Greed Is Good Again
Wall Street's young hotshots spot themselves on the big screen
"Boiler Room," written and directed by first-time filmmaker Ben Younger, tells the story of Seth Davis, a young college dropout from Queens who goes to work for J.T. Marlin and experiences firsthand the crude sales tactics and lavish lifestyles of its sales force. Younger spent a year researching this world, then wrote his picture. It isn't going to win too many awards; it's simplistic, slapdash, and a little goofy. But it captures the swagger and the patter of the young obnoxious stock-hawkers perfectly.
There's a scene in the movie in which Seth, played by Giovanni Ribisi (the medic in "Saving Private Ryan"), visits the house of one of his new colleagues. The house is immense but unfurnished (with the exception of a tanning bed in the dining room). The traders are gathered in a spare room off the kitchen, watching "Wall Street" on a giant TV set. It's the famous "Lunch is for wimps" scene in Gordon Gekko's office. One by one, the brokers watching the movie--among them Ben Affleck and Vin Diesel--begin to recite the lines along with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen. Then they chant along with the movie like a Greek chorus.
But "Boiler Room" has some new dictums for their real-life counterparts: "Don't pitch the bitch" (meaning, Never sell stock to women); "Act as if" (meaning, "Act as if you've got a nine-inch cock"); and selling stock is "the white-boy way of slinging crack rock" (meaning, It will make you rich fast)."A friend's firm that I visited was exactly like this one," a Paine Webber broker said after the screening. "It was on Long Island. The parking lot was full of Porsches, BMW's, Ferraris. There were a hundred guys in there. Every single one of them was under 25. Most of them were just high school graduates. They were all wearing Rolexes."
"I was similar to the kid in the movie," said a 30-year-old trader at a major firm who started out in a bucket shop. He was speaking from his trading floor, the day after seeing a working print of "Boiler Room." "I was going to law school. There was a kid I knew from college who said, 'What are you doing in law school?' He was making half a million dollars, and he was out of college a year. I went to check it out.
"When I first got there, I didn't know anything. I was just intrigued by how much money these guys were making. I was looking at them and saying, 'They're idiots. I'm a lot more intelligent than they are. If these guys can make this kind of money, then I'm sure I can.' At first it was fun, the thrill of closing someone, making sales on the phone. It was a rush. We had limousine trips. Our boss took us out to dinner, champagne, Dom Perignon.... It was a good life, for a 21-, 22-year-old kid. You think you're a superstar.