Is "The Wolf of Wall Street" what Wall Street is really like? Former trader Raj Mahal offers his review of the movie — and some real-life stories about just how wild it was.
I think "The Wolf of Wall Street" is Martin Scorsese's best movie since "GoodFellas" — though I'm probably a little biased. I worked as a trader on trading floors since the mid 90s, was a managing director at the age of 28, and often the ringleader of having fun on the trading floor so I have seen a lot of things. I would organize stuff on the trading floor like Chicken McNugget contests and if a guy could eat every item in the vending machine. It was fun and unfortunately will never happen again on Wall Street.
The first scene of the movie involves a midget-tossing contest in the middle of Jordan's Belfort's firm, with Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Belfort, doing cocaine off a hooker's behind, followed by an ad for Belfort's firm, Stratton Oakmont. Talk about getting straight to the point.
Now the question I know that everyone wants to know — is this what Wall Street is really like? Well, yes and no. I can definitely say there was never midget tossing. We tossed small interns instead. (Kidding.) In all seriousness, I have had breakfast with a guy where there was dwarf tossing at his bachelor party. Before you rush to judgement — who really is the victim here? The dwarf was paid like a giant.
I was at a Wall Street party for St. Patrick's day once, where dwarfs were hired to dress up as leprechauns. I remember i was sitting in a crowded room and someone rubbing my shoulders. I thought it was a female friend of mine that I knew liked me. I remember looking across the room and seeing her so I looked behind me and didn't see anyone. I looked to my left — nobody. I looked to my right — the same. I looked down and I noticed this female dwarf rubbing my shoulders and her telling me, "I have this fetish for tall guys (I am 6'5")." I was a little freaked out but I thought one of my friends put her up to it.
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About an hour later, I wanted to go downstairs for a smoke so I went into the bedroom with all the coats. They were all on a bed. From under the coats jumps out the same dwarf who is now naked and she says, "I have been waiting for you." Now, I was the head of trading and rarely got flustered. I said, "Wait for me. I will be right back." Then I went straight home.
Belfort starts off as a straight-laced kid — sort of like me. His first boss, Mark Hanna (played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey), gives him the advice that the only way to do this job is with coke and hookers. Hanna says this over lunch as he's knocking back his third martini. He also gives this sage advice which is sure make the 99 percent cringe: "Money is a drug that makes you a better person."
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The movie portrays this as an everyday occurrence. I am not saying coke and hookers don't exist on Wall Street but it's only on really special occasions. Like Tuesdays. And Wednesdays. And Thursdays. But never on Sundays. You see Wall Streeters are like God. On the seventh day, we rest.
In all seriousness, I had a friend who was a legend in the business. Let's call him, "John." I was a 24-year-old kid and I had never seen cocaine. John had a counter in his kitchen about 50-feet long. I saw him put a whole eight ball of coke down that stretched across the whole island — and do it without coming up for air. It was quite a feat. John was at least 20 years older than me and his "girlfriend" at the time was a beautiful 21-year old who went to Harvard — or so she said. I told her that I went to Penn and she said, "What's that?" (Harvard and Penn are both Ivy League schools.)
I remember one time I was over there and she said, "Do you want to see the diamond earrings John bought me?" I said, "Yes." She was so coked up that she came out naked and was pointing at her ears. I told her she had no earrings on. She was completely oblivious to the fact she was naked but she freaked out about the earrings and started throwing things so I left.
Some of the other characters in this movie are very accurate. Jonah Hill's character, Donnie Azoff, is an amazing caricature of a Wall Street guy that all Wall Street guys know and that 100 percent of America loathes. He is fat, crude and disgusting. He is the guy who was a loser, befriends the right guy and becomes rich. When he becomes rich, it changes him into a terrible human being. He takes his penis out in the middle of a party when he sees a beautiful woman. He bullies a gay butler. He treats people like they are worthless slime. He berates a junior broker in front of everyone and eats his goldfish.
The shady Swiss banker in the movie who helps them launder money (Jean Dujardin) is simply amazing. He reminds me of a guy I used to work with at a French bank. Every time he gets upset, his English turns into French. He is spot on as all the negatives stereotype of French guys on Wall Street. Shady, untrustworthy, hates Americans. This guy used to sleep on the trading desk at lunch because he would be up all night with his stripper girlfriend he moved to New York from Tokyo. The first time we hung out was at a party at his beautiful Central Park penthouse. The second time, we went to the club where his girlfriend worked. He kept paying her to give me lap dances which was awkward for me. He kept saying, "She looks a lot different on my couch, huh?" Then she kept trying to get me to go in the back room with her. I didn't really know how to feel about that.
All in all, I really enjoyed the movie. It was a little over the top but if it wasn't, it wouldn't be as entertaining. All the Wall Street people I know enjoyed it — especially since that kind of stuff won't ever happen again. The fun has been taken out of the industry and there really is no personal touch anymore. All communication is done by IM, text and email. It is nostalgic for a lot of us. All in all, a must see for the 1 percent, everyone who hates the 1 percent and everyone that wants to be in the 1 percent.
— By Raj Mahal