. I like hanging out with my friends, soccer... and SHOOTING: Meet the 10-year-old girl with a perfect aim who went to her first firing range aged six and is now taking on adults in competitions (0)

  24. California mayor is arrested for 'driving under the influence and rear-ending a car with four teenage cheerleaders' (0)

  25. Mexico captures leader of gang suspected of of conspiring with corrupt police to massacre 43 missing students (0)

  26. Woman, 78, who went on the run three times to avoid prosecution for stealing from her wheelchair-bound aunt, 98, is jailed (0)

  27. New Hampshire pumpkin festival turns into a riot as police tear gas the unruly crowd (0)

  28. Ukraine's unknown soldiers are buried outside town at centre of war zone (0)

  29. Chicago police officer pulled out of his car at 5.45am by cop colleagues and charged with drunk driving down the freeway in the WRONG DIRECTION (0)

  30. Legendary retired football coach killed in car crash outside a football game his son was coaching 'after wife lost control of their car' (0)

  31. 'She was my angel': Mother's anguish as her 6-year-old daughter is killed in drive-by shooting at 7-Eleven parking lot while opening a pack of bubble gum (0)

  32. I shot Michael Brown dead because I feared for my life after he tried to grab my gun, says cop who shot unarmed black teen six times  (0)

  33. Elephants, the weathermen of the animal kingdom: Mammals can spot storms from 150miles away  (0)

  34. Mutant Ebola warning: Leading U.S. scientist warns deadly virus is already changing to become more contagious  (0)

  35. Water bomber extinguishes truck fire in Canada in video (0)

  36. Confederate pomp amid burial of slave's daughter who fought for recognition of blacks who worked for the South (0)

  37. Body of California man found 'after suffering heart attack and being EATEN by bear' (0)

  38. Justices allow Texas use of new voter ID law (0)

  39. The scientific reason why passengers are badly behaved on planes (0)

  40. Five people at fraternity near UC Berkeley campus given date-rape drugs (0)

  41. Former US Navy shipmates reunite after 40 YEARS of searching (0)

  42. Husband who joked about his ex-wife contracting Ebola in West Africa is thrown in JAIL (0)

  43. Woman goes a week without apologizing and finds it's hardest at work (0)

  44. US soldiers flown to Liberia with FOUR HOURS of hazmat training (0)

  45. Baltimore teacher attacks student yelling 'I'll kill you' (0)

  46. Dallas hospital where one man died of Ebola and two more contracted the deadly virus has become a 'ghost town' as patients are avoiding facility over safety fears (0)

  47. Channing Tatum talks about his voice role in animated film 'The Book of Life' (0)

  48. Picture captures moment US bomb lands in heart of Kobani (0)

  49. 102-year-old letter shows Titanic was almost saved by crash into ship (0)

  50. Ebola scare on cruise ship carrying health worker who handled samples returning to Texas (0)