Search Results for: Fortune

How One Porn Mogul Made His Fortune and Ruined Everything

Despite riches, power, and respect, some people are never satisfied. A poor North Carolina kid named Michael Thevis turned paperback smut and peep show machines into a million-dollar empire, and he shaped America’s porn industry right as laws started to relax around the ownership and production of sexually explicit material. When Thevis crossed into arson, threats, and murder, he brought himself down for good. At The Daily Beast, crime journalist Jeff Maysh gets access to Thevis’ diaries and letters to tell the full story of “The Scarface of Sex” for the first time.

Rival peep machine manufacturers emerged, included those run by Leon and Mike Sokolic, Art Sanders, and Bill Walters. Before now, the most Thevis had ever done to intimidate a rival was let off a stink bomb at a store in Baltimore. Not all competitors rolled over so easily. Nat Bailen, who manufactured a peep show machine for cartoons, started to sell his units to sex-shop owners who used them for porn. In 1970, a customer named Harry Mooney in Michigan asked to lease 50 machines from Thevis—an order so large he couldn’t meet it in time. Instead, Mooney bought his machines outright from Nat Bailen. As he would do so often, Thevis turned to Underhill.

“Something,” Thevis told him, “has to be done with Bailen.”

On April 26, 1970, Underhill drove from Atlanta to Louisville in his yellow station wagon, where he met a paid accomplice, Clifford “Sam” Wilson. In the dead of night, they broke into Bailen’s factory, carrying burglary tools and five-gallon containers of gasoline. They built a bonfire using his furniture and paperwork. When Wilson found some paint cans, he told Underhill, “Let’s really screw this guy,” and poured paint over the desks and carpets. There were four-foot-tall flames licking at the windows by the time the goons fled. Reeking of gasoline, Underhill found a pay phone at the Kentucky Turnpike, and called Thevis at the Central Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

“Veni vidi vici,” Underhill said—I came, I saw, I conquered.

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Larry Ellison Is Spending a Fortune to Save American Tennis

Longreads Pick

The Oracle billionaire takes over Indian Wells.

Published: Jun 4, 2015
Length: 10 minutes (2,660 words)

Who Poisoned The Orkin Fortune?

Longreads Pick

Atlanta’s Rollins family has long been known for two things: throwing great parties and spawning the Orkin pest control empire. Forbes investigates the $8 billion family feud that has brought their name back into the headlines.

Source: Forbes
Published: Oct 20, 2014
Length: 11 minutes (2,935 words)

The Inside Story Of How Greenpeace Built A Corporate Spanking Machine To Turn The Fortune 500 Into Climate Heroes

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How a “bunch of commies” are forcing the world’s biggest corporations to stop destroying rain forests, overfishing, and burning fossil fuels.

Though they too wore business suits and what looked like P&G employee badges, they didn’t work for the consumer-goods giant. They were from Greenpeace, and they’d come to save tigers.

Wordlessly, the nine activists made their way past the security desk and headed for two rendezvous points — one, in a 12th-floor office suite in the iconic building’s north tower, the second, in an office just opposite, in the east tower. There, the two groups jimmied open several windows, attached rappelling gear to the window-washing stanchions, and climbed out into the chilly air.

Author: Aaron Gell
Published: Jun 4, 2014
Length: 30 minutes (7,570 words)

Billie Bob’s (Mis) Fortune

Longreads Pick

Less than two years after Billie Bob Harrell Jr. took the $31 million lottery jackpot, he took his own life.

He sat in his easy chair one evening and looked at his Quick Pick and then at the Sunday newspaper. Harrell studied the sequence of numbers again and began to realize the wildest of notions. He and wife Barbara Jean held the only winning ticket to a Lotto Texas jackpot of $31 million.

Harrell, a deeply religious man, knew he had a godsend from heaven. After being laid off from a couple of jobs in the past few years, Billie Bob had been reduced to stocking the electrical-supply shelves of a Home Depot in northeast Harris County. He was having a damn hard time providing for himself and Barbara Jean, much less for their three teenage children.

Source: Houston Press
Published: Feb 10, 2000
Length: 17 minutes (4,375 words)

Wallace Shawn’s Late Night

Wallace Shawn in 1988. (AP)

Troy Jollimore | Zyzzyva | Winter 2017 | 30 minutes (8,142 words)

More than a decade ago, in the aftermath of the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs, the playwright and actor Wallace Shawn wrote:

A few months ago, the American public, who in political theory and to some extent even in reality are “sovereign” in the United States, were given a group of pictures showing American soldiers tormenting desperate, naked, extremely thin people in chains — degrading them, mocking them, and physically torturing them. And so the question arose, How would the American public react to that? And the answer was that in their capacity as individuals, certain people definitely suffered or were shocked when they saw those pictures. But in their capacity as the sovereign public, they did not react. A cry of lamentation and outrage did not rise up across the land. The president and his highest officials were not compelled to abase themselves publicly, apologize, and resign, nor did they find themselves thrown out of office, nor did the political candidates from the party out of power grow hoarse with denouncing the astounding crimes which were witnessed by practically everyone throughout the entire world. As far as one could tell, over a period of weeks, the atrocities shown in the pictures had been assimilated into the list of things which the American public was willing to consider normal and which they could accept. And so now one has to ask, well, what does that portend?

