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Yachts, planes, women, drugs - stockbroker Jordan Belfort had it all and lost it all. Tom Leonard meets the man who taught the Mafia how to cheat - then wrote a book about it.
Could there be a more compelling poster child for the dark side of modern capitalism than Jordan Belfort? As a year-old multimillionaire stockbroker, Belfort once landed his helicopter on his back lawn, flying with just one eye open because he was so stoned he had double vision. He sank his ft motor yacht, complete with seaplane and helicopter, after overruling the captain and taking it into a Mediterranean storm. But I had some God-given detriments, mainly that I was emotionally immature, insecure and I had a predisposition to instant gratification.
The best of everything - the presidential hotel suite, the Ferrari, the house on the beach, the gorgeous blonde, the expensive wine, the art auctions, the yacht - the ultimate Wall Street rich guy. And then some. I can't recall Richard Gere's character falling asleep in a pile of cocaine big enough to use as a pillow, or even the venal Mr Gekko co-opting his wife's sweet old aunt to smuggle money out of the US. Belfort managed both. Now 45 and, he insists, a completely reformed and penitent man, Belfort lives in a modest three-bedroom house in Manhattan Beach, a relatively inexpensive part of Los Angeles.
Fifty per cent of everything he earns is going to the investors he defrauded. He is divorced from Nadine, a former beer commercial model, but they are friends and live near each other. They both look after their two children and Belfort describes himself as every inch the loving father and dutiful "soccer dad". There are pictures of him with his children dotted around the sparsely furnished house.
On the large, empty coffee table where once might have sat an upturned mirror for chopping cocaine, there now lies a DVD of the children's film The Goonies, and a porcelain figurine of Napoleon and Josephine. It was, he tells me, a jokey gift from Nadine. He is 5ft 7in and some have suggested he suffers from a Napoleon complex - though he denies it. Most men in Belfort's position might hesitate to rake up the past but the man who was so determined to make it on Wall Street is now determined to make it as a writer.