Michael Douglas in Wall Street. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. Christian Bale in American Psycho. These films definitely make it seem easy to brush off the "cocaine, free sex, and trading-in-human-misery" lifestyles of 1980s Wall Street bankers as nothing more than pure male-fantasy fiction. The greedy characters portrayed are as despicable as any horror movie slasher, and you'd hope it's a fictional story.
But the seediness of opulent Wall Street doesn't even really bother to hide itself, and there are plenty of crazy stories to be told from the dizzying heights of American commerce.
Sex, media manipulation, pranks, and drugs are just a few of the stories that have inspired the depictions of Wall Street in pop culture... not to mention the incalculable amount of pain and suffering that often goes hand in hand with the greed industry. Keep reading to see just how deep the wolves' den goes.
'Operation Buy And Cry' Busted A Ton of Bankers In A Wall Street Drug Raid
Your average Wall Street banker of the 1980s may spend a day ringing poor families up to sell them properties they can't afford or stocks that will surely plummet. In these so-called "professional environments," some of the most heinous behavior ever seen became commonplace.
So what better way to kick it off than cocaine? More accurately, what happens when the greed of Wall Street makes bankers believe they're somehow immune to the consequences of regular folk? Take, for instance, "Operation Buy and Cry." By 1983, the use of cocaine by Wall Street traders had become so rampant that authorities began a massive investigation in order to catch them in the act of buying. Four years later, when all was said and done, over 16 bankers were arrested as part of a series of sting operations.
Oh, and the story behind the name? Despite the incredible amount of cash being thrown around, the traders were apparently very thin-skinned... and were known to cry during the time of their arrests.
Ultra-Wealthy Michael Milken's 'Predator's Ball' Celebrated Other Greedy Investors
Since 2013's The Wolf of Wall Street, many have become familiar with Jordan Belfort's rise through the ranks of Wall Street traders. But there Belfort had a predecessor who became known as the "king of the junk bonds," and his name was Michael Milken.
Junk bonds are precisely what they sound like: high-yield, high-risk bonds that are typically rated low in the market. Milken was known for buying and selling these bonds in order to quickly raise capital and the icing on the cake was that he seemed to lavish in the process, even going so far as to hold an annual gala for corporate raiders and financiers called the "Predator's Ball." During the event, investors of all types would meet and broker deals, all with Milken's manipulative junk bond methods
His brilliantly illegal methods, however, later led to six charges of criminal violation of securities laws (conspiracy and insider trading), and Milken was ordered to pay back over a billion dollars in fines.
Jordan Belfort Was The Real Wolf Of Wall Street
If there was ever an amalgamation of all the greed, excess, drugs, and general debauchery somehow funneled into one individual, it would be none other than Jordan Belfort, the real "Wolf of Wall Street." Taking a cue from Michael Milken's junk bond scams, Belfort quickly amassed millions of dollars which he would eventually spend on drugs, mansions, sex, more drugs, a helicopter, a yacht, and, somehow, more drugs.
But, as the saying goes, what goes up, must come down. And in the case of Belfort, many things did — including the actual helicopter he purchased and eventually crashed into his front lawn while he was stoned. Not to outdo himself with air-based catastrophes, Belfort eventually brought his excessive behavior to the sea, crashing (and sinking) his own 166-foot yacht after ordering his captain to steer the ship into a massive storm in the Mediterranean.
Eventually, Belfort was busted for his money-manipulating crimes and sentenced to prison. There, he began regaling his cell-mate (none other than Tommy Chong, of 'Cheech and Chong' fame) with his stories. Chong then persuaded Belfort to collect his cautionary tales of excess into a book, and the rest is history.
Bernie Madoff's Office Was Once Referred To As 'The North Pole'
Before he was sentenced to 150 years in a federal prison for the most long-running Ponzi scheme in American history (a whopping $65 billion), Bernie Madoff would partake in the wild excesses of Wall Street along with his other corporate raider cohorts.
His parties would reportedly often include g-string clad waitresses and dancers in his office, as well as mountains of cocaine. According to court papers obtained during his trial, Madoff's office was even known as "The North Pole" because of how much cocaine he kept. And when the supply ran out? Madoff simply sent a messenger to purchase drugs for himself and for the company.
As a result of his scheme, Madoff ended up with residences all over the world: New York, the Hamptons, Palm Beach, and the south of France. But as of 2009, Madoff will most likely spend his remaining days behind bars in a North Carolina federal prison.