I went through a phase a couple of months back, when I assumed I would fail the bar exam, where I began to think about whether I could become a confidence man. I was watching Hustle on AMC quite a bit and The Sting has always been a favorite movie of mine. I eventually decided I could not become a con-man.
What’s that got to do with anything?
Well, when thinking about folks I could interview for The Superficial Gallery, Bernard Madoff seemed like an excellent choice. For some reason, he granted my request and even flew me into town with his ill gotten, but nicely hidden so as to avoid the government’s freezing hands, funds.
He had agreed to the interview if I would add a picture of his tongue to the tongue image gallery here. “Yeah, okay, of course,” I said. First con? His tongue is going nowhere near this site. Dude probably had tongue replacement surgery with all that cash anyway.
Let me tell you about this interview.
Dude pulled off one hell of an investment scheme, but man did I not give a damn about his remorse and his “Well, I can’t talk about that with the legal situations still,” blah blah blah.
I said, “Let’s go rip some dudes off.”
Clearly, Bernie was down.
So, we hit the streets of Manhattan trying to find some suckers. We figured you know what, let’s start it off with a New York favorite. A little three card monte.
This played out like you would expect it. Bernie’s slight of hand is absolutely magnificent, as you would surmise for a scammer of his nature. So, obviously, he played the dealer and I would play the role of a man cleaning Bernie’s clock at this simple game. And let me tell you, I caused such a scene doing this. Loud. Obnoxious. Generally being a Yankees fan in order to get people to look over at what was going on.
I was great.
Most people knew what the hell we were doing but, one couple came strolling by with their camera just trying to snap some shots of this lame ass town. The husband was drawn in by my victorious yelps and instantly thought he could get some of that action. I had 20s on the table and was winning by the boatload. Now, it was time to play the fool. I lost about three or four easy wins, and doubling my bets at pretty big stakes, I made it look like I was out of money. The mark, well, of course he had followed all of Bernie’s moves and every time, bam, there’s the Queen.
So, he threw twenty down.
Bernie stepped it up here and I have to say: straight up professional. The work was amazing. I had never seen the Peruvian Step-Over in person, but Bernie threw it out there first hand and the mark was stunned. Had no idea. On the second go, the mark just wanted his twenty back. He lost that as Bernie pulled out the Utah Swindle. Seriously, Bernie was just showing off now. I was impressed and the mark wanted all his money back. He noted that he was getting the hang of it. So, he laid a hundred out on the table.
This is where Bernie just straight up knew what he was doing.
“COPS!!!” Bernie screamed. He was off. Booked with the hundred and took off down the block. I smiled for a second at the lack of fooling around Bernard was doing when the big money was laid out on the table. He didn’t even risk the possibility of losing.
I met up with Bernard fifteen minutes later and Bernard was talking about the rush being out of control. How we had to step this up a notch.
Thirty minutes later we had valet parking outfits on and Bernie was painting a sign to note that we were valet parking.
There was a bit of debate between Bernie and myself about where we should valet park. I figured we needed to get outside of some swanky joint where some knucklehead would come by for his nice lunchon a corporate expense account and what not and then BAM got that car. Bernie wasn’t about that. Bernie wanted to valet park outside of a Burger King.
How are we going to pull that off Bernie? Who the hell is going to valet park at Burger King?
“Listen, boy,” he snapped. “You got a lot to learn about this here griftin’. It ain’t about just taking some suckers bills. It is about making them the fool.”
He was right.
This is part of the reason why I didn’t think I could make it as a grifter and I told him such. He said it was okay, I just needed to get the green out of my eyes. Once that happened? Well, I had it in me, he said.
And then he winked.
Greatest moment of my life.
Anyway, we’re outside of Burger King and man, I am about to lose focus. I just can’t stop thinking about what Bernie said. And that wink? Man, that wink. My mind was racing. Not about pride in Bernie thinking that I had the grift in me, but because I was thinking about how I could out-grift Bernie.
Bernie, almost sensing this newfound confidence running amuck in my mind, snapped, “Boy, you need to get some focus here. We are not running some two-bit three card monte, this is stepping it up a notch. Can not have you fall asleep at the wheel.”
So, I was back on my game. I’d have time to con the whale later. For now, I needed to watch and learn a little bit more. Bernie explained to me that we needed to take the first nice car that came up.
“So, we wait for a Delorean?” I asked.
Bernie let the joke roll off him.
Most of the King’s customers laughed at the idea of valet parking. Then, we caught a break. New York’s latest superstar pulled up to our valet parking stand in his brand new fresh Cadillac Escalade truck.
“Hello, Mister C.C., suh, can I take that vehicle for you while you kindly partake in the King’s lovely entrees?” Bernard said smoothly.
He was tossed the keys by the big lefty and we had the car.
Fifteen minutes later, we were driving that thing to nowhere in particular and Bernard said to me, “Stick with me kid, and I’ll take you places.”
And, I remembered the wink. Remembered the confidence that Bernie had given to me with those words and that quick gesture and I knew that it was time for me to play Bernie to be the fool.
TO BE CONTINUED…
On the next Weekdays with Bernie installment, Maitland attempts to con Bernard Madoff. He involves the only con he really knows: The Wire. Read as Maitland attempts to not get distracted by listening to the popular ragtime piece by Scott Joplin, The Entertainer.No tags for this post.