Thirteen years later, we have a quite good idea of what such a thing portends. Thirteen years later we know much more than Shawn, or anyone, could have known at the time about just how much could be “assimilated into the list of things which the American public was willing to consider normal and which they could accept.” We know so much about this now that it is rather a wonder any of us can sleep at night. And in fact, some people tell me that they aren’t sleeping, that they have not been sleeping well for a while. Not since November. That’s what I keep hearing. Of course, there are those who lost the ability to enjoy an untroubled night’s sleep long before that. Read more…

Changing My Mind About Pig’s Feet and Cornrows

Anya Brewley Schultheiss / Getty

Dara Lurie | Longreads | January 2018 | 12 minutes (3,011 words)

This essay is published in collaboration with TMI Project, a non-profit organization offering transformative memoir workshops and performances that invite storytellers and audience members to explore new perspectives. By bravely and candidly sharing their personal stories, storytellers become agents of change for social justice movement building. Dara told an abbreviated version of this story onstage at TMI Project’s inaugural Black Stories Matter show in March 2017.

Peggi’s voice comes muffled through the closed door to her office. Her words come in rapid bursts with long silences in between. In the dance studio, my 6-year-old brother races his tiny Hot Wheels car across the floor. On Peggi’s daybed, I curl over the open pages of a worn fairy tale book kept on a shelf just for me. I keep my eyes fixed on the pages of the book, even when Peggi comes in the room. I am trying to forget the last two days of my life; the guttural terror of Mommy’s screams, my grandmother’s pitiful moaning and my Uncle Stanley’s grim-faced silence as he drove us back to New York. Now, Peggi is standing over me, speaking.

“Your mother had a cerebral aneurysm,” she says. “A blood vessel exploded in her head. She might not survive the operation.”

Peggi speaks in the flat tone of naked truth. One day, I will understand Peggi’s courage; her rare ability to look life straight in the eye. But at this moment, I hate her truthfulness, and I wish she would go away. I look back to my book to signal my lack of interest, but Peggi continues.

“Even if she does survive, the doctor says she might be a vegetable for the rest of her life.”

“When can I get my Halloween costume?” I ask when Peggi stops talking.

The slap comes as quick as lightning, scorching the side of my face.

“I hate you!” I shout, hurling my book into a corner.

One evening, a couple of weeks later, Peggi sits down on the edge of the daybed where, as usual, my 10-year-old face is buried in a book. “It’s impossible,” she begins, “for me to run this school and take care of you both.” I look up from my story. “I’ve found a place where you and your brother will stay for the time being.” Her voice is soft, asking me to understand. “It’ll only be for a little while,” she says. I look back down at my book. “Until your mother gets better…” she continues, but I let her words dissolve into the background rumble of distant traffic.

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Greece’s Beleaguered Port City

AP Photo/Petros Karadjias

Aspropyrgos is a busy Greek shipping and industrial center. Along with the imported car parts and electronics come illegal drugs, weapons and contraband cigarettes, as well as violence and nationalistic tensions between locals and immigrants. In a sense, Aspropyrgos is a microcosm of Europe itself, struggling to benefit from the global economy while protecting its identity.

In 1843 magazine, Alexander Clapp follows a scrap metal collector and the relative of a murdered businessman to profile the Greek city and its reputation for lawlessness. Despite a violent strain of nationalism that has taken hold in Aspropyrgos, a Chinese business is now trying to develop it into a railway hub in a potentially lucrative distribution network. If the region is going to benefit from outside investment, someone has to tame the violence.

The economic crisis made the lives of the Aspropyrgians harder than ever before. Relations between Pontic Greeks and Roma grew increasingly hostile, as each group blamed the other for their misfortunes. “Look how lawless they are,” Kostas says of his Roma neighbours. “They leave their trash and their kids everywhere.” Lambros views people like Kostas as intruders. “Nothing bad came in from the sea before they got there,” he says. Into the void left by the emaciated and neglectful state stepped Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi party that has thrived on resentment of austerity.

Golden Dawn attracts nearly one in three votes in Aspropyrgos. Kostas heartily supports them; so does almost every other Pontic Greek I meet. Many approve of Golden Dawn’s willingness to put the Roma in their place, often through brute force. But even more attractive to Pontic Greeks is Golden Dawn’s veneration of their distinctive identity. By resisting assimilation and maintaining their traditions for thousands of years, the Pontic Greeks affirm Golden Dawn’s central tenet: that the Greeks are exceptional people. They preserve the connection to the era of Hellenic supremacy. While others treat them as interlopers, Golden Dawn elevates them to aristocrats. No other politicians have ever talked to them like this before.

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I Think, Therefore I Am Getting the Goddamned Epidural

Illustration by Annelise Capossela

Rebecca Schuman | Longreads | November 2017 | 16 minutes (3989 words)

Until I was 34 weeks pregnant, I only considered the act of childbirth in blurred, vague terms, and this meant I was unusually impressionable. Hence, the entrée in week 35 of one Ina May Gaskin, legendary midwife, and successful deliverer of eleventy-dillion babies at what definitely didn’t seem like a very creepy commune in the middle of Tennessee. “You must read Ina May,” explained my friend Charlotte (not her real name), who’d recently driven 80 miles across state lines to push out her second child in a midwifery center. “She will make you SO CONFIDENT about what your body can do,” all caps in original. I was intrigued — and, a few hundred pages deep into Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, equal parts tentative and enamored.

Both books consisted primarily of first-person accounts of sublime natural birthing. “The ecstasy of birth was so wonderful,” wrote one mother, named Kim, after her daughter simply “slipped out.” Another went for a two-hour hike in the middle of labor. “I could feel my baby move me open, and when the intensity of the rushes increased, I just leaned on a tree.” First-time mother Celeste, furthermore, wouldn’t call labor painful — she’d call it “INTENSELY NATURAL,” all caps, once again, in the original. Then there was my favorite, Mary, who “visualized [her] yoni as a big, open cave beneath the surface of the ocean,” and “surrendered over and over to the great, oceanic, engulfing waves. It was really delightful — very orgasmic and invigorating.”

